Eggplants are tasty vegetables that can be added into various dishes for flavor as well as ornaments for the garden. Do you like eggplants? If you do, having some eggplants in your garden would be a blessing. We will show you how to grow eggplant, including preparing, planting, growing and, of course, harvesting it. Ready? Let’s start.
Eggplant in Brief
Before we get to how to grow eggplant, let’s get to know about the plant first. So, what is an eggplant? Eggplant is a vegetable known for its egg-like shape and deep purple color. Most varieties of eggplants are edible, while the white-colored varieties are planted as ornaments for the garden or house.
The plant originates from South Asia. Yes, eggplant is among tropical and subtropical vegetables. This is the reason why it grows best and fast in warm soil. Temperature between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature as it allows the plant to grow fastest. Winter planting is possible but it will take a longer time to grow.
While the eggplant is well-known for its egg-like shape and deep purple color, the vegetable does come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. Some of the most common varieties are:
This is the traditional eggplant which has an egg-like shape and deep purple color fruit, about 6 to 9 inches in length. This variant includes ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Early Bird’, ‘Purple Rain’, and ‘Black Magic’.
Unlike the regular eggplant, the Japanese eggplant is thin-skinned, long and slender. It also has a more delicate taste as well. ‘Ichiban’ and ‘Little Fingers’ are among the most popular varieties for Japanese eggplant.
Ornamental eggplant is mostly used for decoration purposes. Eggplants in this variety either have a poor eating quality or downright inedible. An example of ornamental eggplant is the ‘Easter Egg’ which produces white fruit.
Which variety of eggplant should you plant? Well, that decision is yours. Just keep in mind that despite these varieties, they are all still tropical or subtropical plants. As such, things like planting, growing, and harvesting are more or less the same. Whichever it is, our how to grow eggplant guide below should help you.
When to Plant
First, you need to decide whether you want to grow from seed or transplants. If you decide to plant from seed, plant indoor for about 8 to 9 weeks before the last spring frost. Make sure that the soil’s temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It should take between 2 to 3 weeks for the seeds to germinate.
Plant each seed in the soil about a quarter of an inch. Plant the seeds 2 to 3 inches apart so there will be enough space for them to grow. What if the available soil is not warm enough? Don’t worry. If the soil is not warm enough, you can use a heating mat to increase the temperature.
If you decide to buy transplants, try to buy high-quality transplants. Avoid buying plants that are tall, young or spindly. If you buy such transplants, your yield will be less than optimal. You surely don’t want that. As for when to plant them, wait until the threat of frost has passed.
You can move the transplants outdoor once the outside temperature stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Just like the seeds, you need to give room for the transplants to grow. Place each transplant about 18 inches from each other. If you plant in rows, make sure each row is at least 36 inches apart.
Choose the Right Spot
Next on our how to grow eggplant guide is choosing the right spot for your eggplants. Since eggplants require warmth, you need to find a very sunny spot for them. Also, make sure that the soil on the spot is well-drained. The ideal pH for the soil, which allows for the best growth, is between 5.8 and 6.5.
Prepare the Soil
After you find the right spot, the next thing to do is to prepare the soil. A moderate amount of fertilizer is needed for eggplant to grow best. Add 1 inch of well-rotted manure into the planting bed 7 days before planting. Alternatively, you can also use a general fertilizer (like 5-10-10, for example) to prepare the soil as well.
How much manure or fertilizer should be used for the planting bed? If you use well-rotted manure, use 2 to 3 pounds of manure per 100 square feet. If you use a general fertilizer, add 1 ¼ pounds per 10 feet of row, with each row being 4 feet apart from each other.
What if you plan to plant each eggplant in a pot? In that case, you can put the pots inside a container, preferably a dark-colored one. Each plant requires five-gallon pots at a minimum. The eggplants should be placed outdoors, in a sunny spot so they can be pollinated. To avoid disease, use a premium potting mix.
Planting the Eggplant
Moving on our how to grow eggplant guide, now it is time to plant the eggplant. When you plant the eggplant, stake it right away. Place the stake one or two inches from each plant. The staking will provide support for the plants when they grow. It will also prevent disturbing the soil in the future too.
In case you live in an area with a cold climate, you might want to add row covers so the eggplants are sheltered and kept warm. Remember, eggplants do best if they grow in a warm place. During warm days, open the row covers’ ends so that bees are able to pollinate the plants.
If transplanting, create rows with 3 to 4 feet space in between. Set the 3- to 4-inch seedlings about 2 to 2 ½ feet After the planting is done, water them well. Adding a layer of mulch should help to suppress weeds and most importantly, retain the moisture the plants need.
Growing the Eggplant
Once an eggplant produces fruits, it is just a matter of time before it falls over due to the weight. To prevent this, you can either use a cage or stake to keep your eggplant upright. In case the plants are kept in container, you need to stake the stems before the plants start to produce fruits.
Watering the plants well is crucial. Make sure that the water moist the soil for at least 6 inches deep. This should make the soil moist but not soggy. Watering the plants consistently will bring the best result. A drip system placed at ground level or soaker hose is ideal for watering eggplants.
During the growing season, add a balanced fertilizer two times to ensure the best growth. Once the first fruits are grown to the size of a quarter, side-dress the plants using calcium nitrate. The amount you should use is 3 ounces/10 feet of row. Repeat this again in 2 to 3 weeks’ time.
Harvesting the Eggplant
The last step on our how to grow eggplant guide is harvesting. So the next question is, when is the time to harvest? If you start from seed, it takes 100 to 120 days to harvest. If you start from transplanting, it takes 65 to 85 days, depending on the variety.
The fruit is ready to harvest when its skin is unwrinkled, shiny and has a uniform color. When the fruit isn’t ripe yet, it will rebound when you apply a gentle pressure using your finger. When it doesn’t, the fruit is ripe. For the Japanese eggplant, it may be ripe to harvest when it gets as big as a finger.
Never pull the fruit when you harvest. The fruit won’t come off and may be damaged if you try to do so. So, rather than pulling it, prepare a sharp knife and cut the fruit from the stem. You can also use pruning shears to do so. Allow for an inch or so of the stem to stay attached.
That’s our how to grow eggplant guide. Here are some tips to help you get the best result:
- If you want your eggplants to yield larger fruits, limit the fruits to 5 or 6 for each plant
- For a bushier plant, pinch its terminal growing points out
- During the fruit set and development, moisture is of utmost importance. Consider mulching to provide uniform moisture for your plants. An added benefit of mulching is it will reduce weed
- You can store your harvested eggplants in a refrigerator. The best temperatures for storage is between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit with 90% relative humidity. This should allow you to keep the eggplants for up to 1 week
- Avoid washing or cutting the eggplants in advance. Doing so will damage the skin which, if exposed, will perish quickly
What do you think? It isn’t difficult to grow eggplant, isn’t it? It is fun, exciting, and worth the wait. With proper planting, caring and harvesting you will get great yields or ornaments, depending on what purpose you have for your eggplants. We hope our how to grow eggplant guide above help you plant this amazing vegetable. Happy gardening!