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How to Grow Okra

If you learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare okra correctly, it is a delicious, healthy addition to your diet and a beautiful addition to the garden. 

Okra is a tall warm-season annual that can be grown for its beautiful flowers alone. Afterward, the flowers develop into a vegetable known for its fiber, folate, and vitamin K, in addition to the ability to slow the digestion of carbs and sugars.

Here are 7 tips for how to grow okra

How to grow Okra - 7 tips for delicious okra

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1. Understand that okra is a warm-season crop

It helps to know that okra belongs to the same plant family as heat-loving roselle hibiscus and cotton. For that reason, okra grows best in warm soil. As a general rule, okra needs 60 days of very warm weather to do well. The heat of Arizona summers is an advantage when growing okra. 

How to grow Okra - 7 tips for delicious okra

2. Plant the correct variety of okra for your climate

Varieties of okra for high heat and low humidity areas (such as the low desert of Arizona) include Becks, Emerald Green Velvet and Texas Hill Country Red. Other varieties that do well are Clemson Spineless and Burgundy

In the low desert of Arizona, plant okra from the middle of March through the end of May. Cooler parts of the United States should consider starting okra indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost date.

How to grow Okra - 7 tips for delicious okra

3. Plant okra correctly

Although okra tolerates poor clay soil, it does better in amended soil. Direct sow when soil temperatures are warm (80-95 ℉). Okra needs full sun to grow well. 

Plant seeds ¾” deep and about 6” apart. Thin to 1 foot apart; mature okra plants are tall and wide and need plenty of room to spread. Be aware that because the plants grow tall, okra can shade other plants. Remove lower leaves on bottom of stalk as plant grows up, if desired. 

4. Okra likes deep regular watering

Water okra to a depth of 8-12”. Mulch well to conserve moisture and prevent weeds.

How to grow Okra - 7 tips for delicious okra

5. Harvest okra early and often

Once okra flowers, it will be ready for harvest in 3-4 days. The taste of okra pods is best when harvested at 2-3” long. Okra pods longer than 4” begin to be fibrous and inedible. 

Make it a point to harvest okra daily while it is producing – leaving pods on the plant slows or stops production. Always harvest okra by cutting with a knife or pruners – pulling the pods off can damage the plant.

How to grow Okra - 7 tips for delicious okra

6. Store okra correctly

Store okra in a paper bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Don’t wash okra until you are ready to use it. Harvested okra can also be frozen for up to 12 months.

How to grow Okra - 7 tips for delicious okra

7. Eat okra a variety of ways

For best taste, prepare okra as soon as possible after picking. Enjoy okra fried, pickled, grilled, fresh, and in gumbo. When okra is prepared whole, the mucilaginous juice (that gives okra a slimy feel) is less apparent.

 In addition to more traditional ways of preparing okra, drinking okra water is becoming a popular way to enjoy the health benefits of okra.

In this article, I share my 7 favorite okra recipes. 

What do you want to learn about next?

Joyce Brown

Wednesday 30th of June 2021

July 1st is too late to plant okra here in the valley?

Angela Judd

Thursday 1st of July 2021

Choose the shortest days to harvest variety you can and yes, it's probably fine. They usually produce well into the fall as long as temperatures stay warm (which they usually do!)

Tina Chiang

Thursday 8th of October 2020

I like to know after harvest the okra, the leave that was attached to the fruit can be removed?

Angela Judd

Friday 9th of October 2020

Keep in mind that the leaves provide energy for the plant, but you can remove leaves as needed.