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Southern Comfort: Growing Okra

Updated: Jul 28

Okra Bloom

Episode 7 of our Spring Veggie Gardening series for North Texas gardeners focuses on Okra, the quintessential southern vegetable. Grow it for gumbo or grow it as a landscape plant for it's beautiful flowers. The hard part is figuring out what to do with all those seed pods!

Watch our video to learn how to start your okra from either seeds or transplants. We present our organic methods and take you through all the steps from planting to harvesting.


It’s time to talk about okra. I just want to give you a quick overview of what we're going to be covering today we're going to talk about how to plant okra some of the different varieties. We will show you exactly how we plant it and why we do it that way, and it's all going to be done using organic methods.

Good morning everybody.

Look at the potatoes.

I know they have gone a little bit crazy, which is nice. I do have a little bit of bug eating but I think that it most of it is coming from roly polys I have treated with Sluggo plus, which is organic and it takes care of it.

If you look down in here, you can see they've gotten very substantial. I can't wait until they – it's time to harvest just to see what I've got in here. So this is my Kennenbec. Was it Kennenbec?

We did a Red LaSoda and a Kennenbec.

Yes, this is Kennenbec. And this is my Red LaSoda. My red LaSoda didn’t do as well.

But if you look in here, I've got a couple of squash that have decided that they're going to grow in my pot for some strange reason. There's a second one. I don't know exactly how the seed got in there, but it got in there.

If you look in my raised bed you can also see that I've got some volunteer squash in here. I’ve got really cute little baby basils. Last year we had a huge basil on this end and so I'm actually getting a volunteer with that. I think this one is actually a cucumber maybe. I'm not for sure.

You can see my pretty little ladybugs. They're doing their job at keeping the little critters under control. You can see it – there you go – so by my ecosystem seems to be doing okay. I do have a pretty bad fire ant population in this bed and that's bad. I have drenched it and then I put Come & Get It in.

I was just poking around and I didn't see any come out.

I think the Come & Get It has actually worked. I was hoping that it has because I really hate putting my hands in the soil when they have lots of little ants.

As you look at our yellow onions there, they have decided that they're done and so we're going to harvest those today. We'll just take and pull them out and lay them out in the shady area so that they can dry

We did not get them as deep as they should have been so you can see that the tops have already started drying out. It has not hurt the flavor. I have pulled at a couple of them and tried them and they're very good, but most of them have started laying down and that's happened over the last – probably 2 or 3 days. The purple don't doesn't seem like it is ready for me to pull yet so I'm going to wait until I actually see some of the stalks laying before I do any pulling I'll up here.

Oh, loo. Here’s another basil.

I'm so excited about my little basils.

I pulled out and Chinese cabbage yesterday because it was covered in aphids. But there were ladybugs on there eating the aphids.

Now you took the ladybug ladybugs dinner.

You need to talk about our Brussels sprouts.

Our Brussels sprout is doing really well. He's put his put on his little sprouts up and down the chute. Each time that we take off a row of large leaves it encourages him to put on more babies. So this is a first time for me. I've never grown Brussels sprouts before. Didn't even know it was a Brussels sprout. But we'll see what happens.

If you come through, our tomatoes are doing very, very well. They have really started growing. They are just now starting to flower. We were a little worried about them but they started putting on some flowers. This one's not flowering as heavy but you can see here there's all kinds of new that are just starting to do their thing.

Excuse my dirty hands. I've been playing.

So we also have something eating on our basil I'm thinking that it was the rollie pollies cuz my bed had all kinds of roly polys in it and I'm thinking it was the roly polys snacking. I’m not for sure.

We have not treated it with any kind of insect control other than the Sluggo Plus. We just keep picking off the damaged leaves.

As you can see, our lettuce is still growing. We're harvesting a little bit each time. I think maybe we should have started the lettuce a little bit earlier.

Our carrots. . . I don't know if I like carrots or not. They don’t seem to be doing great but they are there. I gave him a shot of seaweed to see if it would help with the bottom growth.

That is our smallest tomato plant and it's the Cherokee purple. It is blooming. It does have blooms on it and so I'm hoping that it will start setting some kind of fruit here pretty soon. This one has gone crazy. This is my Sweet 100. I'm having to make sure that I keep poking it up into the cage because it can get away from you really really quickly. It also has started just now setting on flowers – oh and there's lots of them. So we should start getting fruit here pretty soon. It seems like almost every big stem has flowers on it or has the beginnings of flowers. But they seem nice and happy

I did put in our squash, and cucumber, watermelon, and cantaloupe in our pots. I took out my sweet peas because of the fungus in the soil. I treated the buckets and then I added more drainage holes at around the sides of the pots, trying to keep it from holding too much water so we have squash. We have cucumbers. Yeah, it’s got lots and lots of buds on it.

As the squash starts to grow we will show you how to take out little sucker leaves, making sure that the sun's getting in. Like right here we have – it’s very very thick and we will want to make sure that we pinch out some of these leaves so that the sun can get into the fruit.

All right. That’s our tour.

