Fresh Homegrown Okra – The Star of the Summer Garden

Okra Thrives When Other Plants Die

We’ve had a nice, long, rainy spring this year.  But all good things come to an end, and it’s about time to start thinking about transitioning to some tough summer plants that will keep your garden producing when the heat arrives.  It’s time for fresh homegrown okra.

Okra is one of those no-brainer plants that keeps producing right through the summer heat.  And it’s an easy crop to grow, which means you won’t be out there in the heat trying to baby your plants along.

You might have to deal with some beetles or some aphids, but other than that – the trickiest thing about okra is learning to harvest it correctly.

Who’s the Okra Expert?

Last year we grew only Clemson Spineless, and this year we were looking for some different varieties to try – maybe something burgundy and maybe something heirloom.  So, who do you ask when you’re looking for Okra advice?

Somebody from Georgia, that’s who.

So I started digging, and sure enough, I found two good resources from the good folks at the University of Georgia Extension.

Everything You Need to Know to Grow Okra

The first resource I found is a guide for commercial growers.  So, as you would expect, it’s a little heavy on the pesticides/herbicides (and it’s a lot heavy on the fertilizer).  But those recommendations don’t really apply for small home growers.  What’s here that’s really useful is a lengthy guide about harvesting.  How long you should let the pods get for different uses, etc.  And, there’s a chart of different varieties and how they’re best used.

View or download the original PDF here: Okra – Commercial Vegetable Production

The second resource I found is a guide for the small home grower.  This one has good recommendations about pests and disease for home growers.  Basically – you shouldn’t have to worry about any diseases, and you should only control insects if you really need to.  And they recommend organic mulch as the best weed control.  I feel like the fertilizer recommendation is still a bit heavy handed.  Both documents warn against supplying too much nitrogen, but they both call for a lot of fertilizer – go figure.  In my experience, a light application of a balanced organic fertilizer works just fine.

View or download the original PDF here: Growing Okra in the Home Garden

How to Harvest Fresh Homegrown Okra

One tip I’ve learned is that it’s easier to manage your harvest if you have more plants – at least a small bed of them.  It’s not the best choice if you only have room for one or two plants.  If you only keep a few plants, then you’ll probably only get a couple of pods every day or two.

When you only get a couple of okra at a time, it can be tricky to find a way to use those few little pods.  But if you have a whole bed of them, you can pick enough for a good serving – to eat fresh, cook, or pickle – and then come back in 2 or 3 days for another good serving.

Some years we’ve kept a bag in the freezer just for okra, and if some pods are getting long but we don’t have enough for a serving, we add those odds and ends to the bag in the freezer until there’s enough to make gumbo or gazpacho or something else delicious.

When to Harvest Fresh Homegrown Okra

A good “rule of thumb” is to harvest them when they’re about as long as your middle finger – especially if you intend to eat them fresh.  Wait much longer and they’ll start to get hard and stringy.  If you can easily snap the pod in half and get a clean break – that’s perfect!

Do you have any good tips or tricks for harvesting okra?  Use the comments section below to share with the group.



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