Growing Eggplants

Updated: Sep 15

Also known as aubergine, this purple fruit is typically used as a veggie in cooking. It’s often a staple in vegetarian or vegan dishes – most likely because it’s quite nutrient-dense. That means it’s got a lot of great vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber with few calories.


To help ensure your Eggplant thrives, I’ve put together this how-to video and transcript, making it easy for you to succeed. :) I’ll cover everything you need to go from seed to harvest and every step in-between. You'll be growing eggplants like a pro in no time!


Listen to this Article:


Ready for a growing horticulture adventure in eggplant crop growing? Lets grow some food!


Glossary of eggplant terms

Growing Eggplants is easier if you know the terms, so before we get started, let’s learn a little bit about common eggplant related words


HARDENING OFF

The process of getting seedlings used to outside conditions. It’s important because once transplanted outside, seedlings are influenced by a different environment. By exposing seedlings to wind, sun, and outside temperatures every day for a few hours, it strengthens them and prepares them for outdoor survival.


ANNUAL LIFE CYCLE

Annual plants have a growth cycle of one season. During this time, they sprout, build their flowers, and then die off.

SELF-POLLINATING

Eggplant’s flowers have both male and female parts, and don’t need an external influence (like bees) to build their fruits.


TRUE LEAF

The first leaves that look like the ones from a mature eggplant, not the very first leaves to appear. True leaves are more firm and have sharper edges than seedling leaves.


Harvested Eggplants in Baskets

Varieties of eggplant

You have a few different eggplant options, depending on the size, shape, and color you’re after. Growing Eggplants is as much about the what as it is about the how, so make sure to pick an eggplant variety that you love. Here are a few of the best eggplants for vegetable gardens:


AMERICAN EGGPLANT

American Eggplant Variety

This variety is the biggest and fattest of the bunch. It has a meaty texture and is best suited for slicing and grilling.



ITALIAN EGGPLANT

Eggplant: Variety

This one is a bit smaller than the American variety, and has a sweeter flavor.



JAPANESE EGGPLANT

Eggplant: Japanese Variety

This variety is much longer and slimmer compared to the others. It’s good for cutting and also makes a great addition to a stir fry.


ROSA BIANCA EGGPLANT

Eggplant: Rosa Bianca Variety

This variety has purple/pink and white markings. They are less bitter than the other darker purple varieties, and have fewer seeds.



THAI EGGPLANT

Eggplant: Thai Variety

They’re quite small and round, and are either green, purple or white. They tend to be more bitter than the other varieties. With Thai eggplant, you have to remove their seeds before cooking.


INDIAN EGGPLANT

Eggplant: Indian Variety

This type has more of a round, squat shape.





WHITE EGGPLANT

Eggplant: White Variety

There is no real flavor difference compared to its purple family members, but the color of this variety is quite the eyecatcher.



Starting your eggplant seeds

Growing Eggplants when you're starting from eggplant seeds.

  • Keep in mind that their ideal soil temperature for germination is between 80 and 90°F (26.6-32.2°C). Your plants won’t germinate in cool soil, which is anything below 60°F (15°C).


STEP 1

  • Start with seedlings indoors about 8-10 weeks before you plan to transplant them.


STEP 2

  • Before seeding, you’ll want to work either a complete fertilizer or compost into the first 6 inches (15.2cm) of your soil.


STEP 3

  • Sow your seeds a quarter to a half inch deep, then cover them lightly with soil.

STEP 4

  • As soon as your seedlings have emerged, give them plenty of light. Either sit them on a windowsill, or keep them under fluorescent light at least 16 hours a day.


STEP 5

  • If you’ve started your seeds outside, space them 24 to 36 inches (61-91 cm) apart.

  • If they’ve been grown in small pots, you may need to transplant your seedlings into bigger containers first – this would happen when they have about 3 pairs of leaves.

A pile of Harvested Eggplants

Caring for eggplants

Growing Eggplants at every stage

  • In this section, I’ll cover everything you need to know about watering your eggplants, their ideal growing conditions, and the benefits of mulching.

  • I’ll also talk transplanting, companion planting, and which growing structures you can use.

  • Eggplant can be grown in USDA zones 4 through 10, and it prefers sandy, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5-6.8.

  • This crop will need about 1-2 inches of water per week, but it’s better to thoroughly soak the soil once, rather than doing shorter more frequent watering. That way, their roots will have to develop to reach all the moisture and won’t become shallow.

  • They’ll also need full sun for their growth process. Eggplant can tolerate high temperatures - up to 85°F (30°C) - but they will stop their growth when temperatures fall below 60°F (15°C).

  • Cooler temperatures will cause them to grow more leaves and less fruit, while frost will kill your plants completely.

  • You’ll want to avoid planting in a spot where tomatoes, peppers or potatoes were grown the year before.

  • These crops are relatives of eggplant, so if you don’t practice crop rotation, it increases the risk for diseases.

EGGPLANT FERTILIZING AND MULCHING

Growing Eggplants with the best plant food and protection

  • Eggplant is a heavy feeder, but you’ll want to avoid using a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Though it may cause your plant’s leaves to thrive, the fruit itself won’t develop as well as it should.

  • Organic mulches will help keep your soil moist and will also control weeds, but you won’t want to apply it until your soil has warmed up to 75°F (23.8°C).

  • When it comes to different types of mulch, you can use wood chips, grass clippings, straw, or hay.

  • After transplanting, apply a quarter cup of a starter solution around your eggplants – to make this solution, simply dissolve 2 tablespoons of a complete fertilizer into 1 gallon of water.

Eggplants Ready to be Cut and Cooked

TRANSPLANTING BEST PRACTICES

Growing Eggplants when you have a transplant or seedling

  • Harden-off your eggplants by first lowering their water and temperature levels. Then, you can put your seedling containers outside for a few hours, starting about a week before transplanting.

