How to Grow Okra in Pots Organically

okra plants can grow up to ten feet
okra plants can grow up to ten feet

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

 

Item Value
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
Pollination Self Pollinating
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.

red vs green okra
Red vs green 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.

Month old okra plants in plastic buckets
Month old okra plants in plastic buckets. Basil is planted in the same container as its a good companion for Okra.

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 seedlings
Okra seedlings

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.

All but one okra plant was removed after plants developed four true leaves
All but one okra plant was removed after plants developed four true leaves

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

Curling of Okra leaves by a Caterpillar
Curling of Okra leaves by a Caterpillar

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 plant eaten up overnight
Young Okra plant eaten up overnight

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.

Harvesting Okra

Beautiful Okra Flower
Beautiful Okra Flower

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.

Growing Pumpkin in Containers – A Complete Guide

Pumpkin is a great plant to grow in your garden. It grows easily without any hassles provided there is enough nutrition in the growing medium and there is enough light available for it. It is rich in calcium and phosphorous and tastes great in curries and as a soup it is excellent. But the best thing about growing pumpkin is that all parts of the plants including its leaves, stems and flowers are edible and there are simple and great tasting recipes which you can do in a few minutes to enjoy them. However many people feel that Growing Pumpkin in Containers is not a great idea because of the amount of space needed to grow them, and hence do not include this plant in their organic terrace garden. But in reality with a little amount of creativity Growing Pumpkins in Containers is viable even in small spaces.

A perfectly formed pumpkin from our terrace garden
A perfectly formed pumpkin from our terrace garden

By the way in case you are new to Organic Terrace Gardening I recommend you to read about the things you should consider before starting your Organic Terrace Garden and a Beginner’s Guide to growing vegetables in containers. These posts would help you to get started in the right direction in terrace gardening.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Pumpkin in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 23-32 °C
Germination Temperature  30-32°C Ideal
Germination Time 7-12 days
Soil pH 6.0 to 6-8
Sunlight Need 6-10 hours per day
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing
Container size 30-60 liter depending on variety
Time to Harvest 60-130 days from germination
Harvest Period 30-40 days for the first crop
Pollination Bee Pollination or Hand Pollination
Typical Pests Leaf Minor, Aphids, Ants, Squash bugs
Best season to plant in India Summers and Monsoons

Before Sowing Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin trellis
Cleverly done trellis for pumpkin plant to grow lies outside our terrace space

Pumpkin plant is a creeper and spreads out to quiet large areas. Hence you need to have space for it to grow. But that place need not be usable area of your organic terrace garden. It can be let to grow in area where you wont or cant place another plant to grow. You can achieve this by building a trellis.  Our terrace is L-shaped. the right angle created by the L-shape is where we build our simple trellis by tying up a few pieces of bamboo in a crisscrossing manner. We were thus using space which was outside our terrace to let the pumpkin plant grow. Depending on how your terrace or balcony is you can design your trellis. In case it can not be done, don’t worry. You can always grow smaller varieties of pumpkins that take less space to grow.

So to cut a long story short for Growing Pumpkin in Containers, either make a trellis for your bigger variety of pumpkin or grow smaller varieties. Also make sure that your plant grows in a place that gets ample sunlight.

Choosing Container for Pumpkin

Pumpkin growing in a box type container
Pumpkin growing in a box type container

Pumpkin plant is a heavy feeder and its roots need lot of space to grow. For smaller varieties you can go for a 30 liter container, while for bigger varieties 50-60 liter of container is required. Try and go for a container that has bigger surface area, so that the roots get more horizontal space to grow. The container we have used is 2 x 1.5 x 1 ft. Volume wise its capacity is around 80 liters. As we have used a big container, we also planted long beans in the same container. Planting legumes with a fruiting plant helps the fruiting plant by fixing nitrogen in the growing medium.

Seed Sowing and Germination

Pumpkin seed germinated
Pumpkin seed germinated

While Growing Pumpkin in Containers, its seeds are sown directly into the container. They develop long roots when they germinate, hence they are not suitable for transplanting. In case you can not sow the seed directly in the intended container for some reason, you can sow the seed in a smaller container (use a 1-2 liter container). And then when the plant has developed 3-4 true leaves you can transplant it.

Pumpkin seeds have a hard cover and hence it can be a little daunting to get the seed to germinate. To speed up the germination process file the sides of the seed with a fine grain sand paper lightly without breaking the seed. It will help the hard cover to open up faster. However do not file the pointed end of the seed. The next thing to do is to soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing. If you can use Amrut Jal for soaking the seed, it works even better.

