Growing eggplant (also known as aubergine) can be a fun and rewarding experience for any gardener. Eggplant is a versatile and tasty vegetable that can be used in a variety of dishes, making it a popular choice for home gardeners.
If you’ve decided to grow eggplant in your vegetable garden this year, you’ll be pleased to learn that it’s not as difficult as you might think.
In this post, we’ll cover the basics of how to grow eggplant, including choosing the right sunlight and temperature requirements, what soil to use, how to plant eggplant and care for it, and when to harvest your crop.
We’ll even give some eggplant recipes to try! Keep reading to learn all about growing eggplant.
Eggplant is a vegetable that belongs to the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. There is even a dