How to grow eggplant?

The range of sizes, shapes, and colors of the heat-loving eggplant (Solanum melongena) tells the story of its enduring popularity. Native to India, where it grows wild, it has been cultivated in Southeast Asia for thousands of years.

Europe was introduced to the vegetable in the 8th century via the Moors, who brought it to Spain, Sicily, and southern France via North Africa. In the sunny, dry climate of the Mediterranean basin, eggplant found the warm growing conditions it prefers and soon found its way into the classic cuisines of the region.

A classic eggplant is deep purple and pear-shaped, but when you grow your own, you can try a cornucopia of other colors and shapes, from elongated lavender-and-white Fairy Tale to the round, violet-blushed Rosa Bianca. But to succeed with eggplants, you’ll need to supply them with steadily warm growing conditions for at least three months. Eggplants growing in cold soil or exposed to chilly weather will sulk and potentially suffer from insect and disease problems.

Planting Eggplant

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Give eggplants a head start on the growing season by starting them indoors, six to nine weeks before the average last frost. Soak seeds overnight to encourage germination; sow them ¼ inch deep in a loose, fine medium, such as vermiculite. Use bottom heat to maintain a soil temperature of 80 to 90 degrees for the eight to 10 days required for sprouting.

Transplant seedlings to individual pots once they reach 3 inches. When outside nighttime air temperatures are above 50 degrees, gradually expose them to the outdoors to harden them off. Keep transplanting your seedlings into larger pots as you wait for both outdoor air and soil to warm up to at least 70 degrees.

Try growing eggplants in raised beds, which heat up quickly in spring. Plants given plenty of room are healthier and more productive, so space them 2½ to 3 feet apart in all directions. Water well, pour 1 to 2 cups of compost around each plant, and firm the soil gently.

Eggplants are also good for container growing, with one plant per 5-gallon pot.

Growing Eggplants

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Mulch immediately after transplanting, and gently hand pull any invading weeds. Interplant an early crop, such as lettuce, between the eggplant transplants. When the first set of flowers emerge, pinch them off. In addition to making the plant develop several fruiting branches, this will encourage the plant to put more energy into creating leaves and roots instead of one big fruit. To keep plants upright and fruit clean and intact, stalk plants with bamboo poles.

Weeding around the young transplants is essential. Weeds will outcompete eggplants until warm summer temperatures come. Stay on top of weeds by regularly hand-pulling or carefully weeding with a hoe or cultivator. Once the soil is warmed up, a mulch of straw or compost can be used. Grass clippings make a good anti-weed barrier, too.

Eggplant Problems

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Flea beetles, which chew many tiny holes in leaves, are eggplant’s worst pest. To avoid this problem, keep plants indoors until early summer, or cover outdoor plants with floating row cover or dust the foliage with kaolin clay (re-apply it after rain). If plants become infested, spraying Beauveria bassiana or spinosad may knock back the population of flea beetles and save your plants. When eggplants are grown in containers that are at least a foot-and-a-half off the ground, the flea beetles don’t seem to find them as easily.

Hand pick and destroy yellow-and-black-striped Colorado potato beetles and the yellow masses of eggs they lay on leaf undersides. Hand picking is also effective for tomato hornworms, 4-inch green caterpillars with white stripes. Don’t destroy those covered with tiny white cocoons; these contain the parasitic offspring of the beneficial braconid wasp. Tiny spider mites cause yellow-stippled leaves; control these pests by knocking them off the plant with a spray of water.

The most common eggplant disease is Verticillium wilt. Avoid it by planting resistant cultivars and by rotating crops.

Placing a floating row cover over seedlings right after planting offers a twofold benefit: It forms a physical barrier between the plants and insect pests, and the row cover acts as a greenhouse, heating the air around the plants above the ambient temperature. This lightweight, nonwoven material can be draped directly onto the plants or tented over the row, supported by wire hoops.

Harvesting Eggplants

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Pick eggplant when the skin takes on a high gloss. To test, press the skin. If the indentation doesn’t spring back, that fruit is ready for harvest. To harvest, clip the eggplants off the plant with pruning shears, keeping the cap and about 1 inch of stem intact. Watch out for the small prickles that line the stems and the cap of some varieties, as they are a skin irritant.

