My okra plants are beautiful and blooming, but my production has been very sparse. Am I the only one with this problem? I have mostly Stewart Zeebest but have only harvested enough okra this year for soup or to mix in stir fry.
Interestingly enough, i talked to two people who live near me in SE OK yesterday, and they have had the same problem. My first round of okra is still producing well, and i planted a second wave about three weks ago. I am curious about this as well.
My okra is just now starting to produce well. I think the cooler, wetter weather has slowed it down some. A problem that I have had in the past was getting the soil too rich. The rich soil also seemed to make the stalks too tall, making the harvest more of a pain.
I expect that in a week or two you will be up to your ears in okra.
Ditto, I've picked three times so far...and mine is so small that it gives me a backache to pick it (less than knee high)
I've never grown them before. I'm having the same with heavy hitter. Plants are short despite growing all summer and the okra is just now prolific but small. I'm betting it's the unseasonable weather.
Heavy hitter okra is all I planted this year. The plants in my okra bed, which gets very little amendments are about 4' tall. The plants in my south garden, which gets a lot of amending are 6' tall, but none have really started producing like they will when it gets hot and stays that way. Even with the reduced production we are still getting more okra than we can use, but I have a lot of people to give it to.
Have you tasted it, yet, Larry? I did. I liked it, but I've nothing to compare as I haven't eaten Okra in years. I'd like to know your opinion on the different varieties.
Bon, I grew 3 or 4 kinds of okra last year and felt that the Heavy Hitter would be as good or better than the others. I don't remember tasting any okra that I did not like.
My okra has produced fine but then we have had lots of heat and drought, so at our house it is getting the weather it likes. If you're in a part of the state that has been significantly cooler and wetter than usual, the weather might be the problem.
Some kinds of okra are day-length responsive and won't begin to produce well until the day-length has dropped to roughly 11 hours per day. One reason that Clemson Spineless has been so popular for so long is that it is not as day-length responsive as some other varieties.
If you are growing Stewart's Zeebest, keep in mind that it has an estimated DTM of about 77 days, while there are lots of varieties whose estimated DTMs are in the 40s, 50s and 60s, so it is sort of a late producer anyhow. When I plant Stewart's Zeebest, I also plant 2 or 3 other varieties with shorter DTMs so I'm not waiting all summer long for the okra to start producing.
And, for anyone new to okra, remember that if you miss a pod hidden in all the foliage, that large pod can play a role in poor production. When you let pods stay on the plant too long, the plant "knows" (and that's not the word I want to use, but it is the only one that fits) that it is maturing seed in that overly mature pod and doesn't try as hard to produce more seed via producing more pods.
I'm like Larry--I've never grown a variety that wasn't tasty. I mostly choose them based on how well they produce, although I admit to growing Beck's Big Buck some years just to see the expression on people's faces when they see the gigantic okra pods.
Do you fry your okra? Since I didn't have much with the last harvest I plugged it into my beef stew. Even my son liked it. (Yay!)
I have dehydrated okra for years just to put into stew in the winter. I think drying it makes it less slimy.
I guess we're going to have to follow Dawn's lead and put in an 8 ft fence. A single deer, either a doe or young buck has been into my garden this year on several early mornings. That repellent based on rotten eggs doesn't work. I sprayed it twice after I saw the first damage and 24 hours later the okra, summer peas and sweet potatoes were eaten back hard each time. Fortunately I still have frozen, pickled and dried okra from last years abundant crop.
I picked this okra this morning, also lightened the load on my pepper plants. It looks like both okra and peppers are going to kick into high gear now. I doubt that I have as many as 30 okra plants, but they will give more than we can use.
Thanks for all the responses...it's good to know I am probably not doing anything wrong to cause the lack of production.....I have never had okra problems before. The Stewarts Zeebest is a new okra for me...just the last couple of years, but I was so impressed with it last year that this year it was the only kind I planted.....always before I planted about 3 different types. Dawn, I never knew that okra was day length responsive....thanks for that information. I planted some more - burgundy okra that is just coming up.....maybe by the time it starts producing the Zeebest will be producing more and I will have enough to share or freeze.
