Ladies finger is a very popular vegetable grown in India. Commonly
known as Bhindi, it thrives well in summer. The flowers of the plant are extremely
beautiful and brighten the garden when in full bloom. One main reason why many
farmers prefer growing okra is that the plant needs very little maintenance and
when one pod is harvested another one grows in its place.
Season – Though summer is the best season to grow ladies finger, it makes a good
winter crop too. Seeds can be grown indoors and can be transplanted outside when
it is sunny during the day. If the temperature drops below 15degrees during the
night, the entire crop can be prone to cold injury.
Location Constraints– Choosing the sunny spot in the garden would do good to
your okra crop. Shady places can ruin the pods. Checking the soil before sowing
the seeds is advisable. Since acidic soils suit ladies finger the best, you can
increase the pH level by adding lime to the land.
Sunlight – Six hours of incessant sunlight per day is necessary to grow ladies
finger. If the day gets really hot, don’t worry, your okra plant will definitely enjoy
Spacing – Ladies finger plants grow in bushes so it is very important to space
them well. Plant the seeds 15inches to 18inches apart so that they don’t look
messy when they grow huge.
Growth – Approximately after eight weeks, the ladies finger pods begin to
appear. But what will surprise you is that the pods grow really fast once they pop
out. Within a couple of days you will spot full grown ladies fingers.
Height and Spreading– A ladies finger plant can grow up to a height of 7feet or
more depending upon the land. The plants are also very bushy and if not spaced
well, they can encroach on to the other plant thus hindering their own growth.
Temperature – An optimum temperature of 35degress is what ladies finger
crops require. If you are sowing the seeds in winter, ensure that they remain in a
sunny spot during the day but stay out of chilling cold weather in the night. Too
much cold can kill the plant overnight.
Watering – Ladies finger plant is a warm-weather crop and still requires watering
everyday to grow faster. Initially you may water once in the morning when the sun
rays are still dim. During peak growth stage watering the plant twice a day will
help the pods. Always ensure that the water doesn’t stand in the soil, allowing
water-borne fungi to thrive.
Nutrient Management– Since okra is grown over a long period of time, the soil
tends to run short of nutrients after a while. Once you harvest the first crop,
fertilising the soil will help the other batches of ladies finger pods. Vermi compost,
natural red soil or an organic fertiliser enriches the land quickly.
Pest Management – When the ladies finger plant reaches its peak growth stage,
it is prone to a lot of pest infestation. Look out for ladies finger plant diseases
caused by tiny aphids and worms that eat up the pods while they are still in the
bud stage. Flea beetles and wet soil are the two biggest enemies for any okra
crop. Check the leaves thoroughly and pluck away those that seem to contain
insects. Aerating the land from time-to-time helps the root system in fighting
fungi. Sanitizing the garden after harvesting each crop ensures that the land is
Harvesting of Okra – Harvesting okra pods needs to be really quick after they
bloom. To promote re-growing of the pods, pick ladies finger as and when they are
ripe. Fully grown ladies finger are 2 to 3inch long. Cut the pods just above the cap
and you will see a new pod coming up. You can continue this process all through
the season and stop once the plant stops producing pods.
Uses and health benefits– Ladies finger pods are rich in dietary fibre that
controls cholesterol and constipation. New pods contain natural folates that help
in conception. Folic acid decreases the risk of neural birth defects in embryos.
Okra is also a great source of Vitamin C that improves our body’s immunity levels.
Additional Information – Okra plants and pods are full of tiny thorns that can
irritate the skin. When you are caring for the plants or picking the pods, cover your
hands with gloves to avoid itchiness.