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Harnett County,
North Carolina

Cooperative Extension 

Why are my okra and beans doing poorly?


Question Why are my okra and beans doing poorly?

Answer I think the words of rock n roll gardener, Robert Palmer, explain it best – Some Like It Hot . Even with global warming, the last half of May has been cooler than normal. Cool nighttime and soil temperatures can cause slow or poor growth of summer crops. Some vegetables like okra, cantaloupes, southern peas, watermelons and sweetpotatoes like it hot. Other veggies like lima beans, cucumbers and peppers like it very warm. Check out this quick reference guide for minimum soil temperatures for vegetables.

Both air and soil temperatures effect plant growth. Since air temperatures can not be changed, gardeners can address plant temperature requirements through planting dates. If you plant early, then you are more likely to be negatively affected by cool temperatures.

Soil temperatures can be raised or lowered with mulches. Black plastic allows commercial growers to plant several weeks earlier than homeowners. Black plastic raises soil temperatures by capturing the sun’s energy. Organic mulches, like leaves, lower soil temperatures by shading the ground. If you plant early, then wait until the soil warms up before you pull the much around your heat loving plants. Check out this website for info about mulches and gardening

Believe it or not, vegetables we grow are native to all parts of the world. Many of them come from tropical or hot regions. For example, okra comes from Africa. I think okra is an African word which means “slimy soup.” These heat loving plants do great during our hot summers, but they suffer if we have a cool spring.

Heat loving plants can have different responses if they get too cool. Early tomatoes and cucumbers can be misshapen if the weather is cool when flowers are forming. Sorghum-sudangrass seeds (a cover crop) will not germinate. Okra will typically germinate, then sit there in the two leaf stage until it warms up. Southern peas and lima beans will pop up then slowly grow. Insects like flea beetles and cut worms take advantage of the slow growing plants. Feeding damage will certainly be worse if the plants are growing slow.

For more info about poor vegetable growth, visit If you do not have internet access, then call me at 910-893-7533 or email me at

The weather will warm up soon. Some okra may need to be replanted. By July your garden will be doing great and I’m sure you will find your vegetables “Simply Irresistible.” Who knew Robert Palmer was talking about gardening?

Gary L. Pierce

Horticulture Extension Agent

Harnett County

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