Eggplants are delicious, extremely nutritious members of the nightshade family. They are related to potatoes and tomatoes and like those vegetables can make an excellent addition to the home garden. They have their own particular set of growing conditions. Here are some basic instructions on how to grow eggplant in your home garden.
The most common variety of eggplant has a deep purple color and pear shape. However, eggplants come in many shapes and colors, including snow white and lavender. Check with local grow experts to see if there’s a particular variety that thrives well in your area.
WHEN TO GROW EGGPLANT
Eggplants need warmth to thrive. They do best in hot, humid areas. Start plants indoors about two months before the last frost of the season. Transfer outside once they are 4 inches tall and the danger of frost has well passed. You can direct sow eggplant seeds into an outdoor garden bed in warmer climates where nighttime temperatures do not drop below 65° F.
WHERE TO GROW
Eggplants need lots of warmth and space to thrive. They are best grown in raised beds. They maintain higher soil temperatures and drain better. Plant them in a space that gets full sun exposure.
Eggplants do best in loose, sandy soil. Be sure your soil drains well and is enriched with plenty of organic nutrients before planting. Soil can be slightly acidic, but a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is best.
For home gardening, eggplant seeds are best sown indoors. You’ll need to keep the soil temperature around 75° F. Follow instructions on the seed packet for your variety of eggplant. Most varieties of seeds should only be covered very lightly in soil. Water very gently. You may even want to mist to avoid washing the seeds too deep. Eggplant seeds should germinate in 7 to 14 days and will need plenty of light (14 hours per day) and water to grow sturdy enough to transfer outdoors.
First, transplant seedlings into a 6 inch growing container once they’ve grown two sets of leaves, usually at about 2 to 3 weeks old. Be careful not to damage the roots and keep the soil moist so they don’t dry out. Once they’ve grown about 4 inches tall and daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70s, transfer them outside. Harden them off by gradually introducing them to the outdoors, just a few hours at a time, more each day, for a week. Plant them 2 to 3 feet apart.
Eggplants need regular, even watering, usually 1 to 1.5 inches per week. Water in the morning and try to avoid overhead watering, which can foster mold and plant disease. Keep an eye on the soil during dry periods and don’t let it dry out.
Eggplants like lots of nutrients. Side dress them with a compost tea or organic fertilizer twice per month. Fish emulsion works great.
Most varieties of eggplant are ready for harvest after 60 to 90 days. They should be firm, glossy and have developed their full color. Clip them off with shears to avoid damaging the plant. Harvest regularly to encourage new growth.
TIPS & ADVICE
Mulch to help keep warmth and moisture in the soil.
Carefully weed to prevent root competition but try not to damage the eggplant roots.
Watch out for pests like bugs and beetles. Pick them off and dispose of them often.
Have some tips on how to grow eggplant? Let us know in the comments section below.