Related Story

Eggplants will keep for two weeks if refrigerated. If you cut open an eggplant fruit and find that the seeds inside have turned brown, the fruit is past prime quality and the flavor may be bitter. The best way to avoid this is by picking fruits on the young side, when they are a third to two-thirds of their fully mature size.

Eggplant or Solanum melongena is one of the many vegetable plants that you can grow in the garden or large containers. You just need enough space and proper growing conditions for the fruit to harvest. The Plant can easily survive in warm weather conditions. It is mostly used in cooking recipes for its bitter taste and capable of absorbing fats & oil.

How to Grow Eggplants in Pots or containers?

Eggplants need much space so you can prefer large containers to grow. Here is the step by step procedure to grow eggplants in containers…

  • Choose a hybrid seed variety to grow in containers.
  • Prepare soil using potting mix and sandy soil.
  • Water the plant regularly and place it in sunlight to thrive quickly.
  • Proper care must be taken by using liquid fertilizers to deter pests and diseases.
  • Use the sharp knife to cut brinjals and store them in the refrigerator for few days.

Choose a variety:

Select a right variety seeds to grow them in containers. Generally, prefer a bulb shape variety that best suits to grow in your home.

Pot & Soil:

Purchase small pot of size 6 inches both width and depth to start sowing seeds. Seedling trays and plastic or clay pot make easier to transfer outdoors when the plant matures. A good mix of potting soil and one part sand is used to grow eggplants.

Water & Sunlight:

Water your seeds regularly to prevent the soil from drying out. Keep the pot or container in sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours a day. Eggplant will not germinate in cool temperature. To maintain an optimum temperature of 70-80F.

Planting:

When you place the seeds in pots about (1/4) inch deep under suitable conditions seedlings develops within 7-14 days. Now it is ready to transplant to large containers or outdoors. The plant matures and reaches to a height of 8 feet tall.

Nutrient deficiency

S. No Element Deficiency symptom
1 Nitrogen Light-green leaves, small and thin walls
2 Phosphorus Dark-green leaves, older leaves
3 Potassium Chlorosis, leaf margins become yellow
4 Calcium Interveinal chlorosis, necrotic leaf margins
5 Magnesium Interveinal chlorosis on older leaves

Pests & Diseases

Pests Diseases
Flea beetles Bacterial Wilt
Hornworm Leaf spot
Thrips Damping off
Aphids Fusarium wilt
Spider mites Powdery mildew
Whiteflies Anthracnose fruit rot

Fertilizers:

You can fertilize the plant only when it matures. Add liquid fertilizers once in every 2 weeks by adding it to the soil. You can also use organic fertilizers such as compost, cottonseed meal, well-rotted manure to boost quickly and prefer N-P-K fertilizers in the ratio of 5-10-5 at the base of the plant.

Harvesting:

Fruit should stop growing larger and it should be the size of an orange. Now they are ready to harvest after 2-3 months from seed sowing. Use the sharp knife or pruning shears to cut them. You can store them in the refrigerator for several days.

How to Propagate Eggplant from Cuttings?

Propagating eggplants is an easy and inexpensive way to produce new hybrid varieties from cuttings. The plant can survive for years when grown under suitable conditions. Propagation can be done by using root cutting method that allows rapid growth. For this take 6 inches stem and place it in a jar containing water. Now place the entire setup near window location to provide sunlight for 6-8 hours a day or maintain the temperature between 70-80 F. After few weeks the root develops and you can transplant it to outdoors. This cutting method takes less time to produce fruits when compared to the plants grown from seeds.

Eggplant Varieties

S. No Variety Specification Harvesting Time
1 Graffiti Purple and white stripes 70 days
2 Casper Ivory skinned and slightly elongated 70 days
3 Fairytale Lavender-white striped fruits 70-75 days
4 Little eggplant Small-slender fruit 60 days

Companion Plants

Companion planting is done to improve the growth of garden plants without using harmful chemicals. They just need little space and full sun to thrive faster. Because of its ever-lasting properties eggplants love to grow with basil, tomatoes, peppers, beans, lettuce, peas, potatoes and spinach.

Growing Tips

  • Add mulches to the soil to retain moisture levels.
  • Avoid overwatering as it may result in the plant to root rot.
  • Maintain the soil pH between 6.3 & 6.8 to boost the plant quickly.
  • Do not wait too long to harvest eggplants as the skin may become rough.
  • You can transplant it to outdoors when the plant matures to a certain height.
  • Make sure the container has holes at the bottom to leave excess water from it.
  • Keep children and pets away from plants when you use fertilizers for better plant growth.

