Ladyfingers are the edible seedpods of the okra plant (Abelmoschus esculentus) and are also known as gumbo. The plant is related to cotton and hibiscus and is originally from Africa. It is best grown as an annual crop in the United States as it is very sensitive to cold temperatures. Okra plants are spiny and care must be taken when harvesting the pods.
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Choose a sunny site with well-drained soil for your ladyfinger plants. Prepare the soil by fertilising with 0.907kg. of balanced fertiliser per 100 square feet.
Soak ladyfinger seeds in water for several hours prior to sowing. Sow ladyfinger seeds outdoors in moist soil once the soil temperature has risen above 18.3 degrees Celsius. Bury each seed at a depth of 1 inch with 4 to 6 inches between seeds and 3 feet between rows.
Thin out your ladyfinger seedlings once they are 5 inches tall, leaving up to 2 feet between plants. Apply an 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around your plants to control weeds and preserve moisture.
Apply 85.1gr. of balanced fertiliser per 100 feet of row once your plants are 6 to 8 inches tall. Fertilise again two or three weeks later or after heavy rain.
Irrigate your plants during dry spells, aiming to moisten the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Water in the morning to allow then to dry out before nightfall.
Harvest ladyfinger pods once they are 2 or 3 inches long and harvest regularly as leaving large pods on the plant reduces overall yield.
Tips and warnings
- Plant okra in slightly acidic soil with a pH of between 6.2 and 6.5 for the best yield.
- Do not over-fertilise ladyfinger plants as excess nitrogen will cause them to grow leaves instead of seedpods. Never plant ladyfingers in the same place year after year to avoid nematode problems.
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