Once you’ve picked out your sun-drenched plot and had the soil tested (and amended, if needed), it’s time to plan your rows. Align your rows in an east-to-west orientation to take maximum advantage of the sunlight. Your okra should not go into the ground, though, until the soil temperature has warmed up to at least 65 degrees F at 4 inches down.
If you’ve decided to sow your okra seeds directly into the garden, you can give the seeds a little boost by soaking them overnight to enhance germination. Then sow your seeds an inch deep, 4 to 6 inches apart, in rows spaced about 3 feet apart. As okra plants grow, they spread out, so you want to make sure you plan for that growth from the outset.
If you’re planting seedlings, or when your directly sown seedlings are a few inches tall, make sure the plants are 18 inches to 2 feet apart.
You can make your okra patch do double duty by adding some companion plants. Plants with shallow roots, like lettuce, can do well with okra; okra’s big leaves can shade the tender lettuce plants from too much sun. Herbs are another good choice: basil, parsley, tarragon, and cilantro will appreciate the filtered sunlight. And the scent of basil near your okra will repel some pests, including flea beetles, aphids, stink bugs, and spider mites.
Spring crops, like peas, make a good planting companion for okra; you can plant them in the same rows. If you plant snow peas, for example, that harvest will be in before the okra even notice the peas were there. Once you harvest the peas, pull up the remaining plants to turn all the growing space over to the okra plants. Other options include radishes and peppers. The radishes come with a bonus feature: radish seedlings loosen the soil as they grow, creating more growing space for your okra.
If you want to add a burst of color to your okra garden and attract pollinators (especially if you’re growing heirloom plants), consider flowers like cosmos and zinnia. And, of course, marigolds are always a welcome addition to almost any garden (and they’re edible, too!). Sunflowers make great companions, too, adding a burst of color while attracting pollinators to your okra plants.
How do you plant your okra? What criteria for site selection has worked for you? Please share your ideas with us.