Health Benefits of Eggplants

Eggplant Nutrition: Eggplant is a very good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. On serving 100 grams or a cup contains 25 calories and is cholesterol free. It is also rich in magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin K, dietary fiber, copper and vitamin B1. Change in nutrition occurs with the season and growing conditions.

Diabetes: Due to high fiber content eggplants are ideal for controlling sugar levels in the blood. It regulates glucose levels and insulin activity within the body.

Digestion: Consuming eggplant as a part of your diet is essential for gastrointestinal health, regular movements of bowels and smoothen the muscle contraction throughout the body. Fiber also stimulates the secretion of gastric juices that facilitates the absorption of nutrients and food processing in the stomach.

Cancer: A study shows that eating fruits and vegetables protects against several cancers like pancreatic, stomach, breast, prostate, Colon and lung cancer. So consuming eggplant that contains antioxidant properties help to fight against cancer cells in your body.

Bone health: There are numerous health benefits that come from eggplants to reduce the chances of affecting with bone degradation and osteoporosis. Phenol compounds are responsible for the coloration of fruits and vegetables to improve bone strength, bone mineral density, and overall health.

Heart health: Potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6 content in eggplants supports heart health. Studies show that consuming flavonoid-rich foods lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 34% compared to those who consume less.

Weight loss: Since eggplants are cholesterol free, it is healthy food for those who are trying to lose weight. It releases the compound called ghrelin and thereby reducing the chances of overeating.

Side effects: Here are the most common side effects of eating too much of eggplant that results in…

  • Nausea
  • Allergic reactions
  • Cause kidney stones
  • May lead to Abortion

Start growing eggplant that requires less space and monitors your health. If you have amazing ideas about growing eggplant in your home, please share your experience with us.

Recommended Readings:

  • How to Grow Okra plants at Home

Related:

How to Grow Papaya Tree in a Pot

How to grow: Eggplant

At a glance

Ease of culture: Easy
Where: All regions
Best climate: Warm to hot conditions
When: Spring and summer
Spacing: 50cm
Harvest: 3 months
pH: 5.5-7

Climate

• Eggplant is a warm-season crop. It needs temperatures between 21 and 30°C to do well
• It will grow year round in the tropics and most of the year in subtropical areas
• In temperate and cool zones, eggplant is grown from mid-spring to mid-autumn. Planting your crop in front of a north-facing wall will provide some of the additional heat they like, and extend your growing season

Soil

• Eggplant performs best in a rich, organic, free draining soil.
• Before planting, dig over the ground to a spade deep and fork in plenty of well-rotted compost and manure, and then mound the soil to improve the drainage.
• Eggplants prefer slightly acid conditions (ph 5.5-7) so there’s no need to add lime unless your soil is very acid. If your pH is higher than 7, add powdered sulphur to lower the pH.

Box: Family Medical History

Eggplants are in the same family (Solanaceae) as tomato, potato and capsicum, and share many of the same pests and diseases. To avoid build-up of pest and disease problems, avoid planting eggplant as an immediate follow up in beds where their cousins have been. Where possible, always rest these areas from other Solanaceae for a few seasons.

Sowing

• Planting is best done in spring and summer in most areas, but can also be done in autumn in the tropics.
• In cooler areas, it’s wise to plant as soon as the weather warms to take full advantage of the warmer months and maximise your returns. Also, give yourself a head start and plant seedlings rather than seed, which can take up to 3 weeks to germinate.
• While slow, eggplants grow readily from seed sown in pots of quality seed-raising mix, and allow you to grow interesting varieties not readily available as seedlings. Place pots in a warm protected spot and keep the mix moist until the seeds germinate. Seedlings can be planted out when 10cm tall, spaced 50cm apart.