To sow pumpkin seeds make 1-1.5 inch deep holes in the soil using your finger or any blunt object. Make 4-5 holes par container in the center. You can keep about 1-2 inch distance between the holes. Place one seed in each hole on its side ; i.e the flat of the pumpkin seed should be perpendicular to the flat of the ground. Cover the hole with loose soil. Water your container well. Now all you have to do is keep the medium moist and wait patiently. In about 7-12 days you should see your first pumpkin seedling. When the seedlings have developed about 2-3 true leaves, identify the healthiest plant and pinch off rest of them.

Sometimes seeds do not germinate at all. And low soil temperature could be one of the causes. In such a case use bottle and tissue paper method to germinate your pumpkin seeds. Plant them in soil as soon as they have germinated and before they start developing roots.

Growing Pumpkin in Containers

Pumpkin growing on the plant
Pumpkin growing on the plant

Once pumpkin seeds have germinated growing the plant is a cakewalk. Just water the plant regularly so that the plant does not remain thirsty anytime. During its growth you’ll need to water the plant 1-2 times a day depending on the air temperature. When the plant bears fruit, it becomes very thirsty. You may have to water your plant 3 times in a day during fruiting. Check for drooping leaves during the day and water the plant if needed. Its a good idea to mulch your containers to reduce evaporation of moisture. You must understand the fact that Growing Pumpkin in Containers is not same as growing them on soil. Your container can hold only little amount of water and hence more frequenter watering is needed when pumpkin is grown in pots.

Add about 8-10 liters of compost to your container when you start getting flowers in your plant. Use Amrut Jal or any cow dung based liquid manure to irrigate your plant on a weekly basis. This helps in supplying ready made nutrition to your plant. It also helps increase microbial activity in your soil which breaks up the nutrients into a ready to be taken form for your plants.

Plants grown organically are quiet sturdy and Pumpkin is no different. However check for leaf minors every 2-3 days. In case you spot any leaf with leaf minor trail, remove the part of leaf, in which you see the trail and throw it away. The whole leaf need not be broken off. For aphids use water spray. Avoid using neem spray on pumpkins. Pumpkin leaves tend to burn when neem based spray is used on them. Dilute your neem based spray if you have to use it. Use a general organic spray like Panchagavya to keep pests away and to promote better growth of the plant.

Pollination of Pumpkins

Pumpkin plant produces both male and female flowers.  Female flower buds have a small pumpkin attached to the bottom of the bud. Male flowers have a erect stem in the center of the flower called stamen, which contains the pollen. The pollen comes off easily from the stamen of a mature male flower. Bees pollinate the female flowers with pollen from mature male flower and fruit sets on successful pollination. The first set of flowers to bloom on a pumpkin plant are male flowers. The plant uses male flowers to attract bees. Male flowers bloom for about 7-15 days before the first female bud starts to appear in the plant. For every female flower you would find 2-3 mature male flowers in your pumpkin plant. Bees while flying from one flower to the other pick up pollen from the stamen and pollinate the female flower.

Step by Step hand Pollination of Pumpkin Flower
Step by Step hand Pollination of Pumpkin Flower

The problem with Growing Pumpkin in Containers in urban areas is that you may not get bees to come and pollinate your flowers. In such a case you have to hand pollinate your pumpkin flowers. Follow the following steps to hand pollinate pumpkin flowers.

  1. Pick up a mature male flower. Tear off its petals carefully without disturbing the stamen.
  2. Lightly shake and rub the stamen on the stigma of the female flower.
  3. Leave the stamen inside the female flower. Wind would further help the pollen to fall off from the stamen into the stigma.

Harvesting Pumpkins

On successful pollination the fruit in the female flower starts to grow. If the pollination is not successful then the fruit dries out and falls off. When the fruit is growing give a support below it in case it is on a trellis. Make sure that support is good to bear 3-5 kgs of weight. You may also cover your fruit loosely with a piece of cloth to keep it out of sight of monkeys. When the fruit starts to turn yellow-orange it is time to harvest. You can let the fruit be on the plant for 15-20 days after it just starts to yellow. If the fruit turns completely orange-yellow harvest it immediately.

Just Harvested Pumpkin
Just Harvested

Everything that you need to know about Growing Pumpkin in Containers does not end here. Along with enjoying the fruit, you can also enjoy the flowers and leaves on a daily basis on your dining table. Male flowers can be harvested after 9 AM in the morning when there are no bees hovering on the flowers. You can remove the stamen and store them in fridge for over a day if you are not using them immediately. Except the stamen all parts of the flower are edible. Young stems and leaves can be harvested before fruit sets. After the fruit has set they tend to harden. But you can still get enough leaves at the tip of the vines. It is a good idea to harvest leaves and stem from the longer vines. It also helps the plant grow better.

