Eggplants are in the same family as Peppers, Potatoes and Tomatoes. Since they are similar, they share the same growing conditions. If you know how to grow those crops, you can grow beautiful, delicious Eggplants also. But here are some tips if you are not familiar with growing Eggplants:
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An easy way to get a head start on germination time is to soak seeds overnight. This post is written in March, so you don’t need to start your seeds indoors. However, if you are reading this during the fall or winter, you can start your seeds indoors before the last spring frost date. Transplant them outdoors when the soil temperature is above 70 degrees, and the seedlings are 4″ tall. Cold weather will kill the eggplants.
Plant the seeds or transplants in full sun, setting the seeds 1/4″ deep. Space the plants 18-24″ apart for air circulation around the plants. They will grow to fill this space later in the season. I battle the tendency to plant close together, but this is counterproductive later in the season. As you plant, think about how much space the mature plant will require.
Set cages around the plants as you plant or set out, to support the future stems and fruit. High winds or heavy fruit will break the stems. Doing this when the plants are small allows the plant to grow into or be trained into the cage. Caging a mature plant will almost certainly break stems and damage the plant.
Add mulch around the plant to discourage weeds and conserve moisture. Do not mulch all the way up to the plant to discourage insect pests attacking the step–leave a small space between the mulch and the stem.
Eggplants need 1-1.5″ of water per week for the fruit to develop.
When the growing eggplants are blooming, apply fertilizer. Use a 5-10-5 fertilizer. Pale green leaves are signs that your growing eggplant need to be fertilized. Scratch the fertilizer lightly into the top 1/2″ of soil to avoid damaging the shallow Eggplant roots.
Aphids and Spider mites are problems for Eggplants. If leaves turn yellow and brown, that is a sign of verticillium wilt. To avoid this, rotate your plants each year. Remember, Eggplant, Tomato, Pepper, and Potato are in the same family, so should not be planted after each other the next year.
When to Harvest Eggplant:
Harvest Eggplant when fruit has a high gloss. Cut the fruit about one inch from the fruit, don’t tear the fruit off, as this could damage the plant. If the Eggplant skin becomes dull, it is past its prime, and won’t taste as well as a ripe fruit. Test for ripeness by pressing the skin. If it doesn’t spring back, the fruit is ready for harvesting. Frequent harvesting produces heavier yields.
Pick when the fruit is immature. This assures that the seeds in the Eggplant have not fully developed.
Saving Eggplant Seeds:
If you want to save Eggplant seeds, make sure the variety you are growing is an open-pollinated or heirloom variety. A Hybrid Eggplant may not produce seeds, or they may not sprout.
Also make sure you are growing only one variety of Eggplant, so as to not get genetically variable seeds from different varieties.
Wait until the Eggplant is over ripe. The skin will be dull and off-color, and the fruit will be shriveled and hard. Cut the Eggplant open and remove the seeds. Wash the pulp off the seeds, strain the seeds out and let them dry in a layer not more than 2 seeds thick. Put them in a cool place out of the sun, in a low-humidity environment, for about 2-4 weeks to dry. Store them in an insect-proof jar. Watch for moisture forming in the jar, so the seeds won’t become moldy. If moisture appears in the jar, you will need to dry them again.
Growing Eggplant is not hard. It just takes attention and some TLC, and you will be rewarded with an ample Eggplant harvest! Let our community know, in the comment section below, what your experiences are with growing Eggplant!