Watering and fertilising

• Eggplants must be watered deeply and regularly during hot weather. Dry soil will lead to poor fruit production and splitting
• Mulch plants well to retain moisture
• Be careful not to overwater, which can cause root rot
• Fertilise with a balanced organic fertiliser every six weeks

Harvesting

• Eggplants start cropping 10-12 weeks after planting and continue fruiting while the weather is warm
• Fruit are ready to pick when firm and glossy
• Harvest young. Older fruit are bitter and contain large seeds, which make eating gritty
• Use secateurs to remove fruit to avoid plant damage

How To Container Grow Eggplant Plants

Eggplants are versatile fruits that belong to the nightshade family along with tomatoes and other fruits. Most are heavy, dense fruits on medium to large sized bushes which wouldn’t be appropriate for container grown eggplant. There are cultivars, however, that have been developed to be compact as an answer to the growing number of small space gardeners. These smaller plants provide a means to growing eggplant in containers.

Container Grown Eggplant

Modern breeding programs are answering the call of the limited space gardener. With the rise of upside down gardening, traditional container gardening has expanded its previous barriers. Eggplants in pots are as easy to grow as tomatoes in pots. They need large enough containers to support the roots of such a heavy plant, a well draining medium, extra food and consistent water and, of course, the right container. Container grown eggplant require large pots to facilitate their growth and provide room for the small bushes.

How to Container Grow Eggplant

One of the most important elements of container grown eggplant is the container. Choose a large pot with a 5-gallon capacity. Growing eggplant in containers requires 12 to 14 inches of space per plant or three plants can be placed in a 20-inch container. Unglazed pots dry out more quickly than glazed pots, but they also allow the evaporation of excess moisture. If you remember to water, choose the unglazed pot. If you are a forgetful waterer, choose the glazed pots. Make certain there are large, unblocked drainage holes.

Eggplant starts are the best way to go unless you live in a sunny climate as they will give you a jump start on the growing season. The best medium for container grown eggplant is two parts good quality potting soil and one part sand. This ensures adequate nutrients and water retention while encouraging draining of excess moisture.

Plant the eggplant at the same level they were in their nursery pots and put a handful of time release fertilizer in the hole at the time of planting. Water the pots well and install a small support system, like a tomato cage.

Quick Guide to Growing Eggplant

  • Plant eggplant when soil temps are above 50° F and all chances of frost have passed.
  • Space eggplant 24 to 36 inches apart and stake them once established to prevent toppling. Choose an area with abundant sunlight and fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Improve native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
  • Keep soil moist but not soggy—soaker hoses are a great option.
  • Keep your plants fed by feeding them regularly with a continuous-release plant food.
  • Apply a layer of mulch made from organic matter, such as finely ground leaves or bark, once plants reach 6 inches tall.
  • Harvest eggplant when fruits stop growing and their skin becomes glossy. Remove ripe fruit with gardening shears, leaving a small portion of the stem attached.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Eggplant loves warmth and grows best in very sunny, well-drained locations. Raised beds that have been filled with 100 percent organic Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil (which is just the right weight and texture for optimum root growth) or in-ground in soil that has been generously enriched with composted manure or aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil are ideal. When growing in pots, fill them with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains nutrient-filled compost.

Although their coarse, leathery leaves withstand hot weather in champion style, eggplants benefit from a generous mulch of hay, shredded leaves, or other biodegradable material beneath plants to keep the soil relatively cool and to hold moisture and keep down weeds. Because eggplant really needs warm soil to grow well, gardeners in cool climates often do best growing the plants in large, dark-colored containers. On a sunny day, soil temperatures inside black pots may be 10 degrees or more higher than in-ground soil temperatures. Row covers are also a good option in cool climates, or even to protect plants from cool spells in warm climates. Open the ends of the row covers on warm days to let the bees reach the flowers for help with pollination.

Eggplants grow into tall, angular plants, so they should be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. Improve planting holes by mixing in 2 inches of compost to help hold moisture and fertilizer in the soil. Set plants at the same depth at which they are growing in their containers, and water well before spreading mulch. To help keep plants strong and well fed, fertilize them regularly with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules, following label directions. Combining great soil with premium plant food is a surefire way to have lots of success growing eggplants.

In the case of a late cold spell, you may need to delay planting seedlings until cool weather passes. Should this happen, keep the plants in a sheltered, sunny spot outdoors during the day, and bring them indoors at night.

Be sure to keep plants watered or they will be small and bitter. They need a nice, steady supply of moisture but not so much that the soil is soggy. Drip systems or a soaker hose are ideal.

