Two recent questions, both related to growing okra, addressed gardeners’ concerns over okra plants that seem to be maturing a bit too slowly.
Is it just a coincidence or is there something sinister going on out in the garden plots? Here are the specifics of a couple of okra inquiries from the gardens of Lynn and Cynthia:
Potted Okra Seedlings in New York
“I live in Western NY and I am trying to grow okra. I read some of your gardening tips for growing okra; however, I’m having some trouble with mine. I started the okra from seed and then transplanted the two largest plants to a large pot (the diameter is 1 ft. 2 in. and the depth is about 2 ft).”
“The okra plants are very much alive and seem strong, but they are still only about 4 in. tall. They’ve been the same size for a couple of weeks now. I keep the soil moist and they get plenty of sun with warm nights. I read that they mature quickly, within 50-60 days, so I’m afraid my plants won’t produce any pods.”
“I was wondering if you have any suggestions or any ideas as to why they are not growing. Thanks for your time.”
Dwarfed Okra in New Mexico
Cynthia reported a similar story from her garden almost two thousand miles to the southwest:
“I planted okra for the first time from seeds about 5 weeks ago. The plants sprouted quickly but have stayed small. I have 4 to 6 leaves on plants that are only about 3 to 4 inches tall.”
“I live in Santa Fe, NM – 7,000′ elevation, hot, dry and sunny. I’ve tried watering them every day since it’s been so dry lately and they seem to be growing a little faster but no where near 4-5 feet everyone else talks about! Any idea why they are still so small?
Okra Plant Shenanigans
I never really tracked the progress of my young okra plants but after receiving two similar reports I decided to take a closer look at the okra that is growing in my garden to see if there could be some type of conspiracy or organized work stoppage on the part of the okra collective.
Well I have to admit that after checking, my okra plants are no bigger and only slightly taller than those described in that container in New York or the garden in New Mexico. Hmmmm!
Before any more paranoia sets in, let’s take a second to be rational about this. First, it’s still pretty early in the season and the okra plants do have plenty of time left to start producing those plump and tasty pods.
Also, the ultimate size and height of your okra plants is partly dependent on the variety that you planted, with heights ranging from just a few feet at maturity, to giants that can grow over seven feet tall.
Growth Enhancers for Pint-Sized Okra
To be on the safe side there are a few steps that can be taken to ensure that there will be tall, healthy okra plants and plenty of fresh okra pods to pick in just a few short weeks from now.
Let’s start by thinning the okra seedlings so that they stand at least eight inches apart. This will give them room to stretch out and soak up more of those energizing sun rays. Continue watering as needed, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give the okra plants a shot of liquid kelp, fish emulsion, or other fast acting organic fertilizer.
I think that okra plants do typically start out slowly, but once they pick up steam and get a little taller they will begin to branch out, flower, and produce pods pretty quickly. Before you know it we’ll all be talking about a different problem… coming up with new recipes to use all of those delicious okra pods that are harvested from the garden!
Still, I’ll be keeping a very close watch over my okra this season just to make sure that the plants aren’t up to no good. Any progress reports and okra updates from your own gardens will be appreciated.
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