I highly recommend growing eggplants for those who love outdoor grilling or are eager to have readily available vegetables at home.
The best part about eggplants is that they grow well and look great in raised beds, containers, ornamental borders, and traditional in-ground gardens. So, what are you waiting for?
It is time to learn how to grow eggplants, and I will list valuable tips below.
What is an eggplant?
Eggplant is part of the nightshade family together with tomatoes, okra, and zucchini that grows in various shapes, colors, sizes and thrives in warm climates and during the summer season.
Eggplants range from small globes that grow to around two inches in size to the oblong and tubular variants reaching up to 12 inches long or larger.
Eggplant loves warm conditions and thrives best in sunny, well-draining locations.
If you decide to grow eggplants in raised beds, make sure to fill them with 100% organic soil to ensure optimum root growth or in-ground in soil that is generously enriched with organic soil.
When growing in pots, you can use a soil mix that contains nutrient-filled compost.
The rough, leathery leaves of eggplants can endure warm weather conditions. I suggest providing it with a liberal mulch of hay, torn leaves, or other biodegradable components under the plants to keep the ground cool, retain moisture, and keeping any weeds down.
The basics on how to plant eggplants
If you want to try planting eggplants for the first time, I suggest reading this guide on how to grow eggplants.
As the best way to cultivate eggplants, you should provide a good start on the growing season by placing them indoors, around 6 to 9 weeks before the average last frost.
Make sure that you will submerge the seeds all-night to promote a higher germination rate.
Propagate the seeds ¼ inch deep in a loose medium such as vermiculite. I suggest utilizing the base heat to preserve the soil’s temperature of 80-90 degrees for 8 to 10 days necessary for germination.
Transfer the seedlings to separate containers once they grow up to 3 inches.
Once the outside nighttime air temperatures go beyond 50 degrees, steadily expose them to the outdoor environment to harden them.
It would be best if you kept transplanting the seedlings into bigger pots while waiting for both outdoor air and soil to warm up to at least 70 degrees.
It might be best to grow eggplants in raised beds, which can warm up rapidly during the spring.
When you provide the plants with enough space, it ensures healthier and productive growth.
With this in mind, space the plants 2 ½ to 3 feet apart in all directions. Water the plants thoroughly by pouring 1 to 2 cups of a compost to border each plant and secure the soil around gently.
Growing eggplants properly
Make sure that you will mulch right after transplanting and carefully pull any invasive weeds by hand. I recommend interplanting an early crop such as lettuce amidst the eggplants.
Once the initial set of flowers emerge, you should pinch them off.
Aside from allowing the plant to develop several fruiting branches, pinching will encourage the plant to allot more energy into producing leaves and roots instead of one large fruit.
If you want to keep the plants and fruits intact and clean, you should stalk them with bamboo poles.
Take note that weeding around the young, transplanted eggplants is vital. The weeds will complete with the eggplants until the warm summer temperatures arrive.
Ensure that you will control the weeds with regular weeding by hand or using a cultivator or hoe. Once the soil has warmed up, adding a mulch of compost or weed is essential. The grass clippings also work as an excellent anti-weed barrier.
Common eggplant varieties
If you are planning to plant eggplants, there are four classic varieties to choose from:
• Black Beauty. As one of the popular varieties, it produces glossy black, bell-shaped fruit that grows 4-6 inches long.
• This variety produces slim, deep purple fruits at 6 inches in length or longer.
• Little fingers. The variety produces small, dark purple fruits at 3 to 4 inches long.
• Easter Egg. The variety produces small pastel yellow or orange fruits similar to the size of an egg.
How to transplant eggplants to the garden
• Two to three weeks after the last frost of spring is the ideal time to transplant the eggplants into the garden.
• Create a hole that is double the size of the root ball. Saturate the hole before transplanting.
• Add organic fertilizer to the base of the hole and layer lightly with compost or planting mix of your choice. Position the seedlings in place.
