April 15 – Seeds Sown!

Seeding 60 okra varieties in a thunderstorm Okra Variety Trial

April 15 – Seeds Sown!

My cunning plan to set my seeding date on the same day as my second daughter’s due date worked out! I actually thought baby Zoe would be here already, but it turns out she’s in no rush and poor Belle is still pregnant. Either way, April 15 remained clear and free as I got up early and started seeding okra in a thunderstorm.

Seeding 60 okra varieties in a thunderstorm

I’ve personally never soaked okra prior to planting, but wanted consistent germination and so labelled and filled 60 jars (fortunately I’m a jar hoarder) with 12-36 seeds of each variety. I soaked them overnight and it was interesting that the lighter colored seeds tended to float, suggesting immaturity and a low likelihood of germination.

Okra soaking in 60 jars to improve germination

Lighter colored okra seeds floating signifying poor germination

I went all out on the potting mix with 1 part vermicompost, 1 part biochar and 1 parts mushroom potting soil. I usually add vermicompost to my potting mix but this is my first time trying biochar (Sow True Seed now carries it and some of the literature I’ve seen suggests impressive results for healthy seedlings).

Seed 12 okra transplants per variety in a good potting mix
Look, I needed two cups of coffee at the same time for this job!

I should note that I rarely start okra as a transplant because the root network of okra is aggressive and impressive. But again, I need consistency and so planting out transplants in the trial rows is the easiest way to achieve this. It’ll also get me a little jump on the season as I’ll be planting out 4 week plants on May 15.

Good labeling for all the okra varieties.

I have planted 12 plugs of each variety, usually multiple seeds per plug so I can thin and taste the microgreens. I’m aiming for 10 plants per trial variety and so have some redundancy (read: free plants for friends!). The exceptions are:

  • USDA Germaplasm varieties only had 10 seeds per packet.
  • I only had 8 seeds direct from Cornelia Bailey’s Sapelo Island seed stock, given to me by Sarah Ross. I do have seeds saved by Sarah Ross with unconfirmed varietal purity.
  • Some varieties from Seed Savers Exchange were listed with very low germination rates. King had 0%… However last year I got 80% germination from a variety listed at 3% germination, so we’ll see.

Heated greenhouse for okra seeds requiring 70-75 F to germinate

The seed trays are now in a heated greenhouse in the basement. Okra needs 70-75 F to germinate well, so I’m keeping it warm in there. I’ll be recording days to germination.

Now what about that baby?!

Chris Smith

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