Okra

Okra (also known as lady’s fingers and bhindi) is best grown under glass in th UK, although it may be worth trying outdoors in mild regions, on a hot, sunny patio. The calcium-rich pods are used in soups, stews and curries.

Jobs to do now

  • Keep the compost moist
  • Feed weekly
  • Harvest regularly

Month by month

Sow

Soak the seeds for two hours in warm water before sowing.

Sow from March to April in small pots or seedtrays, either in a propagator or covered with a clear polythene bag, and keep above 16°C (60°F). An airing cupboard is ideal for germination. Once seedlings appear, remove the covering and place in good light and keep warm.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, transfer into 9cm (3½in) pots of multi-purpose compost. Make sure the night temperature stays above 16°C (60°F).

Four or five plants should produce enough okra for most families.

Grow

In the UK, okra plants are best grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel. They may also be grown in containers on a warm, sunny, sheltered patio, but need a hot summer to crop well.

From late May to early June, when the young plants are 10–15cm (4–6in) tall, transplant them into 23–25cm (9–10in) pots, growing bags or a greenhouse border.

Water regularly using tepid water, to keep the compost moist. Plants in containers need watering more frequently – check them twice daily during warm weather.

PInch out the shoot tips to encourage bushiness. 

Plants can grow tall (90–120cm/3–4ft), so provide sturdy canes for support.

Once the first flowers have formed, feed weekly with high potassium fertiliser.

Harvesting

Okra plants produce pods from mid-summer until temperatures drop in autumn, often up to the first frost. Regular picking encourages more pods to form.

Harvest the pods when tender and immature, about 5–10cm (2–4in) long.  Handle them gently as the skin is easily marked. Large mature pods become tough and stringy. 

Okra plants are covered in short hairs that may irritate bare skin, so wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting or touching them.

The pods can be cooked straight away or frozen for later use.

Recommended Varieties

Common problems

Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite
Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite

Leaves become mottled, pale and covered in webbing, on which the mites can be clearly seen; leaves also drop prematurely.

Remedy

They thrive in hot, dry conditions, so mist plants regularly. Use biological control in the greenhouse.

Whitefly
Whitefly

Small white flies suck sap and excrete sticky ‘honeydew’ over the plant, encouraging the growth of sooty mould.

Remedy

Use biological control or sticky traps in the greenhouse.

Aphids
Aphids

Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds.

Remedy

Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.

Get involved

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