Okro (Abelmoschus esculentus) which is also known as Hibiscus esculentus and is also referred to as “ladies’ fingers in most English speaking countries is one of the most popular vegetables consumed across Nigeria, Okro is rich in vitamin A and low in calories which makes it a great addition to your diet, Growing of okro is easy and it appears great throughout the growing season due to its beautiful flowers. It’s a warm season crop.
Growing okra requires a lot of sunshine and a good drainage system. When you prepare your garden area for planting okra, add 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer for every 100 square feet of garden space.
Work the fertilizer into the ground about 3 to 5 inches deep. This will allow your growing okra the most chance at absorbing nutrients.
The pods and the seed can be sliced and used to make a soup. The pods and the seeds can be prepared with other vegetable leaves (usually with Ugwu vegetable) and stock fish.
You can also use the leaves as a vegetable just like spinach. Okra Soup, Okra is cultivated mostly in the northern and eastern parts of Nigeria. Most people don’t see okra as a vegetable for commercial planting but for personal consumption only.
Firstly you have to prepare the soil well. After fertilization, rake the soil and ensure to remove all rocks and sticks. The soil should be at about 10-15 inches deep, to enable the plants get the most nutrients from the soil around their roots.
The best period to plant okra is about two to three weeks after the chance of frost has passed. Planting okra should be about 1 to 2 inches apart in a row.
Once your growing okra is up and out of the ground, thin the plants to about 1 foot apart. When you plant the okra, it may be helpful to plant it in shifts so that you can get an even flow of ripe crops throughout the summer.
When planting okra, water the plants every seven to 10 days. The plants can handle dry conditions, but regular water is definitely beneficial. Carefully remove grass and weeds around your growing okra plants.
Read Also: Health Benefits of Okro
Caring for the Okro Plant
Ensure to always carry out the following practices in your garden:
- Eliminate weeds when the plants are young, then mulch heavily to prevent more weeds from growing. Apply a layer of mulch 4 to 8 inches high. You should also side-dress the plants with 10-10-10, aged manure, or rich compost (½ pound per 25 feet of row). You could also apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly. Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.
- When the seedlings are about 3 inches tall, thin the plants so that they are 10 to 18 inches apart.
- After the first harvest, remove the lower leaves to help speed up production.
Pests / Diseases of Okro
- Corn Earworms
- Fusarium wilt
Harvest / Storage of Okro
- The first harvest will be ready about 2 months after planting.
- Harvest the okra when it’s about 2 to 3 inches long. Harvest it every other day.
- Cut the stem just above the cap with a knife; if the stem is too hard to cut, the pod is probably too old and should be tossed.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves when cutting the okra because most varieties are covered with tiny spines that will irritate your skin, unless you have a spineless variety. Do not worry: this irritation will not happen when you eat them.
- To store okra, put the uncut and uncooked pods into freezer bags and keep them in the freezer. You can then prepare the okra any way you like throughout the winter months.
- You can also can okra to have it throughout the winter.
- ‘Annie Oakley’, which takes 52 days to mature and has spineless pods. It grows to about 5 feet tall.
- ‘Park’s Candelabra Branching’, which is a base-branching okra plant. This type of branching makes picking easy.
- ‘Louisiana Green Velvet’ is good for big areas; it is vigorous and its plants grow to be 6 feet tall. It is also smooth and spineless.