Okra, which is also called lady’s finger (Bhindi in India) is a warm season tropical vegetable that is also grown for ornamental purposes. Its delicate foliage and showy blooms that look like hibiscus (don’t forget okra belongs to the same hibiscus family) look amazing.
Very low in calories (25 to 40 kcal per 100g), okra is a vegetable rich in vitamins A, C and P, calcium and many minerals.
Choosing a pot
Choose a pot of whatever material you like. Pot should be at least 3 gallons in size. Ideally, a 5-gallon pot that is 10-12 inches deep and similar in diameter would be perfect for one okra plant if you have got a larger pot you can grow a few plants in it. Best to choose a black colored pot as okra loves heat.
Planting Okra Seeds
The first step for growing okra is to get the seeds. Ask for the dwarf okra variety that will not grow above 5 feet tall. However, you can grow any okra variety in a pot, but it is best if you choose the dwarf one. If you live in a climate with short summers, search for varieties that mature fast.
The best planting time is when the temperature starts to stay above 55-60 F (13-16 C) and all the dangers of frost are passed. Growing okra is possible year round if you live in USDA Zones 9-11 or any other subtropical or tropical region on our earth.
Due to its taproot, okra doesn’t transplant well that’s why you’ll have to directly plant the seeds in the container or a biodegradable pot. Sow 2-3 okra seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep in each pot. Water with a sprayer and keep the seeds in a bright, warm place, the substrate should remain moist until seeds germinate. The germination takes 5 to 10 days after sowing. The more warmth, the faster the germination.
Requirements for Growing Okra in Pots
Pick a spot that receives full sun (at least 5-6 hours of sunlight is essential). Like tomatoes and peppers, okra requires plenty of sunlight to produce well.
The soil you use must be loamy and crumbly; it must be well draining too. Opt for a soilless potting mix that is rich in organic matter. You can also add a lot of compost or aged manure to provide the constant supply of nutrients to your okra plant.
Okra requires slightly moist soil. Water regularly to keep the soil uniformly moist and particularly more from the beginning of the flowering period and until the end of production.
The cultivation of okra plant is extremely easy but requires a lot of heat. The plant can grow above 50 F (10 C), but to flower and to bear fruit abundantly the temperature must be around 75 to 95 F (23-35 C) ideally. The plant can tolerate higher temperatures well but fails to grow when the temperature starts to touch lower levels.
Okra Plant Care
Mix manure in soil to provide nutrients to the plant, you can also side dress the plant with it. Also, at the time of planting, you can add balanced fertilizer if you want. Once the plant has reached the height of 6 inches, apply a dose of balanced fertilizer again. Keep in mind that if the soil is nitrogen rich, it may promote vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting so maintain the balance. Later on, feed the plant with low in nitrogen fertilizer such as NPK 5-10-15 or 6-12-12.
Okra is self-pollinating so you don’t need to care about pollination.
Pinching and Topping
As you’re growing okra in containers, dwarf varieties we consider, the plant will not exceed the height of 5 feet. In that case, you don’t need to care about pinching or topping.
Pests and Diseases
Okra is susceptible to fusarium wilt and nematode attack as well as aphids and whiteflies in pests. Mealybugs also affect the plant’s growth. However, these pests do more damage on plants grown in large quantities. As you’re growing okra in pots, you can easily control them.
Okra requires frequent harvesting. It blooms about two months from planting, and the fruits appear 5-7 days after flowering. The fruits/pods are harvested when they are still tender. Otherwise, they become fibrous and too hard to be eaten. Ideally, the picking length is between 3 to 5 inches.
How to see if okras are not too late to be picked?
Bend the tip of any fruit and if it breaks easily this means that they are still tender and crispy and good to harvest.