BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Whether added into a stir-fry, steamed, or eaten raw with a side of bagoong, okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is popular among Filipinos as a part of a healthy diet since it’s rich in vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants that help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
And for urban gardeners, okra is one of the many vegetables that they can grow easily in their homes and other spaces.
For 2021, AgriTalk returns with more webinars that aim to promote farming and urban gardening by tackling different topics like tips on how to grow crops, make natural inputs, and more.
One of the topics that were covered during AgriTalk is how to grow and maintain okra plants.
The first thing to do is prepare materials such as vermicast, fermented fruit juice (FFJ), neem oil, one liter of water, a sprayer, and complete fertilizer with a ratio of 14-14-14. These are what’s needed to help secure the growth of the plant.
A week after planting, the okra seeds will start to germinate. The seedling requires regular watering, especially during the warm season.
Since it first sprouted, count two weeks before adding any fertilizer to the okra plant. To do this, dig a hole around the plant that’s one to two centimeters deep before adding one tablespoon of complete fertilizer.
Next, add vermicast to the soil as the natural input that provides more nutrition to the soil.
The common diseases found in okra are Cercospora blight, powdery mildew, fruit rot, and root-knot nematode.
Cercospora blight appears as individual, circular spots whose colors span from tan to light brown, with reddish-purple borders. Next, powdery mildew is the light grey or white powdery spots usually found on infected leaves, but can also be found underneath, or on stems, flowers, fruit, or vegetables.
Meanwhile, fruit rot is the rotting, wrinkling, and desiccation of the fruits caused by fungi. Lastly, root-knot nematodes are plant-parasitic nematodes that attack plants and cause them to stunt, wilt or turn yellow.
Pests like cotton stainers, stink bugs, aphids, and plant-parasitic nematodes usually carry these diseases.
When dealing with pests like these, create a homemade pesticide using neem oil solution by mixing five milliliters of neem oil with one liter of water and spraying it onto the affected parts of the plant.
Care in advanced stages
Once the okra plant reaches the vegetative stage where it’s starting to bear fruit or vegetables, add more vermicast to the soil to provide more nutrients that the plant needs to develop fruits.
Gardeners can also spray FFJ once a week. Just mix one tablespoon to one liter of water. Do this from the flowering to the fruiting stages of the okra plant.
Another way to maintain growing okra plants in their advanced stages is by pruning them regularly. To do this, cut off any extra leaves and leave only four to six healthy leaves at the top part of the plant.
Harvesting can be done five to six days after flowering.
It only takes several materials to maintain okra plants as they grow. They need constant watering, a mix of synthetic and natural inputs, as well as a pesticide to keep known pests and diseases at bay. When they near the flowering and fruiting stage, add more inputs to help boost the development of okras and secure the quality of the vegetables.
Within a few weeks of tending to their okra plants, gardeners can enjoy the taste of okra in various dishes as well as its health benefits.