Okra - the star queen of the garden
When okra is called the main star of the modern garden, exaggeration is out of the question. This plant is one of the most exotic and attractive edible crops. Amazing fruit pods with pronounced faces when cut allow you to get very original "stars", and they themselves will become an adornment of any dish. Fresh taste, reminiscent of eggplant, young peas and asparagus, unpretentiousness and beauty of the plant itself in the beds deserve much more attention. Moreover, okra is easy to grow even where far from southern conditions prevail.
Get to know better the amazing African okra
A representative of the malvaceous okra family, known in her homeland in Africa as gombo or okra, and in our country it is often referred to simply as “ladies' fingers” - one of the most fashionable annual vines. This is a summer with straight, giving a few lateral branches stems from 30 cm to 2 m high. Among the okras there are both real creepers and bushy plants, but due to the elongated vegetative period, climbers in the middle band can hardly be found.
In regions with harsh winters, okras are usually limited by the height typical for bush beans - about 50-60 cm, but create more lush and sloping bushes. Blade-separated, large, even-colored leaves form a very elegant crown, emphasize the beauty of purple stems and cream flowers with spirally arranged petals and cherry pharynx, which open in the sinuses.
But the greatest value of okra is not the beauty of the plant itself, but its fruits. Multi-seeded boxes, faceted, similar in shape to elongated haircuts of pepper hide dark round seeds. Thanks to the edges, the pods themselves are very beautiful, and when grinding, the slices are decorated with a star-shaped, very elegant shape.
The length of the pods reaches 25 cm, the maximum diameter is limited to 3 cm (but in order to achieve it, the fruits must fully ripen). Fruits okra until the end of September. There is a belief that in okra the number of leaves is equal to the number of fruits that this plant can bring with good care.
Okra pods and seeds are very rich in proteins and vitamins, they have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. This unique vegetable tastes similar to asparagus, many reminiscent of a hybrid of green peas and eggplant. And use it accordingly. This vegetable crop is perfect both for canning, and for it for various first and second courses, salads, for thickening sauces, decorating meals. Okra looks very beautiful on plates, and seeds in dried and frozen form will replenish stocks of legumes.
The best varieties of okra for the middle strip
Despite the fact that our okra is still an exotic plant, today on the market you can find many varieties of this culture. Almost all of them belong to bushy okras and are perfectly adapted to the conditions of the middle strip with its not too long and hot summers.
Favorite varieties for regions with harsh winters include: “White Velvet”, “Green Velvet”, “Tall 100”, “Ladies' Fingers”, “Dwarf Green”, “White Cylindrical 127”.
We select the growing conditions for okra
Okra belongs to the most light and heat-loving plants. When choosing lighting, keep in mind that this African culture is accustomed to the bright southern sun. It must be planted in south-oriented areas, in the sunniest and warmest sections of the garden and in the beds located in the middle of the garden or on its southern side. It is worth paying attention to the fact that okras should not bother cold winds and drafts.
Particular attention when choosing growing conditions for this African must be given to the soil. Indeed, its harvest also depends on its fertility. Soil with a high content of organic substances should be chosen for okra. It is advisable to improve the soil at the site at least a month before planting, and preferably in the fall of the previous year, by adding organic and mineral fertilizers in the form of complete mineral mixtures, compost and humus.
Okras do not like very dry soil, as well as increased humidity, as well as loose and untreated soils. For them, it is necessary to choose a really high-quality garden soil, loose, permeable and deeply dug.
Okras in regions with severe winters can be grown:
- through seedlings;
- sowing directly into open soil.
Sowing okra in the soil
Okra is sown together with all melons, at the same time with watermelons and melons. Sowing can be carried out only in late May and June, when the soil at a depth of 3-4 cm warms up to more than 15 degrees. It can be used as a culture-seal for cucumbers or planted on separate beds with row spacings from 60 to 70 cm.
