Not all of us in India are familiar with the name Okra, but Ladies finger/lady finger is something that everyone knows. I remember the trick my mom used to make us eat Okra. She used to say “If you eat okra, you will become an expert in mathematics!”. I did eat a lot of that but looking at my math skills I think that was just a lie to make us eat. ;-).
Nevertheless, Okra is a nice vegetable to grow and as well as to eat. Okra belongs to the same family as Hibiscus, Roselle(gongura) and cotton. Okra plants love good amount of sunlight and they grow up to 7 ft tall. Using a large container/pot is essential for its growth.
I grew mine in 10L containers. I had around 10 of them prepared for sowing. The seeds were sown in those containers; 2 in each of them. It took around 5 days for them to germinate. I got almost 100% germination. This time I used treated seeds. Treated seeds are those that are pre-coated with fungicide(Thiram) to avoid problems like damping off. Treated seeds usually have a distinct color coated on them to differentiate them from other seeds and also to indicate they are coated and hence poisonous.
After they start showing the true leaves, thin them to just one per plant. I know its difficult to remove the plant that you so passionately sowed. Trust me if you let them grow in bunch, none of them will yield properly. So go ahead and thin them.
I grew them using hydroponic nutrients I made for tomatoes. I also have one container having soil and has Okra growing in it. You can grow them in soil as well and not much difference in yield. For soil, I use red soil+cocopeat+compost+bone meal and for hydroponics, plain cocopeat was used.
After a month and 4 days since germination, they have grown about 2 feet tall and are flowering every other day. You can see lot of pods growing. It is better to grow about 5-10 plants of Okra since the plants yield a pod almost every other day and if you have 10 plants growing, you get 30-40 pods every week. Not bad right?.
This variety you see below is called “Alabama Red”. It is a stout variety of Okra. Everyone who saw this got excited. It gets matured very quickly. As it matures, it develops a red colored skin.
The red coloration is not seen here since it was picked quite early.
Okra is very easy to grow. Watch out for aphids and mealy bugs during the growing season. Check under the leaves for signs of infestations. Aphids are usually spread by ants. Control ants by sprinkling turmeric powder or boric acid or pesticide chalk such as Laxman Rekha. Mix a teaspoon of neem oil and dish soap together well so that they form a light brown colored cream. Mix it with a liter of water and spray. It worked for me. You have to spray it continuously for a week.
Mealy bugs can be controlled by mixing spirit(rubbing alcohol) and water in 1:1 ratio and spraying. It controls aphids as well.
Hope this will help to start Okra this season.