Eggplants are prone to falling over when loaded with fruit, so you may want to tie plants to stakes to keep them upright. If you drive a stake into the ground just an inch or two from the plant at the time of planting, you won’t disturb the plant by trying to do it later. You can also use small tomato cages to support the plants.

Growing eggplant in Florida is easy peasy as long as you get your timing right.

When do I plant eggplant in Florida? The best time to plant eggplant in Florida is April. Eggplant is a warm loving plant and cool weather will slow its growth. Florida friendly varieties are Black Beauty, Ichiban, and Long.

If the weather is not warm enough eggplant will patiently sit there until temperatures rise. Read on for some more basic care tips. How to fertilize eggplant, do I need to prune eggplant and how long does it take for eggplant to grow?

Best Time To Plant Eggplant In Florida

Eggplant likes warm weather but that doesn’t mean that it likes our Florida summers. The best time to plant is when our spring time starts to heat up but before the summer heat gets too intense.

I’m in central Florida and I’ve found the best time to plant is mid-April to the beginning of May. This is when I’ve seen the most growth for my plants.

Those in north Florida may have to wait a tiny bit longer and those in south Florida may be able to plant a little bit earlier.

I’ve found that when nighttime temperatures begin to rise is when my eggplant started to grow. I bought transplants from our local nursery in March and we had some nights down into the 50s and while my eggplant didn’t die, it certainly didn’t grow.

Florida Friendly Varieties Of Eggplant

There are loads of eggplant varieties. Black Beauty is the classic eggplant that you see in the store. But you can get a lot more creative with eggplant, there are white ones and there are long skinny ones and even small round ones.

  • Astrakom
  • Bambino (Dwarf)
  • Black Beauty
  • Casper
  • Dusky
  • Green Goddess (green fruit)
  • Ichiban
  • Long

The long variety of eggplant fruiting in central Florida at the end of May

The dwarf variety Bambino is great for those with limited space. They only grow up to about a foot tall and make small clusters of eggplants. They are great for kabobs!

This is not a complete list. There are all sorts of varieties out there. If you see some seeds that arent on this list I would say give them a try. All varieties of eggplant love warm weather and plenty of sun.

How Much Sun Does Eggplant Need?

The best spot to plant your eggplant is in a spot that gets at least 7-8 hours of sun. More sun certainly won’t kill your plant, they can take as much sun as you can give them.

However, if they are planted in part shade, meaning that they get around 4-6 hours of sun every day, your plant will just sit there. They will not produce a whole lot of growth.

4-6 hours of sunlight simply isn’t enough sun to energize a healthy productive eggplant.

When planting eggplant you can either direct sow your seeds right into the garden or you can buy transplants to put into your garden. Growing from seed is beneficial because you can choose a larger selection of varieties than what your local nursery offers.

When growing your eggplant UF recommends a spacing of about 2-3 feet per plant. I’ve found good luck growing my plants closer together than this. I’ve also seen others online give their eggplants less space than this but still have good results.

I think that if you give each plant about a foot and a half of space all the way around they will be perfectly fine.

When eggplants begin to mature they will be covered in fruit. This may cause your plant to slump to one side or the other. It’s a good idea to stake your plant before fruit begins to set.

Watering Eggplant

Eggplant is a drought tolerant plant. Some people say that they’ve let their eggplants soil get bone dry and they still have happy looking plants.

Even though eggplants are tolerant of a dry spell this doesn’t mean that you should ignore them. A well-watered eggplant will produce more fruits than one that is stressed with drought conditions.

Like most vegetables eggplant doesn’t like their roots to be drenched but they like a moist environment with good airflow.

Best Soil For Eggplant

A good soil will make watering easier and will make your plant happier. If you are planting directly into your Florida dirt I would suggest at the very least you add compost and a thick layer of mulch.

Adding these two things is never a bad idea.

I’ve had really good luck growing my eggplants in 10 gallon Cloth pots (Check price on Amazon) with a soil mixture that looks like this:

  • 40% Coco Coir (Check price on Amazon)
  • 40% Compost (You can get it on Amazon but I’ve found it way cheaper at local stores)
  • 20% perlite (Check price on Amazon)
  • Worm castings (Check price on Amazon)
  • Mykos (Check price on Amazon)

I’ve used peat moss instead of Coco coir in the past but I’ve recently switched to coco coir because it is less acidic and better for the environment while it serves the same purpose.

