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Old June 12, 2020   #1
JRinPA
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Default okra starts

brownrexx and Bill and anyone else that transplants okra, I need to rethink my okra start process. It is hit or miss for me, and this year with the cool spells, too much miss. About 1/4 of what I started first has died off in the ground, with only about 1/2 looking like I think they should by now. The replacement seed starts I began last week are damping off, with seemingly the same start procedure, but now it is hotter and more humid.

It may be better for me to wipe the slate on my okra starting practice and re-learn it.

Can I get a rough time frame and outline on mix, watering, container/cup size, and how big or how many leaves before transplanting?
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Old June 15, 2020   #2
brownrexx
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I have only been growing okra for 3 years and I always started them indoors in seedless starting mix like I use for my tomatoes but I started them 2 weeks later than tomatoes.

The previous 2 years had good seedlings but this year they seem more spindly with fewer leaves although they are growing now that I have them planted in the ground.

Now that the soil is really warm I directed seeded some and they popped up in just 3-4 days. I believe that they will grow fast since I direct seeded some last year as an experiment and they produced nicely and only about 2 weeks behind the indoor started ones.

I think that I am going to stick with direct seeding of okra from now on. I am not sure that indoor starting is worth the trouble.

You can still plant some seeds in the ground and I would recommend that.
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Old June 15, 2020   #3
habitat_gardener
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Do you scarify your seeds, or soak your okra seeds overnight? I had good luck planting in the ground, but few came up indoors with a heat mat! I soaked overnight but never got around to nicking the seeds.
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Old June 15, 2020   #4
brownrexx
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I just plant them. I don't do anything special and almost every one germinates. No heat mat either.
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Old June 16, 2020   #5
Tracydr
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I plant in ground and do nothing to the seeds but I usually plant two to a hole. If I get two in a hole I just gently pop one out and move it to another hole when the ground is very wet and it’s a cooler day or overcast. The seedling pouts for a day or two and then takes off.
I think the trick with okra is not to plant when the ground is cool, it hates cool soil. I find eggplant and some peppers are similar in this way.

Last edited by Tracydr; June 16, 2020 at 07:09 AM.
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Old June 17, 2020   #6
MrBig46
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I have four ocher plants. So far, I have them all under glass, because it's really cold outside. They don't grow as much. I grew seedlings at home outside the window.
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Old June 25, 2020   #7
b54red
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With okra it all comes down to temperature. The things love heat and hate the cold. Starting them early is a very difficult unless you have somewhere hot and sunny to start them. I tried starting mine too early in a small greenhouse that is unheated this year and had terrible luck getting only three plants out of about 20 seeds started. Once it got hot my germination rate on my next try was almost 100% from the same batch of seeds.

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Old June 25, 2020   #8
Zeedman
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My garden soil is silt loam with clay. Rain beats it into a nearly impenetrable crust... that, and I'm in the North. So direct-seeding okra here has been a hit-or-miss proposition.


I've had good luck with transplants, though. I use peat cells, and the same soil less mix as I use for tomatoes & peppers. Before starting, I poke extra holes in the bottom of the peat cells with an ice pick, to allow more root penetration. Then pack them with the mix, make a depression with a dibble, and plant 5-6 seeds per pot. These are then placed in a standard tray, with enough water added to soak all of the cells (they are soaked over night). In a warm place (I use a heated germination chamber) the seeds germinate in 3-4 days. I put them in direct sun immediately, thin to 3 per cell, and transplant within a week.


The seedlings will quickly outgrow the pots, so must be transplanted soon after emergence. The advantage for me is not getting a jump on the season, but getting a better, more reliable stand. Using 3 plants per pot allows the use of fewer pots... I transplant the 3's 18" apart, in double rows 24" apart. Last year, I had all of the okra I could handle, and made about 12 quarts of pickled okra.
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Old June 27, 2020   #9
JRinPA
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Zeedman, that sounds similar to what I do now. I get them germinated on heat mat and then outside and into the ground a soon as possible. I seem to have trouble keeping them for any length of time. I think they want that tap root formed and when they can't make it, they don't do well.

The big difference is I use 2" soil blocks that are 50% peat, 25% perlite, and 25% vermicompost. Also a splash of lime bring up the PH. After that dry, a quarter volume of water is added. That is pretty much my starting mix for everything, with generally great success. Okra seeds I will push down into the block, about halfway with a little tube or eraser side of pencil. I always cover with dome to prevent the blocks from drying out. Okra always pops up quick with 90-95F heat mat, two days or so. In the ground is simply too unreliable for me, between lack of heat before late June and lack of water, if it is dry. I am a terrible seed sower; I forget to water consistently. But for okra it is lack of heat until about this time of year.

The problem I have, even doing it this way, is intermittent damping off with okra. This year, with most of my starting trays, I added a bag of old chamomille tea to the water for the soil blocks. I had no damping off this year at all, until the later okra starts. By that time, I had forgotten the tea I guess, plus that was a hectic day. The first two okra flats back in mid-May were fine. I got them out in the ground fairly early, but had losses due to a couple heavy rains and some wind damage flapping my plastic sheets. 75% or more made it and waiting for the heat.

It was a couple weeks later when I coached my brother through two flats, and two days after that a flat of fill-ins for my losses. That was when damping off hit. His two trays just were a complete loss, like dominoes, after two days on heat and then two days outside. After I saw that, my tray went right into the ground instead, with just two days to get the emerging loops showing, and still a few them damped off in the ground.

I don't know if it something particular to okra and its heat requirements or tap root, but I have had more damping off issues with okra than everything else combined. By okra starting time, my basement is humid and warm, compared to cool and medium humidity before May. The vermicompost is mine, from an outside bin I fill over the spring/summer and empty/collect/reset in March. That gets bagged into old dog food bags. Maybe by end of May/June, I'm towards the bottom of the bag and it is wetter, and the temps are higher..? I can't really figure it. I have no problems starting sweet corn, late tomatoes, squash, or anything else at the same time of the year. Grass, I just tested some old grass seed for germination in that same mix and had no problems with damping off.

I guess the next step should be to do a side by side test, same seed same time frame, my regular mix versus no vermicompost. I'd really like to get to the bottom of this and be able to grow okra for transplants or for quick starts like I am doing now, without any damping off.
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