Okra (Bhindi in Hindi and Bhendi in Odia) also known as ladies finger is a very generous plant. A single plant produces one to three fruits daily over a period of 50-60 days. Six to Eight okra plants are enough to meet the vegetable needs for a family of four for a single meal. On top of that Growing Okra in Pots Organically is completely hassle free. Ladies finger is a native African plant and is a close relative of hibiscus. Okra flowers have beautiful color and look similar to hibiscus flowers. Its leaves also have a nice star shaped design. Hence a lot of people also use okra as an ornamental plant and grow them indoors in small pots. Okra is generally eaten cooked lightly, but you can eat them raw if you grow them yourselves organically in your garden.
Quick Reference Table for Growing Okra in Containers
|Growing Temperature||Okra is a warm season crop that needs night time temperature to be at least at least 17-18 °C|
|Germination Temperature||28-33°C Ideal|
|Germination Time||3-8 days|
|Soil pH||6.5 to 7|
|Sunlight Need||6-8 hours per day|
|Preferred Planting Method||Direct Sowing is preferred|
|Container size||15-20 liter depending on variety|
|Time to Harvest||30-40 days from germination|
|Harvest Period||50-60 days|
|Typical Pests||Aphids, caterpillars|
|Best season to plant in India||Anytime other than winters|
Choosing Okra Variety
Okra is a green to dark green colored fruit; at least that is what we generally get to see. But there is also a red variety of okra called the Red Burgundy which looks very attractive due to its color. Taste wise there is no difference between a green okra and a red okra. In fact the red okra turns green when cooked. But as a decorative plant in your kitchen garden the red okra scores much higher than the green one. And due to this fact its seeds are more expensive. So while growing okra in pots if you can spend some extra money its not a bad idea to go for the red okra.
The height of an okra plant when grown in an appropriate container can reach up to 10 ft. If you have vertical space constraints go for a dwarf variety of okra. There are a lot of varieties of okra seeds available in the market. Check the typical height of the plant before buying seeds.
Choosing Container for Okra
Okra has a tap root which likes to go deep in the soil. Hence bucket type of container works well for Okra plants. A 20 liter container is good for normal variety while 15 liter container works fine for a dwarf variety. For growing okra in pots, you can choose between an earthen pot, recycled paint bucket or an old recycled plastic bucket.
Here is a little hack in case you are unable to get a dwarf variety of okra. Just use a smaller container (10 liter). This will make sure the root system does not develop completely and hence the plant will not reach its appropriate height. But it will also bring down the yield.
Seed Sowing and Germination of Okra
Okra seeds are suited for direct sowing rather than transplanting. However they can be transplanted provided you germinate them in one liter or bigger size container and then transplant the seedling with the entire soil ball. For faster germination soak the seeds for 24 hours in Amrut Jal. If you can not get hold of Amrut Jal plain water works fine. Plan to sow seeds in the evening in a pre-warmed container. Get your container ready in the morning of sowing the seeds and leave it in the sun so that the potting mix warms up by evening. For sowing the seeds make a hole in the potting mix with your finger. The hole should be around 1 inch in depth. place one seed in the hole and cover with loose soil. Water the pot well and cover it from top to preserve heat and moisture. Sow 3-4 seeds per container close to the center. Thin the seedlings to just one after the plants are around 6-8 inch tall.
Once you have sown the seeds check the moisture in the potting mix on a daily basis and keep the potting mix hydrated. In about 3-6 days you should see your first few seedlings peeping out of the soil inquisitively. At this point remove the cover from your pot. Ladies finger plants love sunlight from the day they are born. So let them enjoy some sunshine.
Growing Okra in Containers
Okra plants grow very fast. The normal varieties reach a height of approximately 2 feet in a single month. Buds start to appear in a month or so. While growing okra in pots if your potting mix is very loose then you may have to provide some support to the plant. Since okra is grown in warm season, moisture dries out fast from containers. Hence mulching is an absolutely must for okra plants. You need to water the plant two times a day when the day time temperature is high. Otherwise watering once in a day is sufficient for the plant. In case you are not sure how much you should water check for dehydrated leaves a few times in the course of the day. If you notice dehydrated leaves, then you need to water more.
Young okra plants can be attacked by leaf eating insects and the whole plant can be eaten up overnight by them. So just keep checking on your young plants every morning. If you notice parts of the leaves have been eaten away look for insects and pests everywhere in the plant especially under the leaves. As soon as you spot them pick them up and throw them off. Some caterpillars like winter moths curl up the leaves . Just tear off leaves where you see such curls and throw them away. The whole leaf need not be torn off. For getting rid of aphids just use a neem oil based spray.
When the plant starts flowering add about 3-4 liters of well decomposed compost to your pots to get plentiful harvest.
Okra plants flowers almost everyday and every flower self fertilizes itself to a fruit. The fruit takes about 7-10 days on the plant to grow. Okra needs to be harvested when it has grown to a length of 4 to 6 inches. A day or two extra on the plant and it becomes hard and woody. Generally the fruit is covered with tiny soft thorns. While picking up okra these can pierce into your fingers. Hence while harvesting okra hold it at the pointed end and cut it off with a pair of pruning shears. Don’t try to pluck okra with your hands. You’ll end up damaging the plant. Its a good idea to harvest okra on a daily basis. However if you cant do that make sure you are harvesting them every 2 or 3 days. Any longer gap between harvests means you’ll end up with hard fruits.
When you are growing okra in pots, the fruiting period lasts up to two months. So if you want to have a supply of ladies finger in your kitchen all the time, then sow new seeds every two months and enjoy this soft, succulent, nutritious and tasty vegetable on your dinner plates throughout the warm season.