Saturday, July 28, 2012

Okra swales

Okra growing around two swales--the far swale is receiving a good
dose of rain barrel water.
I started growing okra a couple of years ago because it does so well in our summer heat. But it does best with some extra irrigation. To make irrigation (over and above the automatic irrigation) easy, I build swales just like I do for squash vines and plant the okra around the edges.

First step in building the mound is to put down a good layer of leaves or other water retaining material, because we have sandy soil. I use compost to form the rest of the mound. I also add kitchen scraps three or four inches under the soil in middle of the swale to add all those micronutrients. I mulch everything with pine needles to keep down the weeds.

The swale arrangement does a good job of capturing rainfall or irrigation water, because the water does not leave the mound. Also, there are fewer problems with weeds outside of the swale areas, because it is drier.

This year I created a double swale shaped like a squared-off figure 8. I planted two seeds in each of the nine planting holes arranged around the swales. I had to replant three of the locations when the original seeds did not germinate. The newer seedlings caught up quickly and now we're gathering okra most every day and save it in the refrigerator until we have enough for a meal. Yum! There's a jambalaya in our future and then maybe some fried okra.

It's easy to water, as shown in the above photo; I just run the hose from our three elevated rain barrels to each swale and let it run for five to seven minutes while I weed or just enjoy the early morning in the garden with the pollinators.
Four pepper plantings around a swale.
I also plant peppers around a swale with the kitchen scrap compost in the center.  The peppers don't need as much water as the okra, but the swale makes it easier to irrigigate when it's really hot.

A green anole keeps the okra bug-free. That's a good lizard!

The okra flowers are just gorgeous. You can probably see its resemblance to various hibiscus flowers and that's not a coincidence--okra belongs to the mallow family (Malvaceae).

In our upcoming book,"Organic Methods for Growing Vegetables in Florida," Melissa and I have arranged the crops by family for easier planning for crop rotation.  The new book will be released in Feb. 2013.

I hope you're having fun with okra this summer.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

1 comment:

  1. "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida" is available and you can find more information here: