UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance
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UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance

From the UC Blogosphere...

Have a Rice Day! (Except for the Armyworms)

Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is a pest of rice. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia: Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility)

It's a day that rice growers look forward to. Bugs, not so much. Because they're targeted. Especially the fall...

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 5:51 PM

Forget the Soaps: Let's Talk Soapberry Bugs!

Meredith Cenzer in front of her computer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A soap opera is usually defined as a drama performed as a serial on daytime TV. But soapberry bugs and the people who study...

Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 5:29 PM

An Insect You May Overlook

Sand wasp, Bembix americana, foraging on a seaside daisy on Bodega Head, Sonoma County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

If you're walking along the cliffs of Bodega Head, Sonoma County, you may overlook them. While you're watching for whales,...

Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 6:41 PM

Know Your Native Bees: Here's How!

Female sweat bee, Svastra obliqua expurgate, on purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Do you know your native bees? Can you distinguish a sweat bee from a leafcutting bee from a cuckoo bee from a mining...

Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 6:48 PM

How's Your Okra Doing?

Advice From the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County

okra flower
okra flower
Client:  I've been growing okra here in Central County for several years. Last year I had a great crop, but this year not so much. My plants are flowering but pods are not reliably forming from the blooms. Do you have any suggestions on how to “fix” the problem?

UC Master Gardener Help Desk:  I did some research to determine possible causes for the reduced production of okra in your garden this year as compared to last year. I suspect that the high daytime temperatures that we've experienced on and off throughout the summer have contributed to the reduced production. My research also indicates that temperatures above 90° F (some sources say above 95°F) can interfere with pollination of okra and cause flowers and buds to drop. You reported in your latest message that you have noticed some encouraging signs that more pods may have started forming recently, which could be the result of the cooler temperatures that we had for several successive days last week.

Of course, we also experienced high temperatures from time to time last year when you report that production was much higher. So, there may be some other factors at work. You mentioned that you were doing some supplemental watering for the okra last summer to add to what was provided by your scheduled drip system. My research did indicate that water stress can also reduce pollination rates for okra. So perhaps the reduction in watering this year has also contributed to the reduced production rate.

okra from the garden
okra from the garden
When we discussed your problem, I neglected to ask whether the same variety of okra seed had been planted both last year and this year or whether a different variety may have been used this year. If the seed variety changed, it could be another contributing factor. My research revealed that some strains of okra have been bred to grow in cooler climates. Those varieties are the most affected by high temperatures and need to have cooler temperatures to set pods. The University of California recommends two varieties for California gardens:  Clemson Spineless and Blondy (compact plants with whitish pods). (See http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/Vegetables/)
One other consideration could be the fertility of the soil. Too much nitrogen will encourage lots of green growth but can suppress fruit development. Also, plants need adequate phosphorous which supports blooming and fruit production. If you have a soils test kit, it might be worth checking the fertility levels of the soils in the okra bed.  If phosphorous is too low, you could supply a boost with a foliar spray or soil drench of a liquid fertilizer that is high in phosphorous. Just be careful not to supply more nitrogen if the current levels are already adequate.
One other fact I learned from my research is that you can prolong the production period of okra by cutting off about 1/3 of the plant top in late summer. This pruning allows plants to send out new growth and flower and fruit for a second time in the fall.

I hope this information is useful. You are welcome to contact our Help Desk if you have further questions.

Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (TKL)

Editor's note:  For more information on okra gardening, a Sonoma County MG article is recommended (click)... the pictures in this blog post came from that article.

Note: The  UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions.  Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA  94523. We can also be reached via telephone:  (925) 646-6586, email: ccmg@ucanr.edu, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog  (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).

Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 12:11 AM

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