Q: I am interested in growing okra, is it too late?
A: Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, grows best when the temperatures are consistently above 65 degrees F, which makes this pod vegetable a warm season vegetable. Okra is part of the Mallow family which includes plants such as cotton and hibiscus.
Here, in Northeast Florida, okra should be planted between March and July – so you still have time to get it in the ground and reap the benefits. Okra will be ready to harvest between 60 – 70 days but it is best to harvest the pod when it has grown about 2-3 inches long. The pods will be tender and edible at this stage. Long pods around 5-6 inches are too fibrous and tough.
Ideally, the soil pH should measure between 5.8 and 6.8. Okra prefers well-drained, sandy soils high in organic matter, but it can be grown in a wide variety of soils. You can have the soil pH tested at either of the Nassau County Extension offices at no cost to you. Bring in a sample of your garden soil between 10am and 2pm on Fridays (except for holidays) at the Yulee office (attached to fire station #30) or any day from 8am – 5pm at the Callahan office (near the Fairgrounds).
Okra produces the highest quality and quantity when planted in a full sun area. Moisture is especially important during flowering and pod development. During prolonged dry periods, a deep soaking once every seven to 10 days with one to 1.5 inches of water should be adequate. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation tape are the best methods for applying water. The University of Florida suggests the following varieties for growing here in Florida: ‘Clemson Spineless’, ‘Emerald’, ‘Annie Oakley II’, ‘Cajun Delight’.