Soil Preparation and Planting in Okra Farming


James Mwangi Ndiritu

Environmental Governance and Management, Agribusiness consultant

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Soil Preparation

To prepare the soil for okra cultivation, traditional tillage methods such as deep-plowing, disking, and harrowing can be used. Another option is to strip-till where a cool-season cover crop strip is left between every two to four rows of okra. This method allows the use of wind-breaks and spray alleys if praying is necessary as well as for harvest.

One issue that may arise with traditional clean tillage methods is the depletion of soil organic matter. This can happen because the physical disruption of the soil cuts up organic residues, while the resulting increase in soil microbial activity breaks down those residues. A solution to organic matter depletion would be using winter cover crops to increase soil organic matter.


Okra is a warm season crop that thrives in hot and humid climates. Okra is not difficult to grow but it requires full sun and a long growing season with temperatures consistently to produce a good crop. It can grow in various soil types, although it prefers well-drained, fertile, silt loam soils. However, the vegetable grows best in sandy loam soils that are well-drained and have high levels of organic matter, with a pH range between 5.8 to 6.5.

Okra should only be planted when the soil temperature exceeds 15° C to allow good seed germination. It should be planted to produce stands with plants spaced 12 to 15 inches (30-38cm) apart within the row (spacing can be closer when using semi-dwarf varieties) and 2 to 3 feet (60-90cm) between rows. Seeds should be planted to a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch (1,5-2,5cm). Planting two to three seeds per hole is advised to achieve a maximum stand for optimal results. Once the plants have reached healthy and vigorous growth, thin them to the desired spacing. This seeding rate requires approximately 3 to 3.5 kilograms of seed per acre. Soaking the seeds in water overnight can speed up the germination process. Moreover, using black plastic mulch and drip irrigation has been shown to produce very high yields when planting okra.When the soil drainage is not ideal, using raised soil beds not attached to any other structure can benefit okra cultivation. These beds can be created using farm equipment like a disk harrow, which can be adjusted to pull soil to the center, or a commercial bed-shaper if available.



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