Beautiful big plants for a decorative container in the sunshine, eggplants are as diverse as the cultures that cook with them – and quite easy to grow. Eggplants are a good companion for amaranth, beans, marigolds, peas, peppers, spinach, and thyme. Do not plant eggplants near fennel. Continue reading below to learn how to grow eggplants.
Season & Zone
Season: Warm season
Sow indoors in the four weeks following the last frost date. Use bottom heat, and keep seedlings warm. Optimal soil temperature: 24-32°C (75-90°F). Seeds should sprout in 7-12 days.
Sow seeds 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep. Use individual peat or coir pots to reduce root disturbance when transplanting. Transplant after night time temperatures are steadily 10°C (50°F) or warmer. Space with 45-60cm (18-24″) between plants. Medium size (3-5 gallon) containers for individual plants also work well.
Days to Maturity: From transplant date.
Ideal pH: 5.5-6.0. Soil should have abundant phosphorus and calcium, so add lime and compost to the soil three weeks prior to transplanting. Mix ¼-½ cup of complete organic fertilizer into the soil beneath each transplant. Using a clear plastic cloche or floating row cover helps growth by increasing heat. Cool temperatures increase leafy growth, but delay fruit set. Once most eggplants get going in the summer, they are highly productive right up until the first frosts.
Pinch off blossoms 2 to 4 weeks before first expected frost so that plants focus on ripening any existing fruit, not producing new ones. Harvest the fruit anytime after the fruit reaches half of their size. Harvesting early prevents fruit from becoming too seedy, and will encourage more production from the plants.
Do not pull the fruit off the plant, but cut it with scissors or secateurs, being careful to avoid any sharp spurs at the stem end.
In optimal conditions at least 65% of the seeds will germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years.
Diseases & Pests
Aphids – A hard spray of water can be used to remove aphids from plants. Wash off with water occasionally as needed early in the day. Check for evidence of natural enemies such as grey-brown or bloated parasitized aphids and the presence of larvae of lady beetles and lacewings. If the plants are healthy, aphids will probably never be a problem.
Flea beetles – Control weeds. Use row covers to help protect plants from early damage. Put in place at planting and remove before temperatures get too hot or plants start to flower.
Colorado potato beetles – Handpick beetles, larvae and eggs.
Cutworms – Use cardboard collars around transplants it cutworms are a problem.
Verticillium wilt – This is the most serious disease of eggplant. Remove and destroy an entire infested plant, along with immediately surrounding soil and soil clinging to roots. Set into soil where you have never planted tomatoes, peppers, or strawberries
Tobacco Mosaic Virus – Young growth is malformed and leaves are mottled with yellow. To prevent it, wash hands after handling tobacco (including Nicotiana), before touching plants. Control aphids, which spread the disease.
Eggplants are a good companion for amaranth, beans, marigolds, peas, peppers, spinach, and thyme. Do not plant eggplants near fennel.
More on Companion Planting.