Bon, We do like it fried, and sometimes I fry it up in a mixed veggie dish---just like my dad used to when I was a kid. You can mix it and pan-fry it with anything, but his favorite way, and mine as well, was to mix sliced okra with sliced or diced potatoes, sliced or diced onions, sliced or diced bell peppers and then to fry it up in bacon grease in a cast iron skillet, scattering a handful of cornmeal over the top as he fried it. Season to taste using salt, pepper or any other favorite seasonings. As the food cooks the bacon grease and cornmeal cling to the fried veggies---giving the same basic effect as breading and frying okra but without taking the time to bread it. The dish is even tastier if you cut up a couple of pieces of bacon into small pieces and fry them with the veggies. That sort of mixed fried veggie dish is a great way to use just a few okra pods if that is all you harvest on a given day. I also do love to bread it and fry it.
Like Dorothy, I dehydrate or oven roast sliced okra to freeze and use later in cooking. Sometimes I have a hard time getting the okra from the baking sheet or food dehydrator to the freezer because I stand there and eat the okra like okra chips (like potato chips). We've eaten okra that way forever, so I guess I wasn't surprised when I saw bags of "okra chips" in a store in Texas a couple of weeks ago.
Dorothy, I hate that the deer have been devouring your garden. I love watching the deer on our place as long as I am not watching them eat our plants. Without a nice, tall fence to keep them out of the garden, I just wouldn't have a garden at all any more. I always try to put up 2 or 3 years worth of food in any given year so we have the surplus to tide us through a bad harvest the next year. I'm glad to hear you have enough okra to get y'all through the next few months in case your okra plants don't get a chance to regrow.
One of my neighbors can keep the deer out of his apple trees by running a radio all night long every night once the apples are big enough to be attractive to the deer. He puts the radio, which is plugged into a outdoor extension cord that plugs into the barn, into a zip-lock bag with just the cord coming out. The deer leave the apples alone, but will jump his 3' or 4' tall fence to get into the garden which sits right beside the apple trees. I don't know why it keeps them out of the apples but not out of the garden.
Most years I can grow anything I want inside the garden and let it climb the garden fence and the deer don't nibble at those plants too much. This year, though, they have been eating every leaf that sticks out through the fence, so I don't have much visibly growing on the fence except naked vines. They even have eaten all the leaves off the birdhouse gourd plants, and I've rarely had deer eat gourd leaves in the past. I suppose they must be hungry to eat something like that. I know I wouldn't eat a gourd leaf.
Farmgardener, For a long time, I didn't know okra was daylength-sensitive either, but it does make sense when you think about it. Lots of foods that came to us from continents and countries closer to the equator or with tropical or sub-tropical climates are triggered to produce as daylength begins to decrease in summer. Even some kinds of beans are daylength sensitive......so why not okra?
I love Stewart's Zeebest. When spaced widely apart (4-6') each plant can produce hundreds of pods, but it can seem like it takes forever for it to start producing. With everything I grow, I always hedge my bets by planting multiple varieties because sometimes one variety won't produce well but others will.
I got my biggest load, today. And it looks like tomorrow night or the next morning will be bloated.
Thanks for the suggestions, Dawn! I look forward to doing this this week. Free fresh food. Yay!
farmer, let us know when that bumper crop comes in!
Bon, If you keep picking regularly and don't let any pods stay on the plant and get too huge, the plants will pump out new pods almost nonstop. I usually get okra until the temperatures get so cool that the plants start dropping their leaves, and down here, I guess that is usually sometime between the end of September and the end of October, depending on when the weather really starts cooling off. You'll be able to tell pretty easily when it has gotten too cool for the okra---they will just shed their leaves and stop producing. At that point, I normally pull out the plant if it is small enough to pull out by hand. Sometimes they are more like small trees and I can't pull them out until they've really dried up and the roots aren't holding them in the ground so firmly any more.
I grow only Stewarts Zeebest since I want pure seed production and don't care to hand pollinate. It, like everyone else's okra around me, is running late this year. The plants are only now beginning to really grow tall(er). I have not had a picking yet, though I have discovered an occasional overgrown pod, which popped up and got away from me. I estimate we'll be picking okra by the end of this week and it won't stop until frost.
Ron Cook, who lives really nearby, is the originator of Heavy Hitter Okra. He's growing both Stewarts Zeebest and Heavy Hitter, this summer, in hopes of coming up with a useful cross.
I'm truly impressed with Ron's approach to selection. I'm trying the same to improve Stewarts Zeebest.
Here is a link that might be useful: Development of Heavy Hitter Okra
Where does one get Heavy Hitter seeds. The Stewarts Zeebest stays tender longer than other okras? We don't need mountains of okra, l've got 4 plants right now. I planted more, but some have been overwhelmed by pole beans. I don't even remember what variety I planted. I have harvested one, LOL. It goes in stirfry tonight.
Amy, send me an e-mail with your e-mail address, via my member profile. I'll send you Ron's contact information.
I don't know if Stewarts Zeebest stays tender longer than other types. It is probably about the same, in that regard. I know conditions affect how long it can be before it gets tough.
Finally had enough to coat and fry last night. (Heavy Hitter) Gollies, it was so delish!! Used some pepper in the batter. And the internal was so sweet it was terrific.
I'm not sure, but I think this is the first time I've had fried fresh okra. I've had home grown but only after it was thawed from freezing. I've never tasted anything like it.
Amy, Stewart's Zeebest stays tender a good, long while---up until the pods hit about 8" in length, so it is like the green velvet varieties in that regard. Its' real claim to fame, though, is that the Mr. and Mrs. Stewart continually selected not just for tender pods but for heavy production. If you space your Stewart's Zeebest plants 4 to 6' apart so that they have tons of room to grow and aren't having to compete with a lot of other plants for moisture and nutrients, each plant can produce an enormous number of pods. I believe the Stewarts' record production from one plant was 278 pods. With 4' spacing, I've gotten lots of pods from one Stewarts Zeebest plant, but not as many as they got.
Bon, Everything fresh from the garden tastes better. Period. Hands down. I've yet to taste anything that we cooked fresh from the garden that did not taste superior to similar items purchased at the grocery store. The first year that I grew potatoes in our home garden, Tim was astounded by their rich, earthy flavor and I was amused by how shocked he was because I had eaten home-grown potatoes while growing up.
You know, while we always talk about how fresh tomatoes are so much tastier than store-bought ones, we do not necessarily take the time to sing the praises of other home-grown crops, but I find all of them to taste better than purchased vegetables. Not only are they tastier, they are better for us than fresh produce from a grocery store.
By the time you buy fresh produce at the grocery store, how many days has it been since it was picked, harvested, washed, sorted, packed, transported and then finally put out on the store shelves? The average grocery store food travels 1500 miles before it arrives at the store where it is sold. During that whole process, its freshness and the quality of its nutrition degrades if we're talking about fresh produce that isn't canned, frozen or dried before it is shipped. That is just a fact of life, and if a person harvests food fresh but then lets it sit around on a kitchen counter for several days, then by the time they finally cook it and eat it, it has degraded in freshness and nutritional quality as well. (There are some things that improve in storage, like winter squash.)
When I harvest, I keep enough handy to eat in the next day or so and process the rest, via canning, dehydrating or freezing as soon as possible so that its flavor and quality does't drop.
Most people have a meal plan in mind and go to the grocery store and buy what they need in order to prepare the meals they intend to have over the next few days. Gardeners with bountiful gardens do the opposite. They look at what they'll be harvesting that day and for the next few days and then can plan their meals around what is/will be available.
