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Okra help, I really need it

 
Deb Rebel
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Location: Zone 6b
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We are taking over the truck garden from the fellow that ran it for a few years (setting up on our property though) and. I need help with Okra. Bad. I've tried growing it before several times and my luck is about knee high plants that bloom and produce me maybe 5-6 pods. Where someone else in town has 7' tall and prolific. I'm not sure what I'm missing. I give them the same love as tomatoes and even install cages, hopeful they will fill them. I also treat them as a hot weather crop. I've tried seed and buying plants and get the same result. Other stuff in the same area produces well, so soil is in good shape and water is adequate I believe.

I am at zone 6b at close to 4200 feet, summers tend to be windy (sustained average 25mph wind) sunny, 95f and low relative humidity. I can work on windbreak, shadecloth and watering. I can produce good tomatoes. Any thoughts?  The variety I keep returning to is Clemson Spineless, btw.
 
Caroline Rodgers
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There are only two things I can think of:
pH- tomatoes like slightly acidic soil, but okra likes it to be neutral. You can buy a pH test kit at a garden soil and add supplements if needed
Windbreak:  okra roots are super fragile so the wind pushing the plant around could be damaging the roots leading to stunted growth.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
 
Deb Rebel
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Caroline Rodgers wrote:There are only two things I can think of:
pH- tomatoes like slightly acidic soil, but okra likes it to be neutral. You can buy a pH test kit at a garden soil and add supplements if needed
Windbreak:  okra roots are super fragile so the wind pushing the plant around could be damaging the roots leading to stunted growth.
Hope this helps. Good luck!


Yes it does, thank you. I can easily add windbreak protection.
 
Casie Becker
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Do you have a relationship of some sort with the person growing the seven foot okra, or have you just seen the plants? Unless you have bad blood between the two of you, I wonder if you could beg some seed from their plants? So often success or failure depends on the varieties you work with. Look at all the people trying to grow watermelon in cold climates, or how much effort goes into finding bolt resistant plants for the south. Varieties aren't one size fits all.

I'm curious what keeps bringing you back to Clemson Spineless.
 
Deb Rebel
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Casie Becker wrote:Do you have a relationship of some sort with the person growing the seven foot okra, or have you just seen the plants? Unless you have bad blood between the two of you, I wonder if you could beg some seed from their plants? So often success or failure depends on the varieties you work with. Look at all the people trying to grow watermelon in cold climates, or how much effort goes into finding bolt resistant plants for the south. Varieties aren't one size fits all.

I'm curious what keeps bringing you back to Clemson Spineless.


Readily available as seed and plant. The person with the 7' and my knee high, we both had seeded Clemson Spineless from the same packet. That was a few years ago and neither of us saved seed. And yes, I stood beside her plants and went WOW.

If I didn't have the daunting quick rampup to planting about a half acre garden I'd sit back and experiment more. The fellow with the truck garden will give me some seed that he has but he didn't have any okra left of what he grew last year. I found someone on another thread that sounds like they have similar climate to here, and were last year giving away seed and I Purple Mooseaged to see if they would part with some seed. (they save year to year)
 
John Elliott
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I'll help you out Deb. I've got about 4 varieties of red okras, so send me a PM with your address and I'll get it in the mail to you. 

I kind of winced when I saw you are in 6b at 4200' of elevation -- those are not friendly numbers for okra.  The one year I lived north of Denver I tried growing okra, and that was a miserable failure.  Okra will not thrive when temperatures drop below 55F.  Oh yes, in the fall, a 6' tall plant will still be producing up until the first frost in November, but young plants need it hot and humid to get going.  I would suggest you plant it along a south facing wall, grabbing any sort of extra heat the wall can radiate at night.  Remember, okra is an African import, so I doubt your weather can get too hot for what you plant. 

Or too wet.  Okra really takes off when we get a gullywasher of a thunderstorm.  Definitely a bottom-of-the-swale type of crop.  If your okra is getting stunted at knee-high, it needs some deep watering.  Drip irrigation or a major water leak really gets the okra to pay attention and get growing.

 
Marco Banks
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That's weird: same town, same basic climate, same basic soil . . . vastly different results.

Okra always grows like a weed for me.  I neglect it but it puts out so much fruit, it's crazy.  I've got to check it daily, as it goes from too small to too big/woody in about 24 hours.

