Growing eggplant, also called Solanum melongena and brinjal, is definitely a fun and interesting activity for those who love gardening. Apart from being interesting to grow, you will also have fun eating eggplant. Let’s learn about the basics of growing eggplant through this article.
Quick Facts About Eggplant
- Botanical name: Solanum melongena
- Type of plant: Vegetable, perennial
- Soil type and pH level: loamy, sandy, and well-drained; slightly acidic to neutral, preferably 5.5 to 7.5 pH level
- Sun exposure: Full sunlight
- Size: 2 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
- Bloom time: Summer
- Color of flower: Purple, white
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 9 to 12
Short Description of the Eggplant
The eggplant plants are relatively easy to grow. You can even grow eggplant varieties that are so pleasantly-looking that you can use them as ornamentals. It has flowers that appear in either white or purple.
Such flowers also feature five lobes, giving way to the great-looking eggplants with the typical color of deep purple. The eggplant is also available in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
Another fact about the eggplant is that it is a warm-season and fast-growing vegetable that you should plant during the middle to the late spring.
Note, though, that their flowers and leaves are quite toxic to pets and people, so be extra careful when handling them.
Eggplant Varieties to Grow in your Garden
Eggplant has several varieties with each one differing in terms of color, size, shape, and time/period of maturation. Pick a type or variety that specifically meets your needs and requirements.
- Black Beauty – Many consider the black beauty variety as an heirloom and a classic because of its dark purple and large fruit. This plant can even grow up to around 18 to 24 inches tall. Expect their fruit to be ready to harvest after around 74 days of transplanting them.
- Globe eggplants – This variety features the traditional large white and purple oval fruit. Expect them to produce favorably well in areas with warmer climates.
- Japanese eggplants – The Japanese eggplant boasts of its quick-maturing and long, slender fruit. It is a great choice for you if you are living in a cooler area.
- Small-fruited eggplants – As the name suggests, these varieties are smaller and more compact. This makes them ideal for use in containers and small spaces.
- Green knight – The green knight is easily recognizable, thanks to its glossy, long, and jade green fruit that has several eggplant seeds and dense flesh. It is highly likely for this hybrid variety to reach around 34 to 36 inches tall. It can also bear fruit that is around 7 inches.
- Pot black – This variety is ideal for growing in a container since it is kind of compact. It features 3-oz. fruit that does not hold any bitterness in their flavor.
- Purple blaze – This one features an aesthetically pleasing eggplant fruit in neon color with white streaks. Expect this plant to grow at around 18 to 20 inches.
The Best Time to Plant the Eggplant
Begin to plant eggplant seedlings indoors in peat pots or flats 8 to 9 weeks before the last frost date in the spring. Expect the eggplant seeds to germinate fast, especially when they are in a place that is in the perfect temperature for them, around 70 to 90 degrees F, to be exact.
You may also want to buy nursery transplants that are around 6 to 8 weeks old before planting. Note, though, that you should avoid planting the transplants in your garden until after the emerging of the frost as well as its last threat.
In case you decide to buy transplants, choose high-quality specimens. Avoid those spindly tall plants or young plants with blossoms since those are indications that they can only provide a lower amount of yield.
Picking the Perfect Planting Site for your Eggplant
If you want the eggplant to grow healthily and with bountiful yield or harvest soon, pick a sunny area. Also, take note that this vegetable grows and survives well when it is in well-drained loamy or sandy soil. It should have high organic matter and the pH should be around 5.8 to 6.5 for maximum growth.
The area where you decided to set out your transplants also has to be covered by black plastic mulch. This should help in warming the soil. Ensure that you give the planting site moderate amounts of fertilizer, too.
Also, if you decide to grow eggplant in a pot, go for a container with a dark color as it is capable of absorbing more sun. Take note that each of these vegetable plants requires pots that are at least 5 gallons.
Put it outdoors and in full sun to pollinate it and apply a premium mix as it can help in avoiding diseases.
Planting and Growing Eggplant: Spacing, Support, and Depth
To ensure the correct growth of the eggplant, you need to space them appropriately. The space should be a minimum of two feet apart. The rows also have to be around 3-feet apart at the very least.
Cover the seeds with around one-fourth-inch soil. If you plant eggplant from nurseries, then do it in a similar depth.
