Known also by the scientific name Abelmoschus esculentes, okra is an annual plant thought to be of Asian origination. It produces a pale-yellow bloom that unfolds around a dark purple-ringed center. It is believed that the first okra seeds were brought to America by African slaves. Okra is favored by cooks who prepare Southern home-style and soul food recipes and is easy to plant by seed if you want to try your hand at growing and preparing some fresh-from-the garden goodness.
Procure okra seeds. There are a small number of heirloom seeds that produce purple and deep red pods of okra in addition to the most popular green pods. Seeds may be ordered from catalogs of growers’ nurseries or in the neighborhood garden section at the local big-box stores. Most stores will carry the most popular grower brands of seeds and keep them in dedicated displays and racks. Okra seeds are beige, round and approximately the size of a small BB.
Choose your planting location. Okra may be planted in a dedicated garden or in a plot of dirt by itself. Make sure the soil is amended and has the right balance of nutrients to sustain growing vegetable crops. If in doubt, take a small sample of your soil to the local agricultural extension office; it will test the soil, then recommend what, if anything, must be added. Once the soil is correct, tilled and free of debris, plant the seeds.
Read the back of your seed packet. This will advise you of any special instructions the grower specifies for its okra seeds. Usually it will be in keeping with standard rules of thumb for growing any okra. Determine what USDA hardiness zone you're in; this will tell you the best time to plant the seeds. Some packets also show you a small graphic of what the seedling will look like when it first appears.
Plant your okra seeds. Okra prefers rich, friable soil with full sun and moderate water. Begin by making a small indention in the prepared row of soil, to the depth recommended by your seed packet. Accomplish this simply by pushing lightly into the dirt with the end of your finger. Drop one or two seeds into the indention and then backfill. Continue down the row, spacing the seeds approximately 12 to 18 inches apart, so that maturing plants have room to grow, as okra plants grow quite tall and may branch out in each direction about a foot in diameter.
Water in your seeds. Give your seeds a chance to settle in to their new home by giving them a good drink. Do not flood or puddle the garden, but make sure it is moist. An application of water-soluble fertilizer is recommended at least once every four to five weeks in amounts instructed by your chosen type of commercial or organic fertilizer.