“These fingers of ladies, reach for the sky
They never get there, I wonder why”
Okra, or lady finger as it is popularly called in India, is a fruiting veggie that is very easy to grow and loves being in Mumbai. It is a delightful addition to any urban farm, and will be glad to feed you and your family over several meals each season!
SEASONS: Okra is a hot weather plant. Sow it at the end of our winter or monsoons, for growth and harvest all through the summers that follow.
PROPAGATING: This plant is quite easily propagated from seed. Buy okra seeds from your garden shop, or prepare your okra seeds from scratch. Take a fully ripened, hard okra and dry it thoroughly in the sun. This may take a few days. Open carefully and collect the seeds, storing in a cool, dark place.
GERMINATING: Okra is best germinated in individual seeding pods or in a seeding basket in soil which is rich in compost. Sow seeds in holes about 1 inch deep, and a few inches apart. Place in semi-shade and water daily, until seedlings emerge after 10-14 days.
PLANTING OUT: Plant out your seedlings when they are sturdy in stem, and when the first true leaves appear, at about 2 weeks of growth. Sow in well composted and manured, acidic soil that is extremely well drained – as okra hates to have its feet in wet mucky soil. Space out your seedlings about 1 foot apart – or grow only one per container if you are using containers. Choose a very sunny spot for okra as this plant needs, and enjoys, all the sun it can get. Also, bear in mind that this plant grows very tall, and will need open skies above for that growth. Okra grows very well on sloped (for the excellent drainage this provides) open plots, and in medium to large containers.
NURTURING: Place mulch around the soil to reduce evaporation and water each day, preferably in the mornings. Okra is prone to fungus if its roots stay moist too long. So it is very important not to over-water your plant, or leave it all night with wet roots. For that reason, well-drained soil and/or maintaining a sloped soil level is essential. Your plant will grow swiftly and start producing fruit without any delay, usually within 3 -4 weeks of growth, and even in its young adolescence! Full-grown okra can get as high as 6 feet tall, so make space for that growth. Watch your plant for fungus on the lower side of its leaves and leaf-eaters. Prune affected portions immediately and destroy. Prune regularly to encourage lateral branches and strengthening of the main trunk.
HARVESTING: Harvest your okra while the fruit is still tender, and before it becomes stringy and fibrous. Remember that some fully-ripened okra may remain short, while others grow long, so a gentle bending of the fruit will give you an idea if it is still tender and edible. Okra is a highly productive plant and will give you much to eat through the season (4-5 months on average). When productivity declines at end of season, uproot, replenish your soil and use that space for growing leafing or rooting veggies next.
Okra flower and fruit – each plant will produce multiple fruit simultaneously
Okra harvest – a typical summer’s day harvest from six plants
© Mumbai Farmer 2014. Do not copy in part or whole without prior written permission from the author. Infringement of copyright will render you liable for legal action.