As for the support, you may need to add stakes. Do this at a time when the plants are small to ensure that you do not disturb their roots upon establishing the roots.
Some varieties are also fine when attached to a wooden stake or piece of bamboo. Just sink this kind of support deeply to the soil, around one to two inches from the actual plant. It is also okay for you to build and use a bamboo cage or a tomato cage coated with metal.
It is okay to begin and grow eggplant or S. melongena either from nursery starts or seeds. For the seeds, you will have to wait around 100 to 120 days to enjoy harvesting their produce.
Foam Eggplant Seedlings
Have you decided to grow and start eggplant on your own from the seed? Then the first thing to do is to sow the seeds using a seed starting mix that you just have moistened. They should be sown at a depth of around a quarter of one inch. Ensure that the soil retains its even moisture without being waterlogged.
Note that germination often takes some time to take place if your soil temperature is lower than 80 degrees F. In that case, investing in a heating mat can help. It is also advisable to use plastic wrap as a covering for the container or tray. That way, it will be easier to retain the moisture and heat.
Expect the germination process to take place in just ten days in case the soil has enough warmth. The seeds can be expected to germinate, provided the soil has a temperature of more than 60 degrees F. Just to be safe, though, it would be best to wait up to 21 days.
Once you notice the seedlings emerging, put them in a tray then position them in a sunny spot. If there is no sun in your area, using a grow light can help. Wait for the eggplant to show multiple true leaves as if they do, you need to repot and transfer them to a bigger container that has a potting mix.
Upon the passing of the danger or threat of the frost and once the seedlings are already more than 4-inch tall, you should begin transplanting them into your vegetable garden. Make sure to do it after hardening them off, a process, which requires you to acclimate the young plants so they will be familiar with the life outdoors.
Begin by putting the pot or container in a sheltered spot in your garden and let it stay there for around an hour every day. Increase the time it spends outdoors slowly and do it for around 7 to 10 days.
You can also use the transplanting method. It is the best method to grow eggplant especially if you plan to start from the starts or seedlings offered in the nursery. Just transplant these seedlings to your garden upon the lowering of the risk of frost and upon warming up to a minimum of 60 degrees F.
However, just to be safe, it would be much better to wait for around 2-3 weeks after the date of the last frost before you start to set plants in your vegetable garden. When that time comes, you should prepare the area where you will plant them first. Work the soil around 6 to 12-inch deep.
After that, mix it in a few handfuls of compost and landscape sand. This is important if you notice that it is already necessary to improve the drainage.
One more thing to note is that you have to plant the starts or seedlings based on the depth of the container they intend to grow and water in. Also, depending on the variety, you should let the plants be spaced by around 18 to 30 inches. Just to be sure, consult the nursery tag or seed pack so you will get an idea about the mature dimensions.
Caring for the Eggplant
To ensure that your eggplant receives the best care possible, ensure that you provide the plant with the following:
As mentioned earlier, the eggplant loves the sun so exposing them to a minimum of 6-hour direct sunlight regularly is necessary. It is what will help the plants survive.
The ideal soil to use is an organically rich and loamy one that also has sharp drainage. Also, take note that the eggplant is capable of growing at a pH level of the soil that is slightly acidic to alkaline.
Make sure that the eggplant receives sufficient water. Water regularly to ensure that the soil will remain moist without having to waterlog it.
It would be better to utilize a type of mulch, like wood chips or straw as a means of retaining moisture and covering the soil. Also, keep in mind that abnormally-shaped eggplant can lead to inconsistent watering.
Humidity and Temperature
The ideal temperature for growing eggplant is around 70 to 90 degrees F. As for nighttime temperatures, it should be around 60 degrees F. It is also advisable to stick to a moderate level of humidity as an extremely high one leads to the stickiness of the soil and the inability to pollinate.
Caring for and growing eggplants also involves nourishing it with the correct fertilizer. What you should do is mix compost into the soil. You can also use a 5-10-10 formula and stick to the instructions indicated in its label when applying it.
Fertilize once more if you discovered that the first few eggplants you have planted are small in size. You should then follow this up with a new feeding several weeks later.
When it comes to pollination, note that the eggplant has the capability of doing it on its own. In most cases, the wind helps in the self-pollination process, too. Aside from that, there are pollinating insects that can offer assistance during this important process in the life of your eggplant.
