Learn how to grow okra in Houston. To be honest, I’m still warming up to this vegetable that I didn’t grow up eating. The first time I saw okra was when I started volunteering at my community garden at the Medical Center in 2008. My mentor, a woman born and raised in Houston was very fond of it and took care of introducing me to the many dishes you can do with it: stews, casseroles, pickled, salad, fried. Okra is versatile and easy to grow in Houston.
When and where to plant okra?
Okra can be planted in May-June; the soil must be warm for proper germination. Prepare the soil with fertilizer MicroLife 1 cup for every 2 square feet and plant the seeds spacing them 3 feet. Water daily until the plants are 3″ taller. Keep watering every other day. Weed and mulch with alfalfa hay or pine needles. Soaker hoses are great for deep watering through the Houston summer. Okra doesn’t like wet feet. Always plant on raised beds.
What okra varieties do well in Houston?
My favorite variety is Zeebest, which produces abundant tender green pods, long and slender without ribs, great flavor, and easy to grow, a Texas heirloom. Other good varieties are the very attractive red/purple Burgundy and, Clemson Spineless.
The okra flower is one of the most beautiful flowers in the vegetable garden. Okra plants will grow big past 7′ and keep producing until November in Houston. I always joke about decorating one of the okras as a Christmas tree.
When to harvest okra pods?
Harvesting must be done every day to ensure you are picking tender pods with the best flavor and texture. For Zeebest try to harvest when the pods are less than 4″. For other varieties read the packaging. Wear a long-sleeve shirt and gloves, okra irritates the skin, and use clippers.
Aphids love okra; you can dislodge them with a water hose, blasting water. Or spray soapy water to the affected leaves. Fire ants also can be a problem, you can sprinkle Come and Get It (affiliated link) around the base of the plants.
Let some pods dry on the plant to collect the seeds for next year. Keep frozen until next May.