How to Plant Eggplants in Your Garden

 


A Simply Vegetable to Grow

Eggplants are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Eggplants are grown globally and are enjoyed all over the world. There are several types of eggplants. Some of the most common types are the dark purple variety which can almost be black in colour. They are shaped either round or oblong, or can be slender and straight. There are also other varieties which are white, scarlet and yellow or golden in color.

Eggplants aren’t just for eating; they also come in ornamental varieties that are edible and make for great conversational pieces on your table and in the garden. Eggplants are hot weather crops. They are usually planted after the last day of frost (if you live in the South Island) and are often started indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. They are then transplanted in spring. Eggplants can be planted twice in a year, with a second setting in mid summer. This crop is started outdoors.

To Grow Eggplants You Will Need:

  • Eggplant seeds
  • Seed bed
  • Compost and manure
  • Hand trowel
  • Mulch

Sunlight

Eggplants love full sun, so choose a location that is sunny. Seeds need to be sowed indoors first in a seedbed then transplanted shallow at about ¼ to ½ inch below ground surface in the chosen location. Space them about 1 ½ feet apart in rows spaced 2 to 2 ½ feet apart.

Soil Prep

The soil needs to have plenty of compost and manure, and kept moist as eggplants thrive in rich moist soil. Turn the soil and mix in general purpose fertilizer. Additional applications must be done every three to four weeks.

Once the plants have been transplanted into the soil, add mulch to provide additional nutrients and moisture retention. This will also help keep the area free of weed, and reduce competition between the eggplant and weed for sunlight and nutrients.

Hardiness

Eggplants are hot weather crops that do not survive well in cold temperatures and frost. You should wait until night-time temperatures in spring are in the upper forties before you start planting. If you decide to start the season early anyway, consider using hotcaps to help the seedlings start during cool nights. To extend the harvest season into fall, provide frost protection forth plants.

Most varieties of eggplants take approximately 55 to 70 days to mature. Others may take longer.

Varieties of Eggplants

Below lists recommended varieties of eggplant that you can cultivate in your garden:

Varieties Day to Maturity Description
Large Oval Fruit Varieties
Dusky 60 good size, early production
Epic 64 tear-drop shaped
Black Bell 68 Round to oval shape, productive variety.
Black Magic 72
Classic 76 Elongated oval, high quality
Black Beauty 80
Burpee Hybrid 80
Ghostbuster 80 White, slightly sweeter than purple types; 6 – 7 inch oval
Elongated Fruit
Ichiban 70
Slim Jim 70 lavender, turning purple when peanut-sized; good in pots
Little Fingers 68 15-20 cms long; slim fruit in clusters
Ornamental Fruit
Easter Egg 52 small white, egg-sized, shaped, turning yellow at maturity; edible ornamental

Note: A family of 4 that eats eggplant often should have about three to six plants.

Starting the Seeds Indoors

  • You need to start the seeds two months before the final spring frost date. Begin by filling a plastic seed tray with sterile seed-starting soil mix. Ensure that the soil is moist.
  • Place the eggplant seeds and cover with 1/8 inch of starting mix.
  • Moisten the soil again with water and cover the tray with a clear plastic cover. This is to help keep the tray humidity level high.

Note: Keep the soil temperature between 23 to 29 degrees C.

  • When the seeds germinate, expose the seedlings to grow lights for up to 16 hours each day. You can also place the seedlings near a window that allows sunlight in from a south facing direction. Once the seedlings develop their first true leaves, add in all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer.

To introduce the seedlings outdoors, place them outside in the shade for a couple of hours before bringing them back in. increase the amount of time they are left outside as the week progresses.

Transplant the Seedlings

  • After two months (8 weeks), the seedlings should be hardened enough for transplant to the garden.
  • Prepare the soil outdoors with about 5-10-10 fertilizer and work into the soil bed before you plant your seedlings.
  • Dig a hole that is the same depth as the starting tray for the seedling and transplant it 18 inch apart from each other in rows 24 inch apart.
  • Water the plants well.
  • Use starter fertilizer when you transplant the eggplant the first time around.

Caring, Maintenance and Harvesting

Use nitrogen fertilizer twice during the course of the season, once when the plants are half grown, and a second time around after harvest of the first fruits. While eggplants are hot weather crops and can withstand dry weather when they are established, ensure that they are properly irrigated during dry periods to ensure production.The soil should be kept moist consistently. Do not allow the soil to dry out, ad protect the eggplant from flea beetles by covering them with floating row covers.

Eggplants should be harvested when they grow about one-third to one-half their mature size.

Quick Tip

To find out whether the eggplant is ready for harvest, gently press the skin with a finger. The eggplant is ready for picking if the pressed spot stays indented. Use pruning shears to cut the fruit from the vine.

Eggplants are susceptible to aphids, red spider mites and whiteflies. Use garden dusts like Sevin to effectively counter insects and pest infestation.

Eggplants are one of the most popular vegetables around. They are easy to grow and provide a great complimentary dish at the dinner table. There is nothing more rewarding than to be able to cultivate your own crop of eggplant and enjoy the fruits (literally) of your labor come harvest season.

 

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