You can find compost and perlite pretty easy at your local box store but you may have a hard time finding worm castings and Mykos there. These two ingredients are 100% necessary but I think they add a nice boost that your plant will enjoy.

Worm castings are a high nitrogen fertilizer that will help your plants get started and Mykos is a beneficial fungus that helps your plants take up those nutrients. They are like a one-two punch.

Fertilizing Eggplant

Eggplant is in the same family as tomatoes and peppers. They should be fertilized the same.

Each nutrient does something different for your plant. The three numbers on the bag are the N-P-K values. Nitrogen(N) helps the plant produce green leafy growth, Phosphorus(P) helps the plant flower and produce fruit, and Potassium(K) boosts the plant’s overall health.

Eggplant flowering

When first planting I’ve found it helpful to fertilize with something that is more nitrogen focused. If you got worm castings with your soil mix then you are all set, but if you are in need of a nitrogen focused fertilizer I recommend Fish fertilizer (Check price on Amazon). This stuff is kinda stanky but my plants love it.

As soon as I see first fruit set I fertilize with a phosphorus focused fertilizer like bone meal(check price on Amazon). This will help the plant pump energy into making more flowers and fruits.

Harvesting

Eggplants can actully be harvested at anytime during it’s growth. The fruit does not need to ripen up. The only factor detering you from harvesting is size.

A small, baby eggplant will taste the same as a large fully mature eggplant.

Eggplant will grow to a set size depending on the variety that you are growing. You don’t want your eggplant to stay on your plant too long because if it does it will begin to taste bitter.

On average, from the time the fruit sets to the time it is fully mature, is usually about 30 days. You can tell that your eggplants are ready for harvesting by giving them a little squeeze.

If the fruits have some give to them and a firm press leaves an indentation than your eggplants are at the ideal condition for harvest.

Eggplant Pests In Florida

  • Aphids
  • Leafminers
  • Thrips
  • Whitefly

These are all common vegetable garden pests. They will feast on your eggplant as well as your peppers. Aphids are small greenish-yellow bugs that will cluster up under your leaves.

Leafminers burrow into the levaes if the plant to lay their eggs. They leave trails throughout the leaves.Thrips damage your plant’s leaves by laying their eggs on the underside. And White flies damage your plant by piercing your plant with their pointy mouth and spreading disease.

Neem oil and insecticidal soaps are good organic chemical controls (Check pest management in gardening essentials) However the best pest management is having a biodiverse garden. Planting Florida friendly plants that bring beneficial insects is the best pest defense.

If you want more info on attracting beneficial bugs to your Florida garden check out this post.

Growing Eggplant In Florida

  • Plant when the weather begins to warm right around April.
  • Florida friendly varieties of eggplant are Astrakom, Bambino, Black Beauty, Casper, Dusky, Green Goddess, Ichiban, Long
  • Plant in at least 7-8 hours of sun
  • Drought tolerant but for happier plants water regularly
  • Give each plant at least a foot and a half of space
  • Plant in organic-rich well-drained soil.
  • Fertilize with a nitrogen focused fertilizer until fruit sets, at this point switch to phosphorus focused fertilizer
  • Eggplants are usually ready for harvest 30 days after fruit set.

Florida Eggplant

Eggplant is a cold-sensitive vegetable that requires a long warm season for the best yield. It can be successfully grown in Florida gardens after the frost season has passed. It is a member of the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes peppers and tomatoes. Like tomatoes, eggplants grow hanging from the vines of a plant that grow several feet high. This fruit is botanically considered to be a berry, and can be grown from seed or transplants. The varieties that will thrive in Florida include ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Dusky’, ‘Long’, ‘Ichiban’, and ‘Cloud Nine’. After planting, stake the plants and water well. Eggplants will grow for approximately 16 to 24 weeks before they are ready to be harvested. They should be harvested once the fruit is glossy. Eggplants are not always purple; they can be black, white, lavender, and yellow too! What color will your eggplants be?

Now that you’re an expert on eggplants, learn how to make a simple Ratatouille when your garden is flourishing with nightshade vegetables! The USDA Mixing Bowl tells us how:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bell peppers (green, red, or yellow)
1 eggplant (peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (15 ounces)
1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan and saute onion, garlic, bell peppers and eggplant until tender, about 15 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes and basil, cook about 10 minutes. Add pepper and parsley before serving.
3. Serve hot. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours.