  • At first, you’ll want to keep them sheltered from harsh winds and full sun.

  • Make sure you wait until all danger of frost has passed, and your soil has warmed up to at least 80°F (26°C) before you plant them into your vegetable garden.

  • Eggplant is also best transplanted when it has 6-9 true leaves and a well-developed root system. At that point, they should be about

  • 5-8 inches (12.7-20.3cm) tall. When transplanting, you’ll want to dig a hole in the soil that’s big enough to accommodate the whole root ball (the clump of roots and soil at the bottom of your plant).

  • Then, you can plant them about 18 to 24 inches (46-61cm) apart in rows that are 20-30 inches (51-76cm) apart.


GROWING STRUCTURE OPTIONS

Growing Eggplants in any environment. Below are the most common for home vegetable gardens:


CONTAINERS

  • Generally, all eggplant varieties can be grown in containers - but small fruit or dwarf varieties will thrive here the most, since they naturally don’t need as much space.

  • Just make sure your containers have holes in the bottom to ensure good water drainage.


RAISED BEDS

  • These structures have good drainage, and your soil will warm up faster than in an open field. You’ll also have the ability to use whatever soil works best for you, meaning you’re not reliant on what’s already in your vegetable garden.

  • A nice added bonus is that raised beds make for a more comfortable gardening experience, since you don’t have to bend or kneel too much.


OPEN FIELD

  • If you have enough space, you can plant directly into the ground.

  • With this crop in particular, it’s very important that your soil is well warmed before setting any transplants or seeds into the ground.


COMPANION PLANTS FOR EGGPLANTS

Growing Eggplants with the plant friends that protect them.


The best companion plants for Eggplants are:

  • Beans, peas, peppers, potatoes, amaranth, spinach, and thyme can all be planted with eggplant. Also, marigolds will help repel any nematodes that might be in the ground.

Don't grow eggplants near:

  • Fennel shouldn’t be planted with your eggplant, because it prevents them from growing.

  • We recommend staking, especially when your plant grows a lot of fruits.

  • It’s an additional support to help keep your eggplant nice and steady, and it also helps it to grow more vertically, which keeps their sensitive fruits and leaves off the ground.

Eggplant Growing Outdoors

Common challenges and their solutions

  • We recommend staking, especially when your plant grows a lot of fruits.

  • It’s an additional support to help keep your eggplant nice and steady, and it also helps it to grow more vertically, which keeps their sensitive fruits and leaves off the ground.


POTENTIAL PESTS

Growing Eggplants, without the common vegetable garden pests


APHIDS

These small insects are typically found on the undersides of leaves as well as on the stems of your plants. If there’s a heavy infestation, it may cause your plant’s leaves to turn yellow and fall off. Also, necrotic (dead) spots can appear on your plant’s leaves.

  • Solution: These small insects are typically found on the undersides of leaves as well as on stems.

  • If there’s a heavy infestation, it may cause your plant’s leaves to turn yellow and fall off. Also, necrotic spots can appear on your plant’s leaves.


COLORADO POTATO BEETLES

They feed on leaves, so you’ll notice lots of holes in them. Adult beetles are black and yellow striped, while their larvae are bright red with black heads.

  • Solution: Hand-pick the beetles and larvae off your plants.


FLEA BEETLES

Small black insects that feed on seedlings and jump when they’re disturbed. They can reduce the yield of your eggplant, and even kill your crop entirely.

  • Solution: Plant your seeds early to give them lots of time to establish themselves before the beetles become a problem.

  • Mature plants are less susceptible to damage, so you’ll want to protect your more vulnerable seedlings.


CUTWORMS

Its larvae sever your plant’s stems at the soil level, and typically, they’re active during the night and then hide during the day.

  • Solution: Use cardboard collars around your transplants to keep these pests away.

  • Also, plant your seeds early enough so that your plants can get established before the possibility of an infestation.

  • By applying a layer of mulch, it’ll also help to prevent the cutworms from reaching the surface.

Multiple Varieties of Eggplants in a Box

POTENTIAL DISEASES

Growing Eggplants disease free


VERTICILLIUM WILT

The most serious disease for eggplant, this will cause their leaves to start wilting at the bottom. Eventually, they’ll turn yellow and then fall off. You’ll also notice your plant’s roots and stems turning brown.

  • Solution: Remove and destroy any infected plants as well as the surrounding soil.


LEAF BLIGHTS OR SPOTS

Dark spots that appear on the leaves, stems, or fruits. The leaves will eventually die, exposing your eggplant fruits to the sun (which causes sunscald)..

  • Solution: Practice crop rotation, and don’t plant in a spot where potatoes, peppers, or tomatoes have just grown.


SUNSCALD

This disease is caused by hot dry weather, when your eggplant fruits are exposed to direct sunlight. Their exposed areas will over-heat, dry out, and won’t color evenly.

  • Solution: It’s super important to maintain good soil moisture during these hot and dry periods. Also, when the weather is like this, good leaf coverage can help to prevent the problem.

Fresh Cut up Eggplant

Harvesting and storing

Growing Eggplants for your dinner plate and pantry

  • Eggplants can be harvested once their fruit’s about a third of its full size.

  • Though you can break the fruit off from it’s stem, it’s much better to cut it. This will avoid causing damage to the rest of your plant.

  • Keep in mind that when you harvest early, it can prevent the fruit from developing too many seeds and a thick skin – which is what you want to avoid.

  • Ready to store your crop? Mature eggplant can be stored for up to 7 days in temperatures between 50-55°F (10-12.7°C), storing best in cool places outside of the fridge. They can also be frozen – but canning or drying them typically won’t work.


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