by Jennifer Poindexter
Japanese eggplant is a unique vegetable used for a variety of dishes. It varies from the traditional globe eggplant grown in most US gardens.
If you’re interested in growing something different, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to walk you through what you should know to grow this plant.
Whether you’re looking for a unique harvest, different flavors in your kitchen, or are interested in sharpening your gardening skills, this could be a good plant for you to grow.
Here’s what you should know about growing the Japanese eggplant in your home garden:
What You’ll Learn
- Understanding the unique qualities of the Japanese eggplant and how it differs from traditional globe eggplants.
- Essential growing conditions for Japanese eggplants, including preferred temperatures, sunlight requirements, and soil characteristics.
- Detailed steps on how to plant Japanese eggplants, from starting your seeds indoors to transplanting them outdoors.
- Key insights on caring for Japanese eggplants, including watering, fertilizing, mulching, and providing support.
- How to handle common pests and diseases that could impact Japanese eggplants and how to prevent them.
- Techniques on when and how to harvest Japanese eggplants for optimal flavor and continued growth.
Growing Conditions for Japanese Eggplant
Japanese eggplants are long, skinny, and come in various colors which range from purple, green, black, and even pink.
These vegetables have a softer skin, a sweet flavor, and don’t require as much seasoning as traditional globe eggplants.
Japanese eggplants are shaped similarly to a cucumber and unlike other eggplant varieties, the skin isn’t typically removed before cooking due to its tenderness.
Like other eggplants, this variety doesn’t do well in cold weather. It can’t handle frost or freezing temperatures and should be grown when the daytime temperatures are 75-degrees Fahrenheit or warmer and the soil is 50-degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.
Be sure to grow Japanese eggplant in a location which receives full sunlight. This should equate to six or more hours of bright, direct light each day.
You should also select soil that’s well-draining and loamy as these plants don’t like being left in oversaturated growing conditions.
If you can supply these few needs, you could have a wonderful harvest of Japanese eggplant. This could lead to lots of adventurous cooking and tasty dishes.
How to Plant Japanese Eggplant
Japanese eggplants are typically grown in late spring after the threat of frost is over. You may start these plants outdoors after this time, but it’s recommended to start your seeds indoors eight weeks prior.
If you’d like to start your seeds indoors, fill a growing tray with well-draining soil. Poke a small hole in the soil and place two seeds per cell.
Lightly cover the seeds and cover the top of the tray with plastic wrap. Fill a second growing tray with a small amount of water and place the planted tray inside it.
The idea is for the plants to absorb the water from beneath and for the plastic to create a greenhouse effect.
Once the soil is damp, pour off any excess water. Add more water to the bottom tray as-needed to ensure the seedlings don’t dry out.
Keep the growing tray in a warm location until the seeds sprout. This should take approximately ten days.
When the seedlings are growing, place them in a location where they’ll receive bright, indirect light. Continue to supply water to the plants until all threat of frost is over, and they have two sets of true leaves.
At this point, you can begin hardening the plants off for one week before transplanting outdoors. When you’re ready to transplant, create holes with a depth of 1-inch and leave 2- to 3-feet between each plant.
Place the plant in the hole, backfill it, and press firmly around the base. Water the plants deeply to encourage the roots to establish.
Once your plants are in the ground, it’s time to learn how to care for them properly to encourage a larger harvest.
Caring for Japanese Eggplant
Begin by watering your Japanese eggplants deeply. This means you should apply water for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.
By doing this, it encourages the plants to dig deeper into the soil to retrieve water. In turn, the plants develop a deeper and stronger root system which should correlate to healthier plants.
Next, you should apply a balanced fertilizer to your plants during periods of growth and fruiting. By applying a balanced fertilizer, you’re encouraging the plant to fruit.
It’s important to use a balanced fertilizer and follow the instructions on the packaging for application because if you supply too much nitrogen, you’ll have a bushy plant with no fruit.
Once your plants are watered and fed, it’s time to discuss mulching. By applying a layer of mulch around your plants, this should help keep the soil cool and the weeds down.
In doing so, you’re creating a growing space with less competition and fewer spaces for pests and diseases to hide.
Finally, your Japanese eggplants may need support. If they become too large for their stem to keep upright, add a stake next to the plants to provide an extra layer of support.
These are the few things you must do to encourage better health among your Japanese eggplants. Provide this extra care to your plants, and you should see quite the difference in your garden.
Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact Japanese Eggplant
Almost every plant faces a pest or disease in the garden. Japanese eggplant is no different. The most common issues to impact these plants are flea beetles, spider mites, aphids, and verticillium wilt.
Should you spot any type of pest, treat it with an insecticide upon the initial sighting. This should avoid the issue from growing.
Many times, you may spray your plant with soapy water to dislodge the pests and disrupt their homes they’ve made in your plants.
Stay on top of pest issues as they can quickly grow out of hand and severely impact the health of your crops.
Verticillium wilt is the main disease which disrupts this plant. It’s a fungal disease that has no cure at this time.
If your plants show signs of this ailment, it’s best to remove the impacted plants from the garden and destroy them to avoid further spreading the issue by composting them.
Try to deter fungal disease by planting in areas of warmth with well-draining soil and ensuring your crops have adequate airflow. These are a few ways to head off fungal issues.
Take these steps to protect your crops from pests and diseases and hopefully, you can make it through the growing season without any major set-backs.
Harvesting Japanese Eggplant
The last thing to discuss about growing Japanese eggplants is how to harvest them. It takes around eighty days to reach harvest with this plant.
You’ll know it’s time to harvest when the fruit is smooth and shiny. Use a pair of sharp, clean shears to cut the fruit away from the plant.
Leave approximately 2-inches of the stem on the plant to encourage more growth. Bring your harvest indoors and store it in your fridge.
It’s wise to wrap it in a paper towel to help absorb any condensation from sitting in the refrigerator. Use the Japanese eggplants within a few days to avoid losing your harvest.
This is how you can grow, care for, and harvest Japanese eggplant. If you’re used to the large, round eggplants this might be a nice change.
Why not try something a little sweeter and smaller for a range of flavors in your meals? Give Japanese eggplants a try and see if they deserve a space in your garden each year.
Japanese Eggplant Harvest and Storage Quick Reference Guide
|Harvesting & Storage||Description|
|Ideal Length||6 to 8 inches|
|Ideal Color||Glossy Shine|
|Optimum Storage Temp. (°F)||40 – 50|
|Optimum Humidity (%)||Near 85|
|Storage Life (days)||7 to 10|
- Japanese eggplants are versatile vegetables that have a sweeter flavor and softer skin compared to traditional eggplants.
- They require warm temperatures, full sunlight, well-draining loamy soil, and cannot tolerate frost or freezing conditions.
- Seeds can be started indoors, providing a moist environment and a greenhouse effect to encourage sprouting.
- Care involves deep watering, applying balanced fertilizer, mulching, and providing support for the plant.
- It’s important to remain vigilant for pests like flea beetles, spider mites, aphids, and diseases like verticillium wilt.
- Harvesting should take place around 80 days, when the fruit is smooth and shiny. Cut the fruit away from the plant, leaving about 2-inches of the stem to encourage more growth.
- Experimenting with Japanese eggplants in your home garden can introduce new flavors to your meals and broaden your gardening skills.