Okra, even in open soil, needs to be sown deep enough, by 3-5 cm. This plant has an elongated period of germination, sometimes emergence should be expected more than 3 weeks. To accelerate this process and improve germination immediately, when sowing, you need to take care of watering, and then repeat the procedure of moistening the soil after 1-1.5 weeks. Once the okras have grown, they are thinned out to a distance of 30 cm between plants.
Sowing okra for seedlings
In order to increase the yield period, not to wait for the arrival of June for sowing in open soil and, accordingly, to get the first crop earlier, it is best to grow this plant in seedlings. Okra really doesn’t like transplanting, it forms a strong core root system, which is easily injured, therefore it is preferable to use peat pots for this culture.
In the first days of May, okra seeds are sown in individual pots of 2-3 seeds each (of which one then leaves the strongest plant). Large seeds are deepened into the soil by 3-4 cm. Before planting, it is best to soak the seeds for 12-24 hours to accelerate germination. Plants grow without diving until the transplant to the beds.
Seedlings are planted in open ground or greenhouses at the age of 45 days. An open soil transplant can be carried out for regions with severe winters only after June 10, to the south - after the threat of late spring frosts disappears. The distance of the seedlings should be about 30-50 cm, and between rows - from 60 to 90 cm.
Okra Care Secrets
The status of an exotic plant should not frighten: okra does not belong at all to capricious and demanding cultures. By the general specifics of growing and the care that she needs this African can be equated with beans.
Enhanced care for okras will be required only during the first month of cultivation. In the future, care for okra is surprisingly simple.
Starting from the first month of growing okra and until harvesting from the beds, do not allow the formation of hard peel on the soil and the active development of weeds. It is necessary to ensure thorough and timely loosening of the soil, which must be carried out regularly, after 10-15 days, supplementing it with weeding. Weeds should not be allowed to develop on the beds, removing them at a young age. During the summer, adult okras need at least 2-3 weeding. All these procedures can be simplified by mulching the soil around the bushes.
The most time-consuming component of care during the entire time of growing okra is watering, but they also should not be systemic. Okras need watering only during a period of prolonged drought, when plants can dramatically reduce the number of formed fruits due to complete and prolonged drying of the soil. Watering okra should be deep. The soil should be soaked to a depth of about 30-40 cm.
As for fertilizing, when planting in fertile soil, they will not be needed at all by plants. If you want to collect a larger amount of the crop or did not carry out pre-planting “refueling” of the earth, then spend two dressings for okra:
- at the stage of production of the first buds, add full mineral fertilizer (nitrophosphate) for this crop;
- about a month after the start of fruiting, feed okra with potassium phosphate fertilizers (superphosphate and potassium sulfate).
As soon as the okra has grown to 40 cm, it is advisable to pinch the main shoot to increase tillering. As lateral branches are released, the plant can be tied to supports, but usually garter is needed only in windy places where the bushes are poorly maintained.
How and when to harvest okra
The main trump card of okra is the ability to bear fruit quickly enough. Varieties of this vegetable crop suitable for growing in regions with harsh winters are usually early ripening and already 2 months after emergence, they begin to bear numerous fruits.
In order to enjoy the taste of this exotic, but surprisingly versatile vegetable crop, which is very close to bean in taste and cultivation features, it is necessary to carefully monitor the age of the fruit. The thing is that okra pods not only grow rapidly, but also amazingly quickly overripe. Literally in one extra day they become tough and inedible.
For eating, the fruits of okra must be collected every other day or every day, removing ovaries from the bush at the age of 3 to 5 days. Overripe pods do not rush to throw away. Leave them to ripen the seeds for next year, and partly remove and remove the hidden seeds from them. They can be used as legumes or roasted and made a gombo coffee drink.
When harvesting okra, care must be taken. This culture often causes skin irritation due to the specific pubescence of the pods. It is best to remove the fruits with gloves, so that it is impossible to contact the plant with unprotected areas of the skin.
Be careful: the harvest is stored extremely briefly. Even in the refrigerator, okra pods quickly become fibrous and stiff. They retain their taste and texture only for 1-2 days, so the collected fruits must be immediately consumed, boiled, frozen, canned or dried.