A Guide to Growing Eggplants
Eggplants — which are also known as aubergines — are a mainstay ingredient in many cuisines. In cooler climates they are best grown under cover, but otherwise require little effort to give a rewarding crop. Learn more about the varieties that will work best in your garden with this guide.
How to Grow
Eggplants need warmth to fruit well and do best in a greenhouse or sunroom, but will crop outside in milder areas. Sow seed in early spring into pots or modules kept at 70–75 degrees F. Pot the seedlings, and grow them under cover at 61–64 degrees F until late spring. To encourage bushiness and more flowers, pinch off the growing tips when the plants reach 12 inches high. Harden off if growing outside, and plant 24 inches apart in a warm, sheltered, sunny spot in fertile, well-drained soil after the last frost. Outdoor plants can also be grown in large containers left standing in the sun. Plants grown indoors can be grown in large containers or growing bags, or planted into greenhouse borders.
Water plants more regularly as the temperatures rise and fruits appear, and feed every week with a high-potash tomato fertilizer. To encourage fewer, larger fruit, pinch off the first flower as it appears, and thin fruits to three or four per plant. As the plants grow, support the main stems by tying them into canes or trellis. Harvest the fruits when full-sized and ripe. They are at their best when their full color has developed and the skin is shiny. If the skin begins to dull, the plants have matured too much and will taste dry and bitter. After fruiting, discard all plant debris, including used compost from pots. Eggplants grow well in containers indoors or outdoors if given a sheltered spot. Keep them well watered and fed.
Varieties of Eggplants
Believe it or not, there are several types of eggplants in spite of the fact that grocery stores typically only care the one with which many shoppers are familiar. Here are a few you might want to try in your garden:
- Purple varieties: ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Black Enorma’, ‘Falcon’, ‘Moneymaker’ and ‘Orlando’
- White varieties: ‘Mohican’ and ‘Snowy’
- Mottled varieties ‘Calliope’ F1, ‘Fairy Tale’ and ‘Listada de Gandia’ and ‘Rosa Bianca’
Pests and Diseases to Avoid
When maintaining eggplants, be sure to watch for whitefly insects, which like to feed on the plants, sucking their sap, spreading viruses and reducing harvests. Leaves may start to yellow and feel sticky to touch. Combat these flies by hanging sticky traps, spray insecticide or use biological control. Stay on the look out for botrytis as well. Botrytis is most common in poor, wet summers and causes gray mold on leaves and flowers, reducing the crop. Remove infected growth, and improve airflow.