If you’re like millions of other Americans, you don’t have the space to have a vegetable garden. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fresh vegetables all summer long.
Okra is a popular and prolific vegetable that, despite its large size, grows well in containers. So even if you live in an apartment, if you have a balcony, you can grow okra!
Growing Okra in Containers
Here are some tips for growing okra in containers.
Okra Varieties that Grow Well in Containers
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Technically, you can grow any variety of okra in containers. However, dwarf varieties are the best choice since they won’t take up too much space.
Choose a variety that doesn’t grow more than 5-feet tall. This will help ensure that the okra doesn’t outgrow its container. Finally, choose a variety of okra that matures quickly if you live in a place with a short growing season. Dwarf Blondy is one of my favorite varieties of okra to grow in pots.
Choosing the right variety of okra increases the odds that you’ll be able to harvest and enjoy fresh okra from your garden throughout the summer. However, if you can’t find a dwarf variety, go with a standard variety such as Clemson Spineless.
The Best Containers for Growing Okra
Choosing the right container is vital to successfully growing okra in containers.
When it comes to the right okra pot size, select a container that is between 3 and 5 gallons in size. The pot should be 10-12″ in diameter, and at least that deep.
Okra absolutely loves hot weather. Because of this, Okra does well in dark containers. The dark color keeps the soil warm, since dark colors do a better job of absorbing heat.
If the container doesn’t have drainage holes, be sure to add some. If the container is plastic, you can use a drill or a soldering iron to add holes.
Before adding the soil to the container, add some gravel to the container. This helps to improve drainage and prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged.
The Best Soil for Growing Okra in Containers
When growing okra in containers, you want to make sure to use the best soil possible. Loamy soil is ideal, as it contains a mix of sand, silt, and clay particles. The reason this type of soil works is that despite draining well, it retains enough moisture to keep your okra plant happy. (And we all want our okra plants to be happy, right?!)
You’ll also want to add in some organic matter, such as compost or composted manure.
Alternatively, you can use a soilless potting mix that has a lot of organic matter.
Okra does well in soil with a pH that ranges between 6.5 and 7. While it’s best not to go above a pH of 7, a maximum pH of 7.6 is workable.
Starting with good soil helps ensure that your okra plants gets off to a good start.
How to Plant Okra in Containers
When it comes to planting okra in containers, the best time to plant the okra is when all danger of frost is past, and temperatures are a minimum of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re lucky enough to live in zones 9-11, you can plant okra year-round. In contrast, you’ll have to wait until the middle of June if you live in the north.
Due to having a large taproot, okra doesn’t transplant easily. Because of that, save yourself some grief and plant it in the container you plan to grow it in.
Before planting okra seeds, soak them overnight. Throw out any seeds that float.
After soaking, sow two to three seeds half an inch deep, 12 to 18 inches apart. If you don’t have enough room for proper spacing, it’s best to grow just one okra plant per container.
However, you may want to plant a few seeds, just in case some of them don’t grow. Once you have a healthy plant, gently remove all but the healthiest okra plant.
Feeding Container Okra
We all need to eat, and okra you grow in pots is no exception! Here’s how to satisfy the nutritional needs of your okra plant.
Mix a balanced fertilizer directly into the soil before planting your okra seeds. Doing so gives your okra plants a fighting chance of growing successfully.
Once the plant is 6″ tall, add another dose of fertilizer.
The best fertilizer for okra in pots is aged manure or compost. Add a handful of aged manure or compost to the soil about once a month. Regular feeding ensures a healthy plant and encourages healthy fruiting.
If there is too much nitrogen in the soil, you may get more vegetative growth instead of fruit. Therefore, it’s important to monitor pH levels and adjust as needed. As the plant matures, use a fertilizer with a lower nitrogen level. Look for a fertilizer that is 5-10-5 or 6-12-12. Proper feeding increases the odds of good production of fruit.
Watering Container Okra
Okra is a heat-loving plant that thrives in warm weather, but that doesn’t mean that moisture isn’t important! Okra needs consistent moisture to produce a good crop.
When growing okra in pots, make sure the soil is moist. This is especially important until the seeds germinate, which generally takes between 5-10 days. Even after the seedlings appear, moist soil is important.
However, water is especially important from the time the okra begins to flower through the harvesting period.
Aim for 1″ of water per week; more may be needed in very hot weather.
However, before watering, check the moisture level of your soil by sticking your finger 2″ down into the soil. If it feels moist, you don’t need to water. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other problems, so it’s better to err on the side of too little rather than too much water. Just don’t let the soil completely dry out.
How Much Sun Does Okra Need?
As I mentioned earlier, okra is a heat-loving plant that thrives in bright, sunny conditions. Once the seeds have germinated, move your containers to a location that receives at least five hours of direct sunlight each day.
However, some varieties of okra do even better if they are placed in an area with up to ten hours of sun, so be sure to read the instructions on the seed packet.
In addition to sunlight, okra requires warmth, with ideal temperatures ranging from 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant can tolerate temperatures above 95 degrees, but take care not to let the soil dry out too much in between watering. In very warm climates, use mulch to help maintain moisture levels and protect the roots from excessive heat.
Problems with Growing Okra in Containers
While it’s relatively easy to grow okra in containers, there are a few problems that may cause you to have less than ideal results. Here are a few things to watch out for.
I can’t emphasize enough that okra is a warm-weather vegetable that thrives in hot, humid conditions. If the temperature drops too low, the okra plants will stop growing and may even die. Likewise, if the plants do not receive enough water, the okra pods will not develop properly. (At the same time, don’t overwater. Aim for consistently moist soil, as advised above.)
In addition, okra plants need a consistent supply of nutrients to produce a bountiful harvest. If the plants don’t receive enough nutrition, they will produce fewer pods.
It is also important to harvest okra on a regular basis. If you allow okra to mature too much, it will become tough and unpalatable.
Finally, diseases and pests can also cause problems when growing okra. Common problems include mealy bugs, aphids, fusarium wilt, white flies, and root knot nematode. These issues can often be controlled with proper care and treatment, but they can occasionally lead to severe damage or even the death of the plant. The good news is that many of these issues are more prevalent when growing substantial amounts of okra and are less likely to strike when growing okra in pots.
For the best flavor, harvest okra when it is still tender. If you let okra grow too long, it will be too fibrous and hard to eat, or at least to enjoy!
Pods are ready to harvest when they are three to five inches long. An effective way to test to see if okra is ready to harvest is to see if the tip of the pod easily bends. If it does, that means the okra is tender and ready to harvest.
You should harvest okra pods frequently and check the plants regularly to ensure that no pods are allowed to grow too large.
When harvesting okra, use pruning shears to avoid damaging the plant. Enjoy your fresh okra soon after harvesting, for the best flavor and texture.
By following these simple tips, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of okra from your container garden.
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