Okra is a delicious and nutritious vegetable that is used to prepare many popular Nigerian soups. You can eat okra with eba, amala, fufu, pounded yam or semovita.
Okra is packed with nutrients especially vitamins A, B, C and K. It also contains calcium, iron and zinc. Okra can lower blood glucose levels as well as stabilize cholesterol levels. The vitamin A in okra helps to boost immunity and also improves eyesight.
Okra contains soluble fibers and this helps to increase your feeling of satiety after eating it. This is good for people that are trying to lose weight. It also helps diabetics in managing their blood sugar due to its positive blood sugar lowering effect.
One thing that makes okra farming really enticing is the fact that it is not capital intensive and it is very lucrative. Also, okra does well on many soil types and this makes it easy for you to start up. In fact, you can start the process in your backyard.
However, as easy as it sounds, okra farming requires a lot of commitment and dedication to be successful. In fact, there are several things you would need to put in place before you start farming in order to generate a good yield. There are very specific requirements in term of sunlight, drainage, fertilizer application and other things that you will need to comply with.
This article will take you through the process of okra farming which includes the definite specifications needed to generate a satisfactory harvest.
The land to be used for okra farming requires tilling in preparation for the planting season. All rocky or stony materials should also be removed.
Also, it is important that the land to be used for okra farming is well exposed to adequate sunshine. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a small garden or a large piece of land, it is necessary you ensure there are no shades that prevent sufficient exposure of the soil surface to sunlight.
Okra does poorly on waterlogged soil so it is essential the soil being used is well drained. An excellent way of preventing waterlogging due to excessive rainfall or watering is by creating channel of exit for these water sources.
Additionally, you will need to evaluate the soil in terms of fertility before adding manure.
The planting season should commence in the dry season when the weather is still warm and sunny. Usually, cold temperature or weather affects germination adversely; however you can protect the seedlings by covering them with plant materials
Prior to planting, the seeds should be soaked in water for 1 or 2 days. This helps to hasten the process of germination.
Also, it is best to plant your okra on ridges. The plant tends to thrive better on a raised bed than when planted on a flat soil. Additionally, you don’t have to plant okra alone; it can be intercropped with other plants such as maize, tomatoes and beans.
The soil temperature prior to plant should be about 15 to 20C. This temperature range is ideal for germination, if the temperature goes lower, the seeds may rot and never germinate.
The seeds should be planted at least 1 to 2 inches apart. After planting the okra seeds, the plant should be watered once every week. Although, these plants can do well even in little water, regular water helps to improve the yield.
Since okra does well on any type of soil, the addition of fertilizer is only reserved for soil types that are poorly fertile.
If there’s the need to improve the fertility of the soil, you can add fertilizers when preparing the land. This will ensure that the appropriate nutrients are in place. However, too much of fertilizers especially the inorganic type can affect the taste of okra. Generally, it is best to use organic manure like poultry droppings and farmyard manure.
Also, thinning is also important once the plants begin to sprout. The ideal spacing between plants should be about 1 foot; this ensures exposure to adequate sunlight, nutrients and moisture. Additionally, you’ll need to keep pests and weeds away. The weeds can be removed manually.
On the other hand, pesticides can be applied to ward off pests. The major pest that affects the okra plant is the flea beetles. The insecticides used to control this pest are rotenone and pyrethrin.
Harvesting and Storage
Generally, the pods are ready for harvest 2 months after planting. However, the method of harvesting is dependent on your end product. For instance, if the purpose is to harvest the pods for consumption purpose then you can start harvesting once the pods are still soft. The pods at this point of harvest are about 2 to 3 inches in length. It is not advisable to wait any longer than these or you will end up with fibrous and inedible pods. Ideally, harvesting should be done every 2 days; this also helps to stimulate the formation of more pods. The process should be done carefully, because the pods at this stage are still tender and can be easily bruised.
On the other hand, if the purpose of harvest is just for the seeds, then you should wait till the pods start to dry on the vine and are splitting, then you can begin to harvest. You can simply twist the pods and the seeds will come out easily. Afterwards, you can air dry the seeds for a few days after which you can store appropriately either in an air dry container or in the refrigerator. The okra seeds should be stored appropriately and can remain viable for up to 4 years although many do not last this long.
Okra farming is quite lucrative due to the popular demand for this vegetable in the country. As a result, there’s a readily available market for both the pods and seeds. However, one thing is quite important with okra farming as it is with any other venture which is proper planning should be carried out before you start.