Growing Okra for Exhibition + Onions
28th Feb 2002
I must say that at the moment, I am very happy indeed with the progress of my large exhibition onions, as well as those that I intend to use for the under 250 grams or under.
Varieties of Small Onions
For the latter classes I have sown three different types and will grow the three in different ways and locations. The three varieties that I have sown are Friso F1, Tasco F1 and Carlos F1, Carlos is a brand new variety that, depending on how well it grows, will be featured in my catalogue for next year.
Both Friso and Tasco are excellent varieties with Tasco winning at the highest level for me last year. Tasco has a lovely growing habit with the upright foliage making it ideal for growing on in pots which is my intention.
Pricking Out and Mixture
They were all started off in small seed trays using Levington F1 and once they were at the crook stage, just before the seedling straightens up, they were pricked out into 60 cells using Levington F2, and they have just now been potted up into 3 inch square pots using 3 parts Levington M2, (Levington Multi Purpose is exactly the same product) 1 part sieved top soil from my leek bed and one part Vermiculite.
Do be very careful when watering, I actually have a very small watering can that I can use to give each and every cell water as and when they require it. This is very important if your are to get an even tray of plants Watering with a large watering can with a fine rose, wholesale over all the seedlings, will end in some cells being continuously moist and rendering the plants likely to have stunted growth or even their roots rotting away. My father always had a saying, 'they are not water lilies you know, only water them when they need it'.
Tasco will be further potted on as will the new variety Carlos and they will eventually grow to maturity in 7 inch pots using a 50 / 50 mixture Levington M3 and sieved top soil and again a part of Vermiculite will be added to open up the compost to allow plenty of air to get at the developing root system. 50 to 60 Tasco will be grown on at the University greenhouses at Bangor whilst 50 of the new Carlos will be grown on at home on the bench that currently forms part of my grwoing cabinet. As this is a brand new variety that the breeder says will grow to a very large size, I shall plant a couple in soil in my Polytunnel to monitor their progress and allow them to grow beyond the normal 250 grams harvest size.
Friso will be kept in their 3 inch square pots and eventually planted out in my far polytunnel and in one of the narrow beds. I should be able to get 80 in this bed and I shall soon be cultivating this bed and placing a soil warming cable in it, they should be planted out towards the middle of March when the soil has warmed up sufficiently. All this might seem as if I am carrying out things far too early, however the fact is that the onions for the under 250 grams class do take a long time to harvest to their proper colour. The majority of those that I kept back from last years shows were still in very good condition towards early January this year.
Large Exhibition Onions
My large exhibition onions are now in 3 inch square pots and last year they were planted out directly into the beds the third week in March from these pots. They had been given some liquid feed whilst on the bench as the roots had totally filled the pots and the foliage were looking a very pale shade of green. My contention has always been that you can have huge onion plants for planting out from large pots during late march to early April. However as the nutrient level within the growing medium in pots is depleted by planting out time, it means that any new developing roots have to forage their way through a considerable mass of spent compost until they eventually break through into the soil in the beds. I proved this last year as I had the best onions ever and I"m convinced that planting from a smaller pot meant that new roots were able to get at the cultivated soil in the beds much faster.
Why not try and grow something different this year for the show bench, there are plenty of classes at most shows for what they call 'any other vegetable not mentioned in the schedule' Okra, or commonly known as Ladies Finger, is certainly one to try and if you fancy a go then why not sow some seed now of the variety Clemson's Spineless.
Don't forget Okra is worth a maximum of 18 points in both RHS and NVS judging guides and therefore on par with such vegetables as tomatoes, short carrots or carrots other than long, as well as Cucumbers. Who knows you could well become known at National level for the quality of the Okra that you stage in collections.
Okra certainly likes warmth, so the seed will have to be sown in a propagator initially and once germinated, which is quite easy, it can then be potted on into a three inch pot and it must still be grown warm with a minimum night temperature of 60°F. Germination will be quite quick but young seedling establishment can be very slow. The seedling will very often appear to be just sitting there not seeming to move at all for days on end and looking a very pale yellow colour. However once it has established it's roots it will soon gallop away.
Don't forget that it is eaten in all 5 major continents and is part of the staple diet in some nations. One of the best known delicious Okra dishes is Chicken Gumbo from Southern USA, it's a type of stew consisting of Chicken, Ham Tomatoes, Onions Cayenne Pepper and of course, Okra.