By Jannie Vaught
All the ups and downs of the season have made for a very off the chart growing season. I do use growing guides for zone 8a and some of the days to ripen are either early or still hanging on for that bright sunshine to build their sugars and turn that lovely pink-red of the tomato. I am getting a few tomatoes here and there, the cucumbers are still flowering and making fruit and the sunflowers and zinnias are standing tall and beautiful.
I’m always reminded whenever I tend the garden that I am not in charge. I am the gardener, the one who ties the veins, waters, snips, and feeds. I am a co-worker and observer of all things natural. I simply do my best and let the natural course of the season do what it does.
Today is one of the gardens main producing plants Okra. Is a flowering plant in the mallow family. That slimy odd shaped pod that is a particular texture one develops a taste for. It is valued for its edible seed pods. The seeds are high in protein content and the ways to cook or preserve this tasty delight are endless. How to grow and when to plant in our growing zone. For best harvests plant in the ground in the spring two-to-three weeks after all danger of frost has passed, which is about late April or May.
For a good Fall crop, plant at least three months (around the first part of August) before the first fall frost which can be as early as October 31. Okra can grow from three to six feet tall. Sow 1 inch deep three feet apart. It starts to germinate in two to twelve days. It is in the Mallow family thus the slimy texture and has one of the prettiest flowers in the garden in my opinion. Along with the cotton flower. Soon as they start to make fruit start picking, I use a knife and long gloves as I am one of those who have a strong Itchy reaction to the tiny fibrous hairs on the plant. The more you pick the more they grow. There is every variety of okra to grow from spineless to red so the challenge is to keep trying different varieties and find the one that you really enjoy growing and eating. As of now my okra is just starting to set flowers and is 2 foot tall. This is a heat and sun-loving plant and with our many days of overcast skies and humidity, they have been a little slow to flower. Along with The tomatoes to ripen. It’s just one of those years where it just seems to drag along. And then one day you go to the garden and you are picking for all your worth. This is the year for making more pickled okra and having a little stock of some in the pantry for that meal when I want something to go along with that sandwich or burger.
Think Okra, and as your planning that fall garden don’t forget to plant Okra along with a second sweet corn crop. I find my fall garden as productive or more productive than the spring summer garden especially this year with the heavy wind hail storms that have taken a heavy toll on our gardens. If you are planning on saving seeds from your okra let a few pods stay on the plant they will get big and woody. When they are dry on the plant carefully snip them off into a pail as they can open and spill out. Store and label with the variety, date and where you grew them for future reference. It only takes a few to get an abundance of seeds.
Now to decide the variety I want for the fall garden. Climpson spineless or Hill country red?
Growing green with Jannie