That is it on growing pumpkins in your organic terrace garden. Happy gardening.

 

 

 

 

How to Prepare Panchagavya

In India cow is a revered animal and is often referred to as Gou-Mata or the Cow Mother. And this love and respect for the holy cow does not come without any reason. Every product from cow including its dung and urine have been used in daily lives of people in Indian sub continent since ancient times. Gou-Daan or Gifting/Donation of the cow was considered as one of the biggest act of kindness as cow is also a source of livelihood. But the biggest contribution that the Indian breed (desi) cow has been making is in the field of agriculture. Cow waste is one of the best manures and soil enhancer which is used in organic farming widely. A lot of different liquid fertilizers and foliar sprays are made using cow waste all across India. Panchagavya/Panchakavya or Panchagavyam/Panchakavyam is not just one of them, it is the king among them all. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicines and cosmetic products.

Though Panchgavya is available commercially in Indian market, we prefer to make our own. This is because not only we want to control the quality, Panchagavya is also super easy to prepare.

Panchagavya Recipe

Ingredients

panchagavya ingredients
Panchagavya Ingredients include 5 items from Indian Cow and 4 items from plants.

Panchagavya can be loosely translated as ‘Five products of cow’. As the name suggests it uses five products from cow and a few more natural ingredients for the fermentation process. Here is what you need to prepare this magic potion. Note that all the cow products must be from desi cow variety.

  1. Fresh Cow Dung – 5 kg
  2. Cow Urine (need not be fresh) – 3 liter
  3. Cow Milk boiled and cooled (not refrigerated) – 2 liter
  4. Fresh Cow Curd – 2 liter
  5. Cow Ghee – 500 gms
  6. Well ripened Bananas – 12
  7. Black organic jaggery dissolved in 3 liters of water (Alternatively use sugarcane juice of the same volume) – 500 gms
  8. Fresh Tender coconut water – 3 liters
  9. Fresh Grape Juice – 2 liter

Panchagavya Preparation

panchagavya preparation
Step By Step Panchagavya preparation method
  1. Take a wide mouth plastic, clay or wooden container. Do NOT use a metal container. Make sure its clean and sun dry it for a day or two to sterilize it.
  2. Mix the cow dung and ghee in the container using a wooden stick. Again do not use any metal here. Stir in clockwise direction in a rhythmic motion. Then stir in anti clockwise direction. Do not mix vigorously. It will kill the beneficial microbes in cow dung.
  3. Cover the container using thick cloth to protect it from insects. Leave this mixture for three days. Keep it away from direct sunlight and rain. Give it a stir once in the morning and once in the evening. Twelve times in each direction works well.
  4. On the fourth day slowly stir in all other ingredients. Make sure you are mixing them in while stirring the mixture in a single direction slowly.
  5. Leave this to ferment for 15 days.  Give it a stir once in the morning and once in the evening.

Your Panchagavya is now ready to use. Store it in a place away from direct sun and rain. Keep it covered and give it a stir two times a day. If you follow these guidelines you can store this concoction up to 2 months.

How to use Panchagavya

To use Panchagavya dilute it with 30 parts water and it is ready to be used as a liquid fertilizer. To use it as a foliar spray filter the liquid using a cotton cloth to separate out the waste. If you do not filter it your spray nozzle will be blocked.

As a fertilizer we use it once every two weeks during normal growth of a plant and once a week during flowering and fruiting. As a foliar spray we use it on a weekly basis. We have noticed that when Panchagaya is sprayed all pests disappear and start to make an appearance after about a week’s time. Hence we spray once in a week. Spraying should be done early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Plants and leaves should be dry when you spray Panchakavya. You can spray it between 8-9 AM on a normal day in the morning. In the evening spray about an hour before sun set. Do not waste your Panchagavya on rainy days.

Benefits of Panchagavya

The benefits of Panchagavya are numerous. It is indeed a magic potion for plants. You’ll notice a few things about your plants when you start using Panchakavya.

  1. It keeps pests away from your plants.
  2. It helps develop bigger and better leaves and stem.
  3. Plant canopy and root system becomes denser.
  4. Yield is better in quantity and quality.
kitten in the garden
Our Kittens love Panchagavya

In our garden we use Panchakavya in addition to other cow waste based liquid fertilizers like Amrut Jal and Jiwamrita and have been consistently getting splendid results. Even our kittens like to slurp Panchagavya. We believe their extraordinary growth and health is due to Panchakavya. Though this still needs to be proven, the benefits of Panchagavya for your plants will be there for you to see when you make your own and use it.