• Set the seedlings into the garden at the same depth they are growing in their containers.
• Secure the soil around the root ball and carefully water the plant. Build a small basin bordering the seedling to convey the water to the roots while watering.
• Position wooden support or small tomato cage that serves as a backing for the plant as it develops. Remember that eggplants are that are loaded with fruits are likely to tip or fall over.
• Make sure that the eggplants are 24-36 inches apart. Do not forget to cover the young plants with row covers during cool days and nights.
How to grow eggplants in containers
Eggplants are multipurpose fruits belonging to the nightshade family together with tomatoes and other fruits.
The majority of eggplants are hefty, solid fruits on medium to large-sized plants that you should cultivate in gardens.
In case you want to grow eggplants in containers, some cultivars were developed to be compact in form.
These smaller variants are a suitable choice if you want to grow them in containers.
When growing eggplants in containers, make sure that you use the large ones to support the heavy plant roots, along with well-draining soil, extra food, and consistent water.
Take note that container-grown eggplants require large-sized pots to promote optimum growth.
• Select a large-sized pot with a 5-gallon capacity. If you are going to grow eggplants in containers, it requires 12 to 14 inches of space per plant, or three plants can be positioned in a 20-inch container.
• Unglazed pots are likely to dry out rapidly than glazed pots, but they also enable the evaporation of leftover moisture.
• If you carefully follow a watering schedule, go for an unglazed pot. In case you are forgetful, select the glazed pots. Remember that there should be large, unblocked holes in the bottom.
• The ideal medium or soil mix for a container-grown eggplant comprises two parts potting soil and one part sand.
• This mixture ensures sufficient nutrients and water preservation while encouraging the drainage of excess moisture.
• Plant the eggplant at the identical level they were in while in the nursery pots and place a handful of time-release fertilizer in the pit at the time of planting.
• Ensure that you water the pots properly and install a small support system such as a tomato cage.
Once it is time to harvest eggplants, make sure that you will choose one with skin that takes on a high gloss. You can test by pressing the skin.
If the indentation does not spring back, the fruit is ready for harvesting.
When harvesting eggplants, clip off the plant using pruning shears, maintaining the top and about 1 inch of the stem whole.
Watch out for the miniature prickles lining the stems and some variants’ cap since they can be irritating to the skin.
Most eggplants can last for two weeks if kept in a refrigerator. If you are going to cut open one and the seeds within are brown, it is already past prime quality, and the flavor might be bitter.
The best way to avoid this is to pick eggplants on the young side when they are a third or two-thirds of their fully mature size.
Common eggplant problems
When growing eggplants, there are specific problems that you must be aware of.
• Flea beetles are the worst pest of eggplants which create several small holes on the leaves.
• The best way to avoid this problem is to keep the plants indoors until early summer or cover them with a floating row or dust the foliage with kaolin clay if outdoors.
• If the plant becomes infested, I suggest spraying Spinosad or Beauveria bassiana to curb down the number of flea beetles.
• If you grow eggplants in containers that are at least a foot-and-a-half off the ground, flea beetles are less likely to infest your plants.
• In case you find yellow masses of eggs on the leaf undersides by the yellow-and-black striped Colorado potato beetles, you should carefully handpick and destroy them.
• Handpicking is also the best option for tomato hornworms. The tiny spider mites are responsible for causing yellow-stippled leaves, and the best way to deal with them is to knock them off with a spray of water.
• The common disease among eggplant is Verticillium wilt. You can avoid this by planting resistant cultivars and rotating crops.
• Adding a floating row cover over the seedlings after transplanting offers a two-fold benefit.
• First, it provides a physical barrier between the plants and pests.
• Second, the row cover functions as a greenhouse that warms up the plants’ air above the ambient temperature.
• Additionally, you can drape the material directly onto the plants or tented over the row, supported by wire hoops.
Whether you decide to grow them in your garden or large-sized containers, they can provide you with a good source of food throughout the year as long as you provide them their basic requirements and proper care.