Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Southern comfort: Growing okra

New varieties mean we northerners can now grow this staple of the South

Transferring seedlings
Site them in a sunny, warm location that’s sheltered from the wind but has good air circulation. The soil should be well drained, fertile and have a pH between 6 and 8. Plant seedlings 60 centimetres apart (dwarf varieties such as ‘Lee’, 30 centimetres apart). Dig a generous amount of compost 
or composted manure into each hole and water the seedlings in. Keep 
them well watered, but not soggy, until they’re established—as well as throughout the season for quick growth.

Pests and diseases
In Canada, okra is seldom bothered by diseases or pests. Practise a three-year crop rotation to prevent fungal diseases such as verticillium wilt (lower leaves turn yellow, curl and wilt) and fusarium wilt (lower leaves turn yellow between the veins and wilt or drop off). Flower buds may drop because of hot, dry air, sudden changes in temperature or poor soil drainage. Pods may fall off after starting to form if the tempera­­ture of the soil is below 21°C or the air is cooler than 24°C. Keep the garden well weeded and clean up debris in the fall.

Here are a few creatures to watch out for:

  • Aphids: Gather on undersides of leaves and tips of new growth, sucking out plant juices. Wash off with a spray of water every few days until under control.
  • Corn earworms: Small caterpillars feed on leaves; yellow eggs are laid on leaf undersides. Hand-pick, or for serious infestations use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
  • Flea beetles: Tiny black beetles jump quickly when disturbed; chew tiny holes in leaves and may prove fatal to young seedlings. A few can be ignored; for serious infestations, use diatomaceous earth, or cover seedlings with spun-polyester row covers.
  • Japanese beetles: One-centimetre-long, shiny, metallic-looking beetles chew leaves between veins; hand-pick.
  • Stinkbugs: Shield-shaped bugs suck out plant juices, leaving wilted new growth and hard, malformed fruits. Hand-pick (beware: they give off an unplea­sant odour when crushed).


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