Okra is green vegetable that grows best outside during the summer. You can start your okra seeds indoors in preparation for planting in your garden. Just make sure to care for the seeds properly during germination and as the young plants mature. The best time to plant your okra in your garden is two to three weeks after the last spring frost for your area.
When to Start Okra Seeds
Start your okra seeds indoors anywhere from mid-March to mid-April, depending on where you live. It takes four to six weeks for the seeds to germinate and grow strong enough to transplant outside, so count back three weeks from the expected last frost date, and you'll know when to start the seeds.
Choose a Container
Select a container or seed tray with good drainage for starting your okra seeds indoors. You should also use sterilized soil or potting mix to help protect your emerging seedlings from fungi and diseases. You can also treat the okra seeds with captan to help prevent damping off, a common fungus that attacks seeds as they start to grow. Captan is available at your local garden supply; follow the package application directions.
Plant the Seeds
Fill the trays or container to 1 inch from the top with moistened potting soil in preparation for your okra seeds. Sow the seeds about 1/2 inch apart and then press them slightly into the soil with any flat sterile object. You can dip the end of a metal spatula into boiling water and use it to tamp the seeds in place. You'll need to cover the okra seeds with more moist potting mix up to just beneath the rim of your container. Firm the soil again to help the okra seeds make a good connection.
Plastic wrap over the top of the container or seed tray will help keep the moisture in place. You can also insert the container inside a plastic bag for moisture retention. The best place to sit your seed container is on top of your refrigerator. The bottom of the container will stay consistently warm, night and day. Okra seeds do not need sunlight to germinate; just keep the soil in the container moist. A few sheets of newspaper over the top of the container will also help insulate the seeds.
After the Seeds Sprout
After several days, your okra seeds should begin to sprout. When they do sprout, remove the newspaper and the plastic wrap and place them in a sunny window or beneath fluorescent grow lights. The tubes of the grow lights should not be more than a few inches above the containers, or your okra plants may grow up spindly. Move the young okra plants away from the window at night to keep them safe from colder temperatures. Your okra plants also need darkness to grow; eight hours a night is sufficient. Room temperature water will help your okra plants grow; keep the soil moist but not wet.