Okra is a terrific plant for beginner gardeners. Not only is it low maintenance, but it prefers warm weather, so you can plant it right in the middle of the summer to add to your already blooming garden repertoire. However, because it is so low maintenance, some may struggle with balancing the right amounts of sunlight and water.
Okra needs to be watered about once a week, giving it at least one inch of water when you water it. Okra is great at handling high temperatures, so you can space out your watering every 7-10 days as long as it’s doing well.
Keeping in mind that okra typically grows in a warmer climate, you should adjust your water intake accordingly. Below, I’ll detail how much you need to be watering your okra plant and the ideal conditions for growing them. Then, I’ll give you a few methods for estimating the water intake of your okra and adjusting it.
How Often Should I Water My Okra Plant?
You may have heard about how low-maintenance okras are and thought: “Woohoo! A plant I can ignore!”. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the case with okra, though it is true they are low maintenance. Because okras are so low maintenance, many people struggle to water them in the right amounts.
You should water your okra plant every 7-10 days. The most important thing about your okra plant is to give it at least an inch (2.54 cm) every week. If you end up giving it a little bit more or less, you may need to change your watering schedule.
Okras like warm weather and are okay with soil being a little dry. For this reason, you likely won’t have a problem underwatering your okra. Most people find that they are guilty of overwatering their okra instead.
Ideal Conditions for Growing Okra
Okra is native to Africa. Though we grow it plenty here in the US, particularly in the south, the first okra plants were in the Eastern Hemisphere. This should tell you how okra grows under its ideal conditions: okra is low-maintenance, loves the sun, and is okay being a little warmer or dryer.
Water and Light Needed for Okra Growth
Watering okra isn’t just about how much you’re watering but when you’re watering. Okra likes to be drier (as we mentioned many times in this article), so you should water your okra in the morning. This way, the leaves and soil can dry back up by evening, and your okra won’t get cold at night.
Warm temperatures and the sweltering heat are better for okra than freezing or frigid temperatures (which is why planting is ideal for mid-summer in climates that aren’t always above 70 degrees Fahrenheit [21 degrees Celsius]).
Okra needs full sun, which means that you should plant them in a sunny spot in your garden. Sunny spots make soil and plants drier, but that’s A-OK for your okra. You should look for a spot in your garden near the top of any hills, so that water from other plants won’t roll down and drown them.
Water and light work in tandem, so keep this in mind as you set up your watering routines. Not all of us have a giant backyard with equal parts of full sun and partial sun; many have to work with what we’ve got! Adjust your watering accordingly if you only have space in a partially shady spot in your garden. You likely won’t need as much water to keep your okra happy.
Additionally, be attentive if you live in a subtropical climate or a heatwave is beating down on your okra. As we’ve mentioned before, they do great in dry weather, but don’t let them encourage any type of neglect. Look for the signs of a thirsty plant and adjust accordingly.
Ideal pH Balance for Okra
Okra loves nitrogen. Nitrogen leads to higher crop yields and makes your okra healthier overall. Like most plants, okra grows best in slightly acidic soil (between 6.0 and 6.8), but don’t let a great pH be your excuse to skip the nutrients.
Around mid-season, when your okra plant has produced a few yields and might be running low on soil nutrients, add compost or fertilizer to heighten its supply.
If the great water debate for your okra has begun because your okra is slimy or woody: pause here. Harvesting slimy or woody okra has little do with water intake, sunlight, or pH. It’s just a sign that you’re harvesting a bit too late.
Harvesting okra should occur when they’re still smaller pods. Bigger isn’t better in the case of okra (and a lot of other vegetables such as zucchinis), so don’t let those pods grow any bigger than 2 or 3 inches (5 – 7.62 centimeters).
How Do I Know if I’m Watering My Okra the Right Amount?
Farmers didn’t have the luxury of following their instincts for growing: one wrong move meant no food for the rest of the season! All the best modern gardeners and farmers know the real work is half instinct and half knowledge.
You’re watering okra the right amount if the dirt is slightly moist and remains on a stick once prodded into the soil. Okra that needs more water may look like it’s wilting or rooting. However, okra does well in hot conditions, so you’re much likelier to overwater it than underwater it.
Okra is no different than any other plant in this way. You need to stay attentive and watch for signs of thirst or overwatering. We all live in different climates, with different soil types, and under different circumstances. With that being said, we can be doing things to ensure our plants grow to be as big and high-yielding as we want them to be. For okra’s, this will look like:
- A good balance of nitrogen
- Around 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water a week
- Plenty of sunlight
- Harvesting the pods sooner rather than later
Water intake is one of the harder balances of growing okra, likely because they need less attention and maintenance than other veggies, which can sometimes cause neglect. You’ll notice when your okra needs more water or less of it, but if you can’t, there are a few methods you might find handy.
Methods for Estimating Water Intake
Some people like to use the toothpick test for their plants, which is a reasonable method for your okra.
You’ll stick a toothpick or a long bamboo stick into your soil to do the toothpick test. Then, pull it out. If there is any dirt sticking to the toothpick or bamboo stick, your plant and its soil are likely doing well. They’re moist without being too dry. However, if you pull the stick out and there’s nothing to be found on the stick, you’ve got a problem. The dirt has become so dry it won’t stick to anything.
There is a sign in this test for overwatering, too, which you are much more likely to do with your okra. As we have mentioned numerous times above, Okra is okay with dryer soil and minimal watering. If you stick something into the soil and it comes out muddy, you’re overwatering. Your okra can’t drink up the water fast enough!
You don’t have to decipher a bamboo stick or a toothpick if you want to get more technological about your garden. Instead, you can get a moisture meter.
Moisture meters are terrific tools to stick into your garden (much like a toothpick or a bamboo stick). Instead of determining your garden’s moisture based on the dirt remaining on the stick, you’ll leave the moisture meter in. The panel on the top of it will tell you how moist your water is. Fancier versions of moisture meters will also tell you what the pH, sunlight, and even humidity are like for your plant.
Setting Up an Irrigation System
An irrigation system might be a good call if you have trouble watering your plants in different amounts. Sprinklers are great, but they don’t know that your okra needs less water than your carrots and will just give all of your plants the same amount.
Setting up a simple irrigation system will help each of your plants get the water they need. I’ve seen some rather complex irrigation and drainage systems, but you can also get a quick and easy one online.
Irrigation would help for watering, but a drainage system would help overwater. This is why it’s essential to plan out your garden according to the preferences of your plants. Putting okra at the top of your garden, where there will be little runoff from other plants, is ideal for their watering preferences. However, if you’re already in too deep, adding some drainage may be helpful.
Okra loves acidic soil, sunlight, and just enough water to get by. This is by no means an excuse to not water your okra: it still needs water! However, you can relax with your okra a little more than with other vegetables. Okra grows best in warm weather, so dryer conditions work for them. Just try to get your okra plants at least one inch of water a week, and they’ll do great.