Eggplant is a very tender warm season perennial grown as an annual. Grow eggplant in the warmest, frost-free time of the year. The edible fruit can be long and slender or round or egg-shaped fruit. The fruit is creamy-white, yellow, brown, purple, or sometimes almost black. Here is your complete guide to growing eggplant!
Eggplant Quick Growing Tips
Eggplants grow 18 to 36 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide. Each plant produces 3 to 4 well-developed fruits weighing up to 2 pounds each. Eggplants require a long growing season of 100 to 140 warm days with air temperatures consistently between 70° and 90°F (21-32°C) to reach harvest.
– Eggplant is best started indoors and later transplanted into the garden; sow eggplant indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date or the time you plan to set plants into the garden.
– Transplant seedlings into the garden no sooner than 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost in spring.
Where to Plant Eggplant
– Grow eggplants in a sunny location. Ten hours of sunlight each day is essential for the best growth.
– Eggplants grow best in loamy soil or sandy loam that is rich in organic matter and well drained. Add aged compost or commercial organic planting mix to planting beds ahead of planting and turn the soil to 12 inches (30cm) deep.
– Eggplants prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Perform a soil test ahead of plating to know the soil pH.
– Warm the soil in advance of planting by laying black plastic over planting beds for two weeks.
Starting Eggplants Indoors
Start eggplants from seed indoors about 8 weeks before setting seedlings in the garden.
– Sow seed in individual containers or flats. Sow eggplant seed ¼ to ½ inch (12mm) deep spaced 4 to 5 inches (10-12cm) apart. Sow seeds in a moistened seed starting mix. Place a plastic dome or plastic wrap over the seed starting tray to retain warmth and moisture until seedlings emerge.
– Eggplant seeds germinate in about 5 to 6 days.
– Give seedlings started indoors 12 hours of light each day.
Transplanting Eggplants into the Garden
Transplant eggplants into the garden 2 to 3 weeks after the last spring frost. Warm soil is essential for young plants to become established.
– Harden off seedlings before transplanting them in the garden; set them outdoors in a sunny spot for an hour or two the first day, then increase the time outdoors each day so that they become acclimatized.
– Make a planting hole twice the width of the root ball and half again as deep. Moisten the hole before transplanting.
– Sprinkle a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 organic fertilizer in the bottom of the hole and cover lightly with aged compost or planting mix. Then set the seedling in place.
Caring for Eggplants
– Eggplants require evenly moist soil to ensure the best and fastest growth. Do not allow the soil to dry out and do not overwater. Give plants at least 1 inch of water every week. Bitter flavor is often the result of plants being water stressed.
– Eggplants are heavy feeders. Prepare planting beds by adding aged compost and well-rotted organic mulch. Side-dress eggplants with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion every 2 or 3 weeks until the fruit has set and then every 3 to 4 weeks after.
– The time to harvest fruit is 100 to 150 days from sowing seed and 70 to 85 days from planting transplants. Fruit production and harvest can be slowed by cloudy or cool days during the growing season.
– Eggplants are ready for harvest and will have the best flavor when the fruit is firm and full-colored with glossy skin. Eggplants with no seeds are immature. Fruits with hard, dark seeds are overripe. Eggplants that are under or overripe will have a bitter taste.
– Cut eggplants from the stem with a pruning shear or sharp knife. Leave a short stub of stem about 2 inches long attached to the fruit. Wear gloves when harvesting eggplant fruits; there can be sharp thorns around the stems and calyx.
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