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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Oops! There goes the okra! 

When my husband and I relocated South about 8 years ago, we agreed that it would make sense to have a lawn cutting service. We found a great guy named Earthine who cut and trimmed out the lawn regularly for a very reasonable price. Earthine was always dependable and did a pretty passable job at keeping our yard looking good. Of course over the years I would lose a flower or two – the head of a marigold here, the stalk of an allamanda there – but we always could count on a well-manicured lawn.

Well, last year we moved to a new house with a larger yard and I decided it was time to get back into vegetable gardening. I carefully selected the seeds and lovingly tended them until they were old enough to be transplanted. My choices were tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and okra. I could only imagine what a splendiferous garden I was going to have. I dreamed of the luscious vegetables we would be picking for our evening meals (did I mention my husband and I are vegetarian?).

Anyway, the soil was carefully prepared and the plants snuggled into their new home. Soon there were blooms on most of the plants (I did lose a few along the way). One bright morning I went out to look at my plants and, guess what? I had finally succeeded in growing okra! I had never attempted this plant before and was so pleased to see the fruits of my labor, so to speak, staring me in the face.

A few weeks later our friend, Earthine, showed up to cut and trim the lawn and did his usual dependable job. About an hour after he left I went to admire my new babies. I’ll bet you can guess what happened next. Yep, my poor little okra plants were scalped all the way down to about an inch from the ground. Of course the moral of the story is either plant your vegetables far away from your lawn service folks or be prepared to cut your own lawn. The second option is what we chose with the landscaping we’re planning around our new pool but more about that later.

Here’s some interesting information about okra:

Okra, or abelmoschus esculentus, is a podded vegetable that can grow up to 6 feet tall with a spread of 12-16 inches. Pods are 4-10 inches long and are white, green, or red. Immature pods are eaten as a cooked vegetable (great in gumbo, but that’s a story for another time); mature pods can also be dried and powdered for use as a thickener. The pods are harvested about eight to eleven weeks after sowing and can be stored for up to ten days. For seed sources, visit Plant Resources.

Happy Gardening, and remember to keep the trimmer away from the plants!

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