You may be one of many who avoid okra because of how it becomes slimy after cooking, or you may see this okra slime as an asset, since it thickens dishes like soup, stews and gumbo. There are also ways to prepare okra without the slimy consistency. Originating in Africa over 1,000 years ago, okra thrives in hot, southern climates, although you can grow okra in containers at home anywhere. Growing okra in a pot allows you effortless access to a highly nutritious vegetable you can eat stewed, boiled, roasted, grilled, fried and pickled.
Select the type of container or pot you would like to grow your okra in. Examples include plastic buckets, large plastic bottles and plastic bags including garbage bags. Your okra container must have at least 10 inches in diameter at the top and be at least 10 to 12 inches deep.
Ensure your container has holes at the bottom for water drainage. Use a hammer and nail to make at least three to five holes on the container's bottom if the container does not have holes. Place a screen or coffee filters at the bottom of your container inside to prevent loss of soil.
Fill your okra container with a homemade soil mixture of 2 1/2 gallons each of garden soil, compost or peat moss, perlite or vermiculite and 1/2 cup of fertiliser made in a formulation of 6-10-4 or 5-10-5. This mixture provides your okra plants with a well-drained, lightweight, oxygenated growing media. Regular garden soil will become compacted in the container, resulting in poor drainage.
Plant two to three okra seeds per square foot of your container's interior by pushing each seed into the soil mixture 1 inch deep and covering them with dirt.
Water the okra at least 1 inch per week for ideal growth.
Put your container with the planted okra seeds in the sunniest location you can find. Okra thrives in daytime temperatures of 29.4 degrees Celsius or warmer. Start growing okra in the latter part of June if you live in the North for faster growth -- you will see okra pods in two months.
Harvest your okra pods when they reach 2 to 4 inches long. Pods at this size will be the most tender to eat. If you wait too long, the okra pods will reach lengths of 12 inches or longer, resulting in tough, inedible pods. Cut the okra stem 1/4 inch above the pod using a sharp knife or a pair of garden shears. Place the pods you cut into a basket. Continue to harvest every two to three days. The more okra pods you cut, the faster okra pods will grow, taking only a couple of days to grow from a node to a complete pod. Okra pods will keep growing quickly until you stop harvesting or until the weather cools down.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt and garden gloves when harvesting your okra plants to avoid skin irritation from the stiff okra leaf hairs. Place uncut, unwashed harvested okra into plastic bags and keep them stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. Freeze okra by cutting off the stems, washing the pods, placing the pods in boiling water for three minutes, and then placing them into ice water until cool. Drain the okra pods and put them into airtight plastic freezer bags. Freeze okra up to nine months.
Tips and warnings
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and garden gloves when harvesting your okra plants to avoid skin irritation from the stiff okra leaf hairs.
- Place uncut, unwashed harvested okra into plastic bags and keep them stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
- Freeze okra by cutting off the stems, washing the pods, placing the pods in boiling water for three minutes, and then placing them into ice water until cool. Drain the okra pods and put them into airtight plastic freezer bags. Freeze okra up to nine months.
- Aggie Horticulture; Okra: Out of Africa; Alcestis Cooky Oberg; October 2002
- Urban Agriculture Notes by City Farmer; Container and Vertical Gardening; John Otting
- Purdue University; Container and Raised Bed Gardening; B. Rosie Lemer; April 2009
- Backyard-Vegetable-Gardening.com: Planting Okra
- Polk County University of Wisconsin-Extension Cooperative Extension; Vegetable Container Gardening; 2010
- Bonnie Plants: How to Grow Okra