Okra can grow in a wide variety of conditions and soil types, so as long as okra avoids the cold and shade, it will produce pods. But to increase pod production and make your okra produce more, you should optimize their growing conditions, give them enough nutrients throughout the growing season, and consider planting varieties with higher yield potential.
Read more details below on how to make your okra produce more, and in no time, you’ll be harvesting every other day trying to keep up with them!
1. Ensure Optimal Okra Growing Conditions (Sun, Space, Soil, and Water)
As long as okra stays out of the cold, it’s a fairly hardy vegetable. But getting enough sun (both for light and heat), having enough space, being planted in good soil, and getting adequate water can make the difference between a modest harvest and a bountiful crop.
Okra is a warm weather crop, and requires a lot of sun and warmth for optimal yields. Okra requires full sun, which is at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight, but actually needs much more to ensure prolific pod production. If you live in a northern climate, you especially need to make sure your okra are planted somewhere where they will have full sun all day long.
Okra thrives in warmth and really takes off in growth in hot weather, so if you have a shorter summer this can also impact yield over the growing season.
Sow okra seeds or transplant small seedlings when soil temperatures are at least 55°F (13°C), and ideally 65°F (18°C). You can use clear plastic or cloche covers on the soil to keep it warm during germination and early seedling growth. You can also use black plastic mulch, which isn’t as good at keeping the soil warm, but has the added benefit of controlling weeds (see the next section) and is often used by commercial growers.
Okra planted too close together, or container-grown okra planted into a pot that is too small will not produce as many pods, and may produce smaller pods overall. Adequate spacing requirements for an in-ground row of okra is 12 to 24 inches apart (18 inches is often recommended). For container-grown okra yields, plant in at least a 5-gallon container to maximize plant size and yield.
This also means keeping your okra weed-free. Remove any weeds around your okra plants, especially when they are young. In the summer, mature okra will outgrow many weeds, but you should still weed your okra patch to ensure there is no competition for nutrients and water.
Okra grows best in rich soil that is also loose and well-draining. While sandy, light soil is ideal for okra, it should be amended with organic matter to increase nutrient and water retention. You can also grow okra in heavy, clay soils but will also need to amend it with organic matter (like compost) to help lighten the soil while also providing more nutrients, allowing for higher yields.
Okra requires regular, even watering for consistent yields. Okra is renowned for its drought tolerance, but drought can negatively impact pod production. At the same time, avoid keeping your okra in soggy soil, which can lead to root rot. Okra seedlings are especially vulnerable to root rot in cold, wet soils.
If you live somewhere with constant, heavy rain, plant okra on hills to allow for greater drainage. For container-grown okra, ensure not only that the potting soil is well-draining, but that the pots themselves have adequate drainage holes.
2. Give Your Okra Plants Enough Nutrients
Okra can produce in poorer soils, but will push out more flowers and pods with higher levels of nutrients. It’s recommended to amend your soil with a balanced NPK fertilizer or one with slightly more nitrogen (N) before planting. Several agricultural extensions recommend a 10-10-10 fertilizer, but any regular fertilizer with the numbers close to equal (or the first number is slightly higher) will suffice.
You can reapply the same balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season, but always follow the instructions on the package. Overfertilization will hurt okra yields more than underfertilization.
Although high phosphorus fertilizers are ideal for flower and fruit development, okra pods appear at new growing tips and nitrogen promotes more shoot growth, so more balanced fertilizers are often recommended. Too much nitrogen can promote more leaf growth instead of pod production, but if you have very sandy soil that doesn’t retain nutrients well, applications of high nitrogen fertilizer later in the season may be necessary for continued production.
3. Plant High Yielding Okra Varieties
Some okra varieties have more potential for higher yields than others. For example, a dwarf variety of okra will likely not yield as much as a large variety, and okra in a pot will also not produce as many pods as okra in the ground.
Most full-sized okra varieties will yield a lot of okra, but the two most highly recommended okra varieties for both reliable and high yields are the Clemson Spineless okra and Heavy Hitter okra.
Clemson Spineless (tried-and-true productive variety)
Clemson Spineless is one of the most popular varieties for both gardeners and market growers alike, and for good reason: it’s a very productive, reliable, and no-fuss variety that is also easier to harvest because the leaves and stems have no irritating spines. And it doesn’t sacrifice flavor. For most okra growers, this is the most recommended variety. But if you want an even more high yielding okra variety, Heavy Hitter is even more productive.
Where to get Clemson Spineless seeds: Baker Creek (US), Seed Savers Exchange (US), Johnny’s Selected Seeds (US), Kitazawa Seed Co. (US), Burpee (US), Park Seed (US), McKenzie Seeds (Canada), West Coast Seeds (Canada), Chiltern Seeds (UK), Suttons (UK), Mr. Fothergill’s (Australia), Yates (Australia)
Heavy Hitter (highly branched, more productive version of Clemson Spineless)
Heavy Hitter is related to Clemson Spineless, as it originated with Clemson Spineless seeds that a farmer had planted and carefully saved over many years, saving seeds from only the most prolific plants on his farm. The result is a highly branched, super prolific variety with the same reliability and flavor as Clemson Spineless. If you’ve grown Clemson Spineless before but want something even more productive, Heavy Hitter is highly recommended.
- Okra. College of Agricultural Sciences (Oregon State University). (2019). Retrieved from https://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/oregon-vegetables/okra-0
- Smith, P., Polomski, R. F., & Shaughnessy, D. (2020). Okra. Home & Garden Information Center (Clemson University, South Carolina). Retrieved from https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/okra/
- Masabni, J. (2019). Okra. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Retrieved from https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/gardening/okra/