To learn more about eggplants visit:

Guide To Growing Eggplant

Alison Miksch

You don’t need to be to be an egghead to grow eggplants. They’re just as simple as their tomato cousins, and they like the same conditions. Plant them in a kitchen garden, or use one as the centerpiece of a flower-filled container. You’ll enjoy their star-shaped blooms and beautiful, delicious fruit.

Select
While “Black Beauty” is a common selection in grocery stores, consider venturing beyond the everyday sort. “Florida Market” is a prolific heirloom with excellent flavor, faring well in our long growing season. Expect to harvest many shiny, purplish black eggplants in about 85 days after setting out plants. “Clara” is a sight to behold, offering shiny white fruit with mild, creamy flesh in 65 days. Midsize “Dancer” (65 days) features striking, deep pinkish purple fruit. A smaller plant, it produces well through hot, humid summers and gets its second wind in fall. Look for these selections at your local garden center or online from rareseeds.com and johnnyseeds.com.

Plant
Eggplants thrive in 75-degree soil and sulk if planted too soon. To raise the soil temperature for early planting, mulch with black plastic or grow in dark-colored containers. Plants grow up to 3 feet tall, with large leaves and purple or white blossoms. The eye-catching fruit is quite attractive in flowerbeds and container gardens. Stake eggplants as you would peppers and tomatoes, so the heavy-laden plants don’t fall over.

Without a doubt, flea beetles will find your tasty crop, making pinholes in leaves that can do real damage. Deter their early-season arrival by shielding plants with row covers until they bloom (then remove them). Or use diatomaceous earth to dust leaves lightly, the same way Aunt Agnes powders her lemon squares with sugar. This organic pesticide works well, though it must be reapplied after a rainfall.

Harvest
Learning when to pick is a little tricky. Look for glossy skin versus the dull skin of overripe, bitter eggplant. Clip the thick, woody stem with snips, and enjoy the fruit while fresh. Eggplants are chameleons in the kitchen and useful in many forms. Sliced or diced, they are great for grilling, perfect pureed, simple to stir-fry, and a hearty addition to many Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

THE BASICS
Plant Set out plants two weeks after your area’s last spring frost.
Soil Plant in fertile, well-drained soil amended with organic matter, such as composted manure or chopped leaves.
Fertilize Use an organic product, such as Jobe’s Organics Vegetable & Tomato (2-7-4), according to label directions.

Enamoured of eggplant

What’s not to love about having eggplant in your garden? The fruit of this tropical perennial is a perfect addition to vege stews, an essential ingredient in Mediterranean moussaka and French ratoutielle, and great simply sliced, sprinkled with salt and barbecued.

Look in your vege garden for a well-drained and sunny position to grow your eggplant, otherwise known as aubergine.

If you planted capsicum and cucumbers recently like I recommended, try popping your eggplant seedlings next to them. They’re good companion plants, as they all like the same conditions.

They also like to hang their fruit, so grow well planted in a pot or raised garden bed.

Grab some Awapuni Nurseries eggplant seedlings next time you’re down at your local supermarket, Bunnings, or The Warehouse. Alternatively, head to our online store at and have them delivered direct to your door.

Simply plant each seedling around 20cm apart. If you don’t have a suitable raised bed or tub, add some straw or newspaper around the base of the plants to stop the fruit from sitting on damp soil and rotting.

To help your seedlings establish well, I recommend making some mini glasshouses out of old milk bottles for them. Cut the bottom off a recycled and clean milk bottle. Put the top over the plant but remove the lid to allow for a bit of wind circulation. Once they get growing you can remove the milk bottles.

The key with eggplants is not over watering. They like it quite dry and sunny and will rot if they get too much water. If you do water them, make sure you avoid overhead watering.

In around February, your fruit should be ready to harvest. For a tasty addition to your late summer BBQs, simply slice the fruit into about six to eight pieces (around 1cm thick each), brush with olive oil on both sides and barbeque. Once cooked, add some rock salt for taste and serve as a side.

Lastly, although eggplant is technically a perennial (a plant that dies down and pops up again for many growing seasons), in New Zealand it tends to behave like an annual because of our temperate climate, which means once you’ve harvested all your fruit simply remove the plants and replant next year.