Growing eggplants don’t enjoy cold weather so eggplant is best to start inside six weeks before the last frost, or maybe eight weeks when the anticipated outside temperature will begin to remain above 60F degrees at night.
The planting can take place in plant boxes or containers as shown here.
There are several varieties of these planters—ones that take a plug and you just drop the seed in the hole, to ones with divided boxes in which you plant several seeds to encourage sprouting.
With the latter, you will eventually need to thin the seeds. The first method requires only dropping one seed into the pre-drilled hole.
When you are using potting mix, which maybe a requirement with the second type of planter, you should plant at a depth of four times the size of the seed. This would result in a seed planted approximately one-quarter inch below the surface. You can learn more about seed starting in general by clicking here.
The best method of growing these baby eggplants indoors for eventual planting in the vegetable garden is the use of fluorescent lightning for around fourteen to sixteen hours per day.
It is desirable to keep your growing eggplant within a few inches of the light for at least the first several weeks. This will prevent them from becoming long and leggy. As the plants grow it will be necessary to either raise the light or lower the planter box.
If you can’t utilize this system, then you will need to use a sunny window for the light necessary to grow your eggplant. The thing you need to watch here is not to allow your plants to remain in the same position all of the time. This will result in your seedlings bending toward the light. It is very simple to rotate your growing box at least once week.
Variety of Eggplant to Choose From
The choice of growing eggplant is great as there are many shapes, sizes and colors to choose from. The very basic are either globe-shaped, egg-shaped or elongated and cylindrical.
The colors for the fruit may be purple, white, green, rose, yellow, red, or orange, and solid or striped. There are dozens of hybrid garden varieties to choose from. Here’s a bunch of green-colored ones.
The most common growing eggplant in North America is of course the Western or oval one. This type is most popular for stuffing, baking, sautéing and grilling. This of course leads to recipes and I have no room for that on this page.
Check out this link and you will find over 3000 recipes for doing virtually anything with eggplant. This should be more than enough to keep the cook happy.
How to Plant Your Eggplant
It should all begin approximately two weeks prior to your scheduled transplant date. The garden soil is best if turn over several times to loosen the soil from the results of snow or rain or both.
Growing eggplants enjoy a rich, fertile soil with a great deal of organic matter. This means the addition of either compost, manure or garden shop bags of the same. I would also apply a time-released fertilizer to the soil and apply again every four to six weeks.
Now you should cover the garden with either mulch or a tarp to slow the growth of weeds prior to the actual planting. You will need to harden off your new growing eggplants at least three to five days prior to transplanting them in to the vegetable garden.
You can place your plants outdoors in a lightly shaded area for hour or two the first day. This continues with a longer and longer length of time until they are outdoors all night still in the grow box or peat pots if use those in raising your eggplant.
As with most plants, these will be ready to transplant once they have least two sets of true leaves. Although transplanting them at this point may not be feasible if your weather conditions are unfavorable.
The garden should have full sun and well-drained soil. It is best in planting your “newbies” (young plants), they are placed one and half to two feet apart in rows that are at least two and half to three feet apart.
The growing eggplant should be sufficiently watered to get the soil moist to at least a depth of six inches. The moisture is most critical during the fruit set and fruit development stages.
Mulching can assist in keeping the moisture in the ground while also conserving water and reducing weed production. It is suggested that eggplants should have available at least an inch of water or slightly more on a weekly basis.
There may be more water required in soils that have a sandy content. There are two other important factors in the planting of your eggplants. They don’t like root disturbance so transplant carefully.
If you have them in a growing box, attempt to remove them by keeping most or the entire soil block intact. You may have dangling roots that have just out grown the space. Just be mindful of these when lowering them into the planting hole that you don’t pinch or tear the dangling roots if at all possible.
If you used peat pots then you just plant the entire pot since it is biodegradable and the roots will grow through the pot into your garden. The other factor is cold weather.
Eggplants are not tolerant of extreme cold. Watch the weather just after planting your growing eggplants for any possible frost or below average temperature. You should have handy either plastic buckets or plastic bags to cover your plants.
Make sure it is secure by using rocks as weights, plastic tie downs or plastic sticks pressed into the ground.
Special Tips for Your Eggplant
In planting your eggplant it would be best, if you have a choice, not to plant in the same place you previously planted tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, or strawberries in the last year. These vegetables and fruits have similar nutritional requirements and attract similar diseases.
These particular plants could have easily depleted the soil of important nutrients, or they may have left behind possible soil bound diseases or diseases through leaf litter that will attack your eggplants this year.
Good companion planting might include basil, lettuce, fennel or even marigolds in the area with your growing eggplant. A row cover would be a good thing to use because it tends to reduce insect damage.
The presence of ladybugs and other beneficial insects will discourage the presence of such harmful insects as aphids. You can purchase these and other beneficial insects at some garden centers or online. I would use cages or supports since these plants become over burdened with fruit have a tendency to fall over.
Another special tip: Suppose you just don’t have the room to plant eggplant in your garden. How about growing eggplant in containers? This will certainly add some interest or beauty to your patio or deck.
It is possible to grow what is referred to as dwarf varieties in an eight inch pot or even a window box. If you spring for the larger eggplant, this will require a twelve inch pot or even a five gallon container to ensure good root development.
Make sure whatever container you choose has good drainage holes and purchase a potting soil that is good for container gardening.
You want your final fruit to look like the one pictured here.
Common Pests and Other Problems
There are many common pests quite willing and able to destroy the fruits of your labor (no pun intended) and leave you with a sinking feeling. There are a number of these that also have a relationship with other plants such as tomatoes and potatoes.
Including but not limited to aphids, spider mites, thrips, and beetles particularly the Colorado potato and the flea beetle. One of the worst of these is Verticillium wilt pictured here.
It usually produces a yellowing of the leaves and eventually wilts the plant and it dies. The other attacking plant disease that can invade your growing eggplant is blossom end rot.
You thought that was only associated with tomatoes, but it will also appear on your eggplant. This is normally caused by a temporary lack of water supply and calcium. It most commonly occurs during periods of high temperature stress.
This infection known as Phytophthora blight not only affects the root system but stem infection also appears causing very distinct black lesions. It be caught by a mere splashing of water from infected soil, on to the leaves leaving water soaked spots which form very rapidly into pale green to brown lesions.
Infected fruit is usually covered in a white spore like substance and causes the fruit to shrivel. This disease will, if left uncheck, destroy all of your growing eggplant.
One of the methods to pursue is use, prior to planting, organic additions to the soil. It is even more effective to be planting the eggplant in raised beds to provide for more effective drainage.
If possible, use the drip method of watering rather than spraying water from overhead. Straw mulches will assist in reducing the amount of splash hitting the foliage which in turn reduces the possibility of infection.
There you have the necessary information to start some growing eggplant. Let me know how it all turns out.