Today we're going to talk about okra and planting okra one of the things that we need to know is that they need to have a lot of air space. So we're going to plant them at about a foot to a foot and a half apart. If you're planting rows, make sure each row is at least three feet apart.

Okra here is a very easy crop to do. We are nice and warm. Now is about the time that you need to get it put in. If you decide that you're going to start it by seed, which you can, do it this weekend to get them in and going.

From the time of planting – sowing your seeds – until you first get your first blooms and that is going to be about 60 days, which will put it into the first of August and so you'll start getting fruit about then.

I'm starting with starts that are already here. I'm going to do a combination of Emerald, Burgundy, and Clemson Spineless. And I'm just going to alternate those in my bed.

Your bed wants to – they like being – they don't like being dry, but that can go through a dry period. But they never want to keep their feet wet. They are really prone to fungus. So you want to make sure that they have good airflow and they don't stay too wet.

They are very easy, forgiving of soil types. You don't have to – if you got an area in your garden that you can't get anything else to grow because it either dries out or the soil is not as rich for some reason, your okra should thrive in it because they don’t mind. I mean, they’ll even grow in our clay. Just as long as you make sure that you're you're not letting their feet stay too wet.

Other than that okra, because it does produce so much fruit on it, you want to make sure that you're fertilizing and you want with raised beds and containers you need to be fertilizing about every 30 days.

They like nitrogen but they need an overall fertilization. So if you are using a granular fertilizer like your Garden-tone or Tomato-tone – every 30 days.

If you're going to do a liquid fertilization I would say do it about every two, maybe three, weeks to keep it good and and fed. Most everything likes more feed then we remember to give it when we're in pots and raised beds. You know, they don't have to be fed as often if they're in the ground. In the ground, I would say every 45 days or so to feed.

For your funguses you can use either the 70% neem or 100% neem. This guy you would use as a drench. You wouldn't use it as a foliar feed.

The 70% neem you can do as a foliar fee but you need to do it early in the morning or late in the evening to where the sun is not hitting the leaves when they're still wet with oil cuz it can fry them. You can use – this is Organocide. Which I really like the organocide because it's bee safe. It’s not going to kill your little bees it's not going to kill you ladybugs but it will take care of insects, mites and funguses – fungicide.

It is called Bee Safe 3-in-1. Sometimes it's easier having a three-in-one because you don't have to worry about having this container, that container, another container – it's just it's going to work on all three. And it's very successful at working at all three. I've been very pleased with this particular product.

If you've got worms – any kind of caterpillars, that kind of thing – eating your tomatoes, eating your other guys, use the BT. Is that it? Yeah, your caterpillar spray. Just make sure that you're not spraying the flower itself.

Sorry, I forget about y'all. Make sure that you're spraying just the leaves and not the flowers because you don't want to harm our bees and all of those little guys. But this works very well for any kind of worm or caterpillar. For other insects – aphids, spider mites – those kind of things – that can attack, you can use Spinosad. Captain Jack's is a really good one. Sorry. Captain Jack's is a really good one. This is a powder. What's really cool about the powder is it's a colored powder, so you can powder it on your plant and you can see exactly where it's going and then when the powder is gone you know it's time to re powder.

They've also got it in a spray so you can just spray. You need to be over here. So you can just do a liquid spray with. But this is going to take care of all kinds of insects and work really well. I like it for spider mites and I liked it for aphids because it seems to do a really good job on both of those. If I get spider mites in the greenhouse that's what I use. Because I can. Because it's organic.

I talked about using Sluggo on our garden because the Sluggo – our garden has a big roly poly issue and the Sluggo Plus actually takes care of roly polys. It's not just for slugs. It takes care of earwigs and it takes care of a lot more things than just slugs. But slugs, snails and roly polys are really bad in the garden. They like to be into any kind of leaf litter, that kind of thing, they get in there and they start munching down and they can do a lot of destruction. And you don't really even notice it until after the destruction has happened. So this stuff, it is organic. You can put it in your garden without having to worry about it.

The other day when we did our squash – planting of the squash, talking about squash – we were talking about having squash vine borers. We have got our traps in and and that's one of the things that I'll do. I'm going to wait until the wind dies down today. It's supposed to go away this evening. But I'll put out the squash vine traps. This has a lure in it and you just put it in the middle of it and then the little bug comes in and gets caught. It works really well. All it is, is the hormone that they secrete and so it causes him to go in there instead of going into your squash.

I think it says 15 feet. So one trap – If I put one trap in the middle of of my teepee, it should take care of the whole 15 ft there. Just one trap. I'm going to put one in my tee pee and then one against the fence because it also works to keep – because the squash vine borers will get into your cucumbers and it'll get into your melons and that. And since I'm going to have it on the fence line I want to protect my fence line too.

This is for white flies, aphids, that kind of thing. So you can put these traps out and it will – it's a sticky trap. So any insect that is attracted to it – it's going to stick to it and keep it off your vegetables.

And it says that it works on whiteflies, aphids, fruit and nut flies, thrips, stink bugs – ooh, wasps. It's got a whole list of things that it takes care of that are attracted to it. It's yellow. The yellow blooms. Everything that blooms yellow, it seems like yellow. The insects – especially – the squash borers – they seem to be more attracted to squash, than say to our okra that's going to bloom white.

