Like its relative the green pepper and the tomato, eggplant is a warm season crop. It’s an excellent source of dietary fiber and a very good source of vitamins B1, B6, and potassium. Eggplant is also a potent antioxidant. Besides, it tastes great. If you have plenty of sunshine and a long growing season it’s a very satisfying crop to grow.
Starting to Grow Eggplants
Because eggplants need warmth to grow, they are best started indoors from seeds and transplanted after the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees F and the danger of frost has past. Gardeners can buy transplants or grow their own from seed. One advantage of growing eggplants from seed is that you have more choice because specialty seed growers offer different varieties—ranging from the standard Black Beauty to large, white ovals like Casper and Easter Egg to long, slim purple fruits like Long Purple and Ichiban.
Planting and Care for Eggplants
Harden off your seedlings before you plant them. You can get them used to living outdoors by putting them outside in the shade for a few hours a day and gradually increasing their exposure. To protect seedlings from an unexpected cold snap cover the plants—plastic milk or water jugs work great.
Eggplants need full sun and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add compost or rotten manure to each hole before planting. Give plants 24 inches in all directions, less for small varieties.
Once the plants are established mulch them to keep the soil moist and warm and the weeds under control.
Eggplant Pests and Diseases
Your dreams of Eggplant Parmesan will be gone in an instant if cutworms slice through the stems of young plants. Remove all weeds from the garden plot a couple of weeks before planting. Then place a cutworm collar around each plant—used paper or plastic cups, tin cans, and plastic containers work great. Row covers can also keep flew beetles off your plants. Spraying with insecticidal soap is usually enough to dislodge aphids and keep them away. If you find caterpillars just pick them off.
Plant resistant varieties to keep leaf spot and fruit rot at bay. Avoid overwatering and keep plants well spaced to deter fungal diseases.
When the skin turns glossy your eggplants are ready to eat. Start harvesting when the fruits are a third of their full size, and continue until the skin starts turning dull and crinkly.
Want more information about growing eggplants?
Every state has a cooperative extension service, which is an ideal source of information for growing eggplants in your climate and location. Find the extension office nearest you through the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
In addition, be sure to check out these articles on eggplants:
The Growing Eggplant in the Home Garden has lots of information available from Ohio Cooperative Extension.
The Eggplant is also a great resource for help and tips from Illinois Cooperative Extension.