Okra is an arable vegetable crop best cultivated during the warm season. Okra is best adapted to the tropics. Its diverse varieties are separated according to days of maturity, leaf shape, fruit shape and color. Example include Lady’s finger and Perkin’s long rod varieties.
Okra is edible for its nutritional characteristics. It has different vitamins and minerals and can be utilized in diverse ways. The fruit is called capsule which can be chopped into small pieces, boiled and prepared into soup.
The site must be located preferably in a loamy area with good fertility. The soil must be well-drained for optimum plant yield.
Ensure your soil is considerably dry to prevent your farm implements from sticking into the soil throughout tillage operations. Turn over the top soil deep down using a spade. Okra would do very well when the soil is ploughed 8-10 inches deep. Smoothen the soil surface with a rake. Remove stony and other foreign materials in the soil that may stop root development.
Okra can be propagated through seeds and can be planted anytime directly on the field. For spring cultivation, plant the seeds after ice threat within the first two – three weeks. For fall cultivation, plant at three months before mid-September to early November frost to get the most effective yield attainable.
Inter-row spacing of 90cm apart and intra-row spacing of 5m are recommended. Place the okra seeds 2-3cm into the soil and cover lightly. Reduce the plant density from 5 cm to 30cm apart when plant height is about 7 – 10cm.
Care and Management
Clear unwanted plants regularly. It is recommended to use manual hand weeding method to avoid destroying the fragile plant roots.
Apply 1-1.5 kilograms of NPK 10-10-10 fertilizer ratio per 10 square meters. Spread out the fertilizer equally between the line while simultaneously mixing it with a fraction of the soil. Supply water to plants after applying fertilizer.
Okra can survive during dry seasons, but for higher yield management, water the plants 7-10 days when rainfall is low.
Pest and Disease management
Many insecticides both organic and inorganic are available to remove insects. Sevin is an inorganic insecticide suitable for Okra insect pests. Organic insecticides include sulphur and insecticides of Baccillus thuringiensis (Bt). Sulphur can also fight fungal diseases. Read the insecticide label before using it and carefully follow the precautions and instructions.
Diseases pose a serious threat to okra especially on humid and wet days. Check the plants every day and apply fungicides immediately if a plant shows signs of infection. The available biofungicides include neem oil and sulphur.
Flowering in okra takes place about 2 months after sowing. The capsule is usually taken 3-4 days after the flower opening. A shift after these days makes fruit fibrous and unable to use. Harvest early when capsule are 7-10cm long usually about 50 – 70 days after planting. Harvest progressively every 1-3 days else, the yield will decrease.
Okra can be stored after harvesting under cool temperature between 7-10oC in a refrigerator for about 3-4 days. Over matured pods are to be dried and stored in sacs for future use.
You can preserve some of your harvests for future use. Leave some on the plant until they are big. Then, remove them from the stalk and dry them well. You get the okra seeds needed for the next growing season from the dried pods.
By-products such as dried leaves and stems after harvesting can be left on the farm to decompose, recycle and make nutrients available in the soil after being used.