One of the things with okra – I said I was planting the burgundy. I am planting the burgundy just because I think it's kind of a cool color, but once you once you grow it, you cut it, you cook it, it is no longer burgundy. It turns green and the taste is the sa. So it's just fun looking at a different color. I like anything that has different colors.

That's why I tried to purple beans that somebody ate every single leaf off of and I had to start over.

Yes ma'am.

Starting okra from seed. I've always heard that you should put them in buttermilk overnight and then plant them.

She's asking about starting seeds and putting them in buttermilk overnight. I haven't really heard about the buttermilk. I think really what it is is just soaking your seeds overnight so you get a better germination. if you want to soak them in buttermilk, that's fine.

Oh, and then make biscuits. I was watching a video on okra and they were telling me that back when there was a coffee shortage and people did not have coffee beans, they would grow okra and then roast the okra seeds and they would brew their coffee out of okra seeds. They still do it. No caffeine. So you're drinking okra brew.

Once you roast those seeds and that, it's not a slimy coffee. It makes a really good coffee. They were also saying that if you will harvest your okra at about thumb's length that it doesn't have that slimy that people don't like because it hadn't developed it yet,

But that slimy stuff that some people don't like is actually good for your gut health. It feeds you're a good stuff.

Yes, they were saying that you can take away the sliminess by either soaking it for an hour in apple cider vinegar or cooking it a little bit, Like if you're going to boil it or something like that to take away that sliminess. But if you take away that sliminess then you're not getting the health benefit. You'll grow to like that slimy taste.

We're going to plant these guys real quick.

I do want to say that next week's class will be on herbs and we have Marilyn coming to do the art class for us. Marilyn has been in the herb business for quite a few years. I'm not going to say how long because I might mess it up.

I'm going this way. All this is, is seaweed – liquid seaweed and it works– are you coming?

It works as a root stimulator. So what I'm going to do is, I want to take and dig my little hole. Why are you taking my –

I want to see where you're digging.

Look what you did! You squished my volunteer – whatever it is. We don't know what it is, but we were watching it.

Oooh, this is real. I'm going to dunk him into it. He'll get watered in afterwards. I'm going to sit him in. Make sure he's good and tight. You don't want any air pockets in there. And then we'll watering him in. That's it.

I always try to make sure that I put my tag back in so I'll know which one is which.

Okay, I'll do one more.

This is my burgundy. Burgundy gets about 5 ft tall. Is that about a foot? That's about a foot, right? Oooh, nice and soaked. Put him in here. I really like our blend that we've done for the raised bed. It's really easy to work with. Seems to drain really well, so I don't have to worry about wet feet.

We're going to pull our onions. This dill is humongous. We've already taken some of it out.

So all we going to do to harvest these guys is just pull them. Shake off as much soil. But really are kind of clean. Some soils – You're not supposed to rub them.

What's really neat, you see the size of this guy? How much smaller he is? Because he's been shaded by the dilll this whole time. And when I get over there we will show you the full sun.

You want me to pull this one?

Yes ma'am.

He's got a good root structure. So this one that's been in the full sun this whole time as you can see got to a really, really nice size. So sun does really help with the growth.

Next year I will not put my –

Look at that one. That one didn't get to grow. I might have to replant it.

I won't be putting my dill in the actual raised bed. He'll have to go in a pot.

And as you can see most of my onions are up really tall. It's because my little guy that did my planting for me didn't get them quite deep enough. So we'll have to make sure that our next growing – oh, we could do – oh, no, we can't.

Next year when we get them, we will make sure that we get them deep enough.

It's really funny. He planted these on one day and the red ones on another day. The red ones got planted deep enough but these didn't. Anyway, so these guys I'm going to let them set out. You don't let them sit out in the sun. You make sure that they're in a shaded area. Let them dry, Once they're dry you can knock any of the soil that's left on them off and then you can store them in a dry dark place. They'll hold up for about 6 months, I think.

I would let them dry for about 48 hours. Then you can go ahead and do what you going to do with them.

Some people braid them and hang them. You know, kind of like garlic. They'll braid them and hang their onions. Some people just take them and cut the tops off of them and leave them in, say, boxes but you've got to make sure that they're not stacked on top of each other because the weight can cause them to bruise and cause them to start rotting.

So next week is herb's. The 22nd will be sweet potato slips. I think probably by then our potatoes should be close to harvest time. We might be able to harvest and show you what we got in our potatoes. Each bucket is only one potato, so we'll see how much we actually got out of it. I think that the Kennenbec is going to be a bigger crop than what my Red LaSodas are. Red LaSodas – they didn't all decide to come up at the exact same time and a couple of them were really tall and it needed to be hilled and I hilled it and I think I stunted the other two that were really short.

It's all an experiment.

Thank you. I appreciate you all joining us. Come back and see us.

Want to Know More?

Read our companion article, "Growing and Enjoying Okra" to Learn more about growing okra. Then follow our spring gardening series and learn how to grow many other vegetables for North Texas gardens.


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