It’s hard not to love a plant that looks beautiful, produces incredibly nutritious fruits, and thrives in the oven that is Central Texas in July and August. Seriously, if you haven’t grown your own okra, you’ve got to give this hot-season favorite a try.
Okra is one of the easiest vegetables to grow during our hotter months. Follow these tips to grow okra under its preferred growing conditions and set yourself up to harvest pod after delicious pod.
OUR FAVORITE TYPES OF OKRA TO GROW
There are several really fun okra varieties that do well in our hot weather:
- Clemson Spineless – This has become one of the most popular types to grow. It produces pounds and pounds of delicious green pods.
- Red Burgundy Okra – This plant is gorgeous. Bees love the pale yellow flowers, and you’ll love the burgundy pods they produce.
- Jambalaya Okra – This is a more compact plant that’s great for smaller gardens. You can start to get pods when the plant is just 12 inches tall.
Once you’ve got your okra seeds, check out these tips to plant okra under the right growing conditions.
THE BEST TIME TO GROW OKRA IN YOUR CENTRAL TEXAS GARDEN
The okra growing season here in Texas Hill Country and surrounding areas is summer (specifically late spring to early fall).
Okra does well in your veggie garden even when tomatoes and peppers are wilting in the Texas heat. you have time to plant at least two rounds of okra thanks to our many months of warm weather (when temps above 85 degrees).
Okra is not at all frost tolerant and should be removed from your garden by mid- to late fall.
When to plant okra seeds
The earliest you should plant okra in Central Texas is early April, once we’re two to three weeks past our final frost date.
You can continue sowing okra seeds until the end of July to give your plants plenty of time to mature and produce a fall crop before we might expect cooler temps at the end of October.
Central Texas Monthly Planting Guide
Take all the guesswork out of your seasonal planting.
WHERE TO GROW OKRA
Okra is not very particular about soil, so some Central Texas gardeners do grow okra in the ground. Because okra can grow so tall, however, the plants need lots of underground support. We find that the clay soils most of us have in our backyards are not ideal for allowing roots to push down deep.
For this reason, we prefer to grow okra in raised beds. The height of the raised beds ensures the plants have plenty of soil to anchor themselves so they won’t fall over. It also provides the well-draining soil that okra prefers.
Okra will need to receive full sun (at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day) to form fruit. Really, the more sun you can give these plants, the better!
HOW TO PLANT OKRA IN YOUR GARDEN
Okra seeds typically germinate within a week, and the plant grows quickly after that. It’s not necessary to go through the hassle of starting okra by seed indoors. Just wait until warm weather to sow okra seeds directly in your garden.
Follow these three easy steps:
Before sowing seeds, add a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost over the soil in the planting area to give your okra a nice little nutritional boost.
Space okra seeds 4 inches apart and plant them 1 inch deep. Sow only one okra seed per hole. Stagger your holes if you’re planting multiple rows.
After sowing seeds, give the planting area a good watering.
Keep the soil moist until you see okra sprouts pop up. Continue watering okra seedlings daily until they’re a few inches tall.
You can plant shorter plants around their bases now that they’re established. Hot peppers and basil will appreciate the overhead shade that okra plants can provide during hot summers.
HOW TO CARE FOR OKRA IN YOUR CENTRAL TEXAS GARDEN
If you’ve never grown this plant in your vegetable garden, you might be amazed at how okra grows. Some plants can grow 8, 10, even 12 feet tall (which means you’ll need a ladder to harvest the highest fruits)!
There are a just a couple tending tasks to do, including watering and feeding.
But mostly you can just sit back and watch these plants grow… and grow… and grow!
How often to water okra plants
Okra is a fairly drought-tolerant vegetable. That being said, it still needs at least 1 inch of water a week to set fruit.
Once your plants are established, you can provide this water once a week to encourage the roots to go deep and help anchor the plant. A drip irrigation system is an efficient way to keep okra plants watered. (If you don’t have one set up yet, Garden in Minutes has a great grid system that’s super easy to install.)
How to fertilize okra plants
Okra is not a particularly heavy feeder. Adding a layer of compost or other organic matter like wormcastings before planting can often be enough for the plant to power through its growth.
If you have time for the plant to continue producing fruit once you’ve harvested your first batch, consider adding more compost around the base of the plant or an organic fertilizer high in phosphorus and potassium. (MicroLife Maximum Blooms is my go-to for fruiting plants.)
ADDITIONAL OKRA GROWING TIPS
Like I’ve said, okra is a pretty low-maintenance vegetable that doesn’t need much attention from the gardener while it’s growing. It can, however, fall prey to pests, particularly stink bugs, aphids, and ants. Ants themselves don’t hurt the plant (unless they’re fire ants), but they do bring aphids with them.
Read these 6 tips for organic pest control to be ready to deal with pests in your garden.
The entire plant is covered in little hairs and spines that secrete a sticky substance, which can cause skin reactions when handled. (Yes, that includes Clemson Spineless plants.) It’s a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves when handling okra.
HOW TO HARVEST OKRA
Okra is a prolific producer. In fact, the hardest part about harvesting okra is really just keeping your plants well picked so that they keep producing okra pods for you.
Most okra varieties need about 50+ days to reach maturity in the garden. You’ll know you’re about to get pods once you see these beautiful cream-colored flowers forming. Seed pods grow from these blooms in just a matter of days. (Seriously, if you’re used to the sluggish pace of tomato fruits forming, prepare to be amazed!)
For the best yields, harvest okra when each pod has reached about 2 to 3 inches in length. You don’t want to wait much longer than that for two reasons: One, you risk the seed pod growing too stringy and tough; and two, keeping your plants picked will encourage them to produce more pods for you. After your first harvest, that means you need to come back out every other day or so!
Harvest okra pods using a clean pair of pruners or a kitchen knife.
HOW TO USE AND STORE OKRA
Enjoy as many pods as you can garden-fresh—and soon, since okra molds very quickly when left out.
Okra has a mild flavor, and the mucilage, the sticky substance inside, acts as a natural thickener when heated. Boil it, fry it, pickle it, or toss it into soups, gumbos, and casseroles. You can also enjoy pods fresh in salads.
We love to chop our okra up, add some salt, and roast in the air fryer or oven. It makes a wonderful crispy snack!
Did you know you can even toss okra into smoothies? This helps you add more veggies to your diet and thickens up that smoothie.
Store the rest in the fridge for 3 to 5 days wrapped in a paper towel or paper bag and then placed inside a container. If you’d prefer to freeze okra, you’ll need to process it first, either by blanching or roasting it.
HOW TO SAVE YOUR OWN OKRA SEEDS
If you like the variety you grew this season, there’s no reason to buy more seeds for next year. Okra seeds are super easy to save.
When you’ve harvested as many pods as you can enjoy from a plant, simply leave the remaining pods on the plant and allow them to grow large. When they seem to be as big as they’re gonna get, harvest them and let them dry out. The okra seeds, which look like small dark pebbles, will come out easily. Compost remaining plant parts.
Store okra seeds in a paper bag, seed envelope, or glass jar in a cool, dark place for up to three years.