We’ve never been more aware of the challenges of living in an urban center (Los Angeles) and not having private outdoor space than we have been during the coronavirus pandemic. But that has not stopped us from joining the growing Victory Garden movement – ours is just in containers and inside our apartment office.
The good news is that even in an apartment, a thriving indoor container garden can be yours. The bad news is that if you didn’t have a green thumb before Covid-19 (and I didn’t), there are going to be some challenges along the way. And lots and lots of YouTube videos.
Our container garden started small with four tomato seedlings and an okra seedling. Our neighbors were selling seedlings for a dollar. All you had to do was slip a dollar per plant into their envelope (honor system in place), and you could take your seedlings home with you. So, we masked up and walked over for this 100% contact-free adventure. That was April 20th, and we had no idea what we were doing.
When I say we had no idea, I mean that we didn’t even know if we had picked up cherry tomatoes, heirlooms, or beefsteaks. And I’ve never had okra. Also, we had no additional soil, and not even an open landing to get them sun. But we figured that since they were still in little paper or plastic cups, we had some time to figure it out.
Andy purchased living basil plants before the pandemic, so we were in an excellent position to keep those thriving. Eventually, we would add dill, multiple types of thyme, oregano, and spinach to our container garden.
For this blog, we are going to focus on the story of our okra seedling.
Can you grow okra inside as part of a small container garden? Yes! The okra took off! By May 28th, the okra roots were pushing against the clear cup, and the first bud was flowering. Other than giving it plenty of sun and making sure the soil never dried out, we didn’t make any big moves.
Don’t blink or you will miss the flowering. It seemed to be over in a day.
And while I mourned the flower’s quick withering, it turned out to be a blessing. As the flower closes over, it forms the actual okra pod. On June 3rd, we decided to transfer our no-longer-just-a-seedling into its new container garden home. We kept it near the open window, which allowed for consistent air circulation. We used organic potting soil and continued to lightly water. This plant loves the heat, so it appreciated our heat wave far more than we did.
By June 10th, the pod was ready for picking (and, theoretically, cooking). Which I should not have done. Whoops!
Container Garden Okra Lesson #1
If you only have one okra plant, don’t pick the pod. I did. I was so excited. But then I realized that you can’t really do anything with one okra pod. I should have let the okra pod dry on the vine. The cracking, splitting pod is easy to manipulate, and the seeds will pour out. Because it’s all dried, you don’t need to wash or soak them to get the other vegetable matter off of them before planting them. Next time, I’m going to do that, so that I can get a more robust harvest. And the good news here is that there are already two new buds on the okra plant!
Container Garden Okra Lesson #2
I watched videos about “whooping” your okra plants, stripping off the bottom leaves of your okra plants, and leaving your plants alone. I did lightly tap the stems with a bamboo chopstick, but I felt mostly silly doing it, and I don’t know that it made much of a difference with my container garden okra. Stripping the bottom leaves was a consideration, but new flower buds were starting, so I stopped myself – those buds will eventually turn into pods.
Hoss Tools had a pretty good explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_9NkCpLl6Y Again, I think it’s probably more relevant to okra growing in full gardens, as opposed to one plant in an 18-inch black, plastic container, but it’s worth a watch.
So, while we have not yet eaten any okra, we did have one single successful harvest, and that has given me a level of unreasonable confidence that I am a container gardening goddess ready to take on the world.
Stay tuned for more tales of our urban container garden adventures.