The Best Ways to Grow Okra Inside From Seeds

Starting okra inside from seeds provides an inexpensive way to grow your own pods for gumbos and Indian vegetable curries. You can also start the best varieties for your area. Clemson University Extension horticulturalists list okra as a seedling that easily survives transplanting, despite an earlier reputation to the contrary. Iowa State and Clemson universities, along with the National Gardening Association, provide information on the best way to grow okra inside.

Seed Selection and Prep

Use seed that is packaged for the current growing season, because okra seeds remain viable for only one year or two at most. Check for recommended cultivars in your area. Often, Clemson Spineless and Annie Oakley II lead the list, as well as Burgundy, Cajun Delight, Emerald, Lee, Spike, Blondy and Prelude. Start six to eight weeks before the last frost for your area. Soak seeds overnight in water prior to sowing to promote germination.

Sowing

Fill biodegradable pots, ideally a size 4 inches deep or more, to allow okra's strong taproot to grow, with sterile potting mix moistened, but not wet. Sow two seeds in each pot about an inch deep and an inch apart. Firm the top of the soil to provide good seed contact with the moistened soil to help germination. Cover the flat or container with a plastic bag to retain moisture. Place the flat in a warm, but not hot, area, such as on top of a refrigerator or radiator, or use a heat mat designed for seed flats. Cover the flat with a few sheets of newspaper to insulate it. Avoid using a sunny window prior to germination. It may be too hot during the day and chilly at night. The seeds don't need sunlight to sprout, just warmth and moisture.

Germination

Remove the weaker seedlings when they germinate, leaving the stronger ones. Place the pots near a south-facing window and add supplemental fluorescent light for 16 to 18 hours a day to provide stocky, rather than spindly, young plants. Use 40-watt, 48-inch-long fluorescent lights placed 2 to 4 inches above the seedlings and kept on a timer. Feed the seedlings when their first true leaves appear by watering them every other time with a water-soluble fertilizer alternated with regular water. Or, grow seedlings in a mix that is sterile at the top and contains worm compost, regular compost or rotted manure in the bottom of the pot. Water seedlings when they appear slightly wilted.

Moving Outdoors

Harden off the seedlings for two or three weeks before transplanting by setting them outside during the day, or move them to a hotbed or a cold frame, so they can develop a cuticle on leaf and stem surfaces to lessen the loss of water from their cells. To preserve seeds for next year, allow a few pods to mature toward the end of the season. Cut the pods off and allow them to dry. Remove the seeds from the pod and place them in a labeled envelope in a cool, dry place.

Keywords: okra from seeds, transplanting okra, okra growing advice

About this Author

Rogue Parrish has written two travel books and edited at the "The Baltimore Sun," "The Washington Post" and the Alaska Newspapers company. She began writing professionally in 1975. Parrish holds a summa cum laude Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.