Once you start to grow eggplant, it is crucial to know its exact variety as well as its actual size during its maturity. This is so you will know when it is safe and ready to harvest the fruit. Generally, you can harvest the eggplant in the middle to late summer depending on what variety you are growing.
It is even okay for you to pick up most varieties of eggplant when they are already halfway to their expected mature size. It is also said that the eggplant tastes best when you harvest them when they are still fairly young.
With that said, monitor the plants often to see those that are becoming ripe. Also, note the more you pick the eggplant, the more you encourage eggplant fruit production, which means you have to try to do the picking during the harvest season often.
In most cases, transplants take around 65 to 80 days for them to mature. Seeds, on the other hand, take around 100 to 120 days. When it comes to picking, choose those with glossy and unwrinkled skin. Cut the stem using a knife and leave around an inch on the plant.
Once harvested, you can choose to eat the eggplant raw but it is common to cook it in another way. You may grill or bake it.
You can also store the unwashed and uncut eggplant in your fridge for around one week. Wash the eggplant only before using it.
Common Pests and Problems
Undoubtedly, flea beetles are among the major pests that can infest the eggplant. These flea beetles refer to small bronze or black jumping leaf beetles that are around one-eighth-inch long. The pests are quick-moving, capable of chewing pin-sized holes found in leaves.
Expect the eggplant to be vulnerable to the attack of the flea beetles during the time when its leaves are still tender and young. As the summer season comes, expect the plant to grow in size. It will also become stronger, shrugging off the potential for damage on flea beetles.
One way to protect your eggplant from the flea beetle is to use row covers to keep it covered from the time you put it on the ground. Aside from using row covers, it is also possible to handle the flea beetle by planting a trap crop composed of radishes since they prefer this crop over the eggplants.
These sucking insects may carry diseases that can affect the plants. Once they start eating the leaves of your eggplant, expect honeydew to be excreted, causing ants and other pests and insects to come to the plant.
To control aphids, you just have to use a sharp flow of water. This should be enough to knock them off the eggplants.
The anthracnose refers to a fruit-rot fungus, which you can find in any overripe and ripe fruit. It appears as a round and small depressed area that gets larger eventually. Avoid leaving any fruit that’s infected with it in your garden.
The reason is that it is easy for its fungal spores to spread not only to other fruit but also to the soil every time water splashes around them. You should also avoid saving seeds from any fruit infected with it.
When it comes to diseases, the most common one that affects the eggplant is the verticillium wilt. It is a soil-borne fungal disease, which you can prevent by ensuring that you use compost-rich and good soil from the time you started to plant the eggplant.
Using premium-potting mix when planting the eggplant in a pot or container is also a great way to protect it from wilt. You can also prevent this disease in the first place by choosing to grow disease-resistant varieties. Ensure that you provide the plant with the best growing conditions, too.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take to grow eggplant?
It is possible for the eggplant to grow and produce a bunch of eggplants that will be ready for harvest in around 100 to 120 days. You can speed this up a bit by ensuring that the plant receives sufficient fertilizer and other things necessary for its survival, like the application of water regularly.
Does eggplant need a trellis?
In several cases, the use of a trellis is necessary, especially if you think about the large and dynamic growth of the bush and its foliage. The fruit also requires support as soon as they become larger.
With that, it is sometimes necessary to stake your eggplants. This aids in making them grow at an optimum size, thereby preventing damage to the overburdened leaves and stems. A trellis is an effective support system for large bushes of eggplant along with tomato cages and staking.
Do eggplants like full sun?
Yes, eggplants love full sunlight. You even have to ensure that your eggplants receive a minimum of 6-hour direct sunlight on several days every week.
Is eggplant easy to grow?
Yes, the eggplant is easy and interesting to grow. Just ensure that these plants remain warm enough to support their healthy growth. It also helps to stop weeds from emerging.
You can do that by surrounding these plants with one layer of organic mulch. This should help in keeping the soil warm and moist, thereby preventing the emergence and development of weeds.
Overall, it is interesting and easy to grow eggplant. It can also give you a bountiful harvest while letting you enjoy the produce sixty days after you plant them. You will also love growing eggplant in your own garden as it means that you can enjoy preparing them in various ways, like baking, stuffing, boiling, and grilling, among others.
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