Full sun?

Are you giving it enough nitrogen?

Even watering?

Well-drained soil?

At your altitude, I wonder about cool nights and not enough heat for it to really keep growing aggressively.  Perhaps your friend has their okra in a better micro-climate, where heat is stored through the day and it doesn't get too cool at night?

Like tomatoes, I've found that you can't give okra too much N.  Do you save your urine and use it in the garden?  Do you have access to cheap manure?  Try side-dressing with chicken manure and watering with diluted urine/rainwater.

Best of luck this year.
 
Deb Rebel
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I have chosen the best baked part of my yard, I know my microclimes after 11 growing seasons here. Will be installing windbreak, making ridges to do earthmass  going east and west, and will use cloches and floating row cover to get things started in the spring. About 12 May we quit having a chance of sudden cold snaps or snow; and our nights will usually stay above 50 from then to at least mid Sept to mid October. I am 6b and think I can push close to 8a if I try, and I know, night temps can be killers for the hot crops. I have training with my colocasia and alocasia collection, and decided to try what works for them this year. [read through a lot of Baker Creek Nursery okra listings today, read all the reviews and noted who was where and what they said about the different kinds. It pointed out that okra likes it warm and some humidity, need some feeding (fertilizer/amendment) and once it gets warm it goes crazy...]

Marco Banks, it was even the same seed supply. Looking back at notes I think the one thing that did mine in is wind.

John Elliot, thank you. I will send that on Monday. Seriously, thank you. Expect PM shortly....  I lived in Colorado Springs for 17.5 years at 4b 6500 feet and 5a 6150 feet on the Front Range. There I wouldn't have tried to grow Okra, I was just happy in 5a to get a peach that would survive (Elberta).



 
Maureen Atsali
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I have also had a hard time growing okra...in Africa.  I got knee high stunted little plants that gave 2 to 4 pods each.  I blame mine on poor soil, though.  Sounds like your soil is good.  Previously I grew okra in Vermont with no problems.  Got the 7 foot plants with masses of pods.  I planted direct from seed a few weeks late.

A little off topic, but have you ever eaten okra leaves as a vegetable?  So delicious!
 
Rodd Ramon
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Location: Zone 9A
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Long time reader  of the forums, I signed up to help you. I'm a big fan of okra, and grow a good bit. My first thought is, are you harvesting the pods. A lot of okra will not continue to grow if you leave the pods on. My usual is after the flower to let the pods grow for a few days to a week then I cut them off. I don't think I've ever had more than two pods on a plant at a time. I've grown okra 7-8' . Also direct sow if possible if your season is short start in as big of a pot as you can.
 
Deb Rebel
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Rodd Ramon wrote:Long time reader  of the forums, I signed up to help you. I'm a big fan of okra, and grow a good bit. My first thought is, are you harvesting the pods. A lot of okra will not continue to grow if you leave the pods on. My usual is after the flower to let the pods grow for a few days to a week then I cut them off. I don't think I've ever had more than two pods on a plant at a time. I've grown okra 7-8' . Also direct sow if possible if your season is short start in as big of a pot as you can.


Thank you for joining us, I'm honored I'm the reason.

Yes, I knew to keep pods picked. Any plant if you leave it to set fruit and seed out, will divert the energy to that. Keeping the crop harvested keeps it producing.

I am at 6b, my last frost/show chance is 12 May and I've had a few last cold snaps after midnight on the morning of the 11th or the 12th, and a few years ago we did have snow (rare in May) on the 14th on ground at dawn. Usually 15 May to 15 Sept and sometimes to 15 October, our days will go in to an average of around 90f and nights in the 50's and stay that way. So 4 to 5 months hot, another few months worth in spring and fall that are considered cold season. With a little help I can squeeze about 9 months growing season with two short cooler, one hot, and one long haul that overlays spring and summer. I have grown in 8 different grow zones and 4 at altitude.... this will be my 11th season here and I have kept notes.

Rodd Ramon, what is your USDA grow zone or equivalent? It seems that most okra likes at least 8a from what I've read (reviews on seed catalog sites, reading where people are from on their bio blurb with their name, etc)
 
Rodd Ramon
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Location: Zone 9A
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I'm in 9a, pretty much have 11 1/2 month growing season. Every 10 years or so we will get a couple days below 20 degrees.
 
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