I process a lot of our food for future meals because our garden is big and produces more at one time that we can eat fresh, but I do prefer to eat things fresh, in season, as they come out of the garden. It is just a bonus when we get a big enough harvest to put up some of it for future meals.
When making cabbage rolls, today, I had no more fresh tomatoes and no store-bought canned tomatoes. They came without tomato sauce because I just couldn't bear it.
So true about fresh okra. I never liked okra at all until I grew it, for the flowers really, last year. Wow what a difference. I mostly like it cooked with bacon, butter onion and garlic then fried good and fast and throw tomatoes on top.
My brother in law told me the other day how my sister made okra and it was horrible cuz she forgot to peel it...?
Come to find out it was 6+ inch pods and so I explained to buy the smaller ones next time she goes to market. I found out at home if I pick and eat same day they are tender even big but leave them laying around forget it. I have been throwing them in the pickling mix if I don't get enough to fry.
Kim, that is a good one, I have never thought about peeling okra.
Last year I had to have surgery and my wife started harvesting the produce out of the garden. She let me know that I had done a sorry job harvesting the okra because some of it was so large we could never eat it. I told her that those pods were being saved for seed, she covered her mouth and said " oh know, I cut them and piled them at the end of the row". I still had plenty of time to save seed, but this year she is leaving the seed pods on the stalk when they are too large.
Yes Larry we will enjoy my brother in law story for years to come. He is so funny like that all the time. I am just glad I was able to save my sister from years of peeling okra.
Oooops I have had helpers do the same thing in my little garden. Especially my flowers, they want to dead head them so they will make more flowers.
Oh Bon, you are just like me. Once you are used to garden-fresh, it is hard to settle for anything else. At least when I preserve it myself, it is almost as good as fresh-from-the-garden. That's why I dehydrate so many bite-sized tomatoes for winter---I'd rather have home-grown, dehydrated cherry tomatoes (either dry like raisins or rehydrated by soaking in water for a little while before we use them) than store-bought tomatoes in winter.
Kim, That is hysterical. For many years, I believed that okra got woody because it was allowed to get too large (and it does) but that's not the only factor. If I keep the okra plants very well-watered, the pods from most plants will not get woody as quickly as they do if the plants get dry (even one time). With Clemson Spineless, though, its' tendency to get woody seems inborn and it doesn't matter how well you water it---it gets woody at even 3-4" in length if the plants are dry.
Making someone peel okra seems like some form of garden hazing, doesn't it?
Larry, I see you had a ready reply for her. (grin) If Tim ever picked anything in the garden other than lettuce or tomatoes, I might drop dead of shock. His specialty is mowing and cutting down trees with chain saws....and he isn't allowed inside the garden with power tools or mowers because bad things happen to my plants if he gets too close to them with any power tool of any sort.
Kim, I don't deadhead until I have to, but at some point I will deadhead the faded blooms, explaining all the while to the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that I am "destroying" their flowers now so that they can have more flowers later.
For a few years I carefully collected and saved flower seeds to I could plant them the next year. Then I learned that if I just left the seedheads on the plants, they'd self-sow and I'd have flowers the next year without cutting off the deadheads, removing the seed from the heads, separating it from the chaff, drying it, packaging it up and saving it for next year. Now, when people ask if I save seed, I just tell them no---that I leave it in the garden for Mother Nature to grow next year. It is fun---you never know what flowers will pop up and where they'll pop up when you do that, although my experience is that morning glories and moonvine flowers pop up everywhere, as does datura, poppies (guess that is how they got their name), larkspur, verbena bonariensis, Laura Bush petunias, zinnias, cosmos and moss rose.
Sometime very young garden helpers will carefully bring me a flower from the garden because it is pretty, but it is easy to teach them to leave the flowers to grow so there will be more of them later on. I try to divert them to the dandelions in the yard if they want to pick flowers---they can pick all the dandelions they want and we'll never run out of those.