Have you been wondering how to grow okra at home?
You’ve come to the right place!
Okra is surprisingly easy to grow if you can meet its basic needs.
But what are those needs? I’m going to tell you!
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about growing okra at home, whether in the ground or in pots.
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Okra’s Preferred Growing Conditions
Growing okra at home really just comes down to knowing what conditions the plant needs to thrive and doing your best to provide those conditions.
Once you know what okra’s preferences are when it comes to heat, light, and soil, it will be much easier to keep your plant happy and produce abundant fruit.
Okra, also known as ladies’ fingers or lady’s finger, is a warm-climate plant that loves sun and heat. It grows well in hardiness zones 6-11.
(It actually likes similar conditions to corn, so if you can grow corn, then you can grow okra!)
Aside from warmth, one of the most important requirements for growing okra is sunlight.
The plant needs at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight per day to fruit but really, the more the better.
If your plant gets less than this, it will survive but may not produce the edible seed pods you’re looking for.
Okra likes rich, nutrient-dense soil, so you’d do well to mix in a good amount of compost before transplanting your seedlings.
If you have a spot in your garden where you grew peas or beans the year before, this would be a good place to plant okra as the soil should have a good amount of nitrogen leftover from these nitrogen-fixing plants.
Using homemade compost is an excellent way to save money and make your home gardening more sustainable. If you’re not set up with a home compost yet, have a read of my quick guides to the best kitchen compost bins and compost tumblers to help you get started.
Okra is a thirsty plant, so it works well planted next to other crops that like a lot of water like cucumber and eggplant.
If the weather isn’t super hot, then okra can handle not being watered every day provided it gets a nice deep watering every few days, but it’s still better to avoid letting it dry out.
How to Grow Okra from Seed
Growing okra from seed is fairly easy and is usually a more cost-effective way than growing ready-to-start seedlings. Depending on where you live, you may even be able to save yourself some work and direct sow your okra seeds.
Direct Sow or Transplant?
If your spring temperatures are consistently above 60˚F then you can sow okra seeds directly in the ground. However, most people have more success planting seedlings inside and then transplanting them later.
If you choose to direct sow, simply plant a few more seeds than you want and a little closer together. Once the seedlings are growing well, you can select a few weaker ones to remove and leave more space for the healthier seedlings to thrive. This process is called thinning out.
Okra seeds are fairly large so they can benefit from being soaked overnight before planting. Alternatively, you can cut a little nick in one end to speed up the germination process.
Plant them about ½ inch deep in good quality seed raising mix. Plant them just far enough apart to make them easy to separate at transplant time – an inch or two is probably enough.
Okra seedlings can be planted outside once it’s been a few weeks since the last spring frost.
Full-grown Okra plants can be quite tall so they need to be spaced around a foot apart. Choose the largest, healthiest seedlings to transplant and harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor temperatures while they’re still safe in their seedling pots.
Water the seedling while still in its seedling pot on the day that you plant to transplant, and then water again immediately upon transplanting.
Some people recommend wrapping a little newspaper around the seedling stalk to prevent cutworms from destroying the seedling. If you do this, make sure there is about an inch of newspaper under the soil as well as above.
Once established, your okra plants will appreciate a good mulching and side-dressing with compost every few weeks through the growing season. If your garden can get windy, it’s also a good idea to stake your okra plant.
Harvesting Your Bounty
Okra is actually a seed pod and it’s best eaten when it’s about the length of your finger. It gets tough when it’s much bigger than this.
Usually, it takes about 45-60 days for the pods to appear. Harvest them daily with a sharp knife and the plant will continue to produce more until it dies at the end of the summer.
Some varieties of okra have little spines that can be a skin irritant. To avoid being affected, wear a good pair of gloves. Alternatively, you can choose a spineless variety to grow.
Another thing you can do to help produce more fruit is to remove excess leaves, particularly the lower ones. This allows the plant to put its energy into producing more fruit rather than keeping lots of leaves alive.
How to Grow Okra in a Pot
While most vegetables will grow better in the ground, if you’re determined enough, you can grow almost anything in a pot – okra included!
Growing okra in a pot or container can also make it possible to grow it in places where the outdoor temperatures might not be warm enough. Pots and containers often have warmer soil temperatures than the ground. Couple that with some form of protection, whether it be a greenhouse or conservatory, and you could be successfully growing okra in cooler climates.
Now that you know it’s possible, are you wondering how to grow okra in pots?
The trick is just to choose a pot that is big enough (at least 12 inches in diameter) and use good quality free-draining soil.
In saying that, the plant will still need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to produce fruit. So if you can’t meet that requirement then you might not get much eating done.
How to Grow Okra Inside
If you’re really determined to figure out how to grow the okra plant at home but your climate isn’t warm enough, or you can’t meet the required 6 hours of minimum sunlight, growing inside might be an option.
The secret to successful indoor growing comes down to light. Mimicking direct sunlight with a good grow light will allow you to encourage fruiting wherever you live in the world.
Luckily, okra isn’t super prone to pests and disease, so learning how to grow ladyfinger at home doesn’t require loads of pest management knowledge. The most common problems people face when growing okra are Fusarium wilt, aphids, stink bugs, and corn earworms.
Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease that can persist in the soil. There’s not much you can do once your plants have it except to remove them and hope that the remaining healthy plants survive long enough to give you some fruit.
The best way to manage an aphid infestation is to spray with a natural insecticide like diluted dishwashing liquid or a neem oil solution.
You can kill stink bugs with the same sprays as aphids. It’s also helpful to avoid letting any weeds in the surrounding areas get out of control and do things to encourage beneficial insects that will feed on stink bugs.
Mineral oil is the best deterrent for corn earworms. Spray on the plant for prevention and then repeat after it rains.
As you can see, with okra, it’s mostly about warmth, sunlight, and water. But, even if you live somewhere that doesn’t hit the minimum 60˚F requirement or 6 hours of direct sunlight, anything is possible with a bit of help from technology and garden infrastructure.
Have you grown okra before? Were you successful? Do you have any more tips for newbies who are wondering how to grow okra at home?
I’d love to hear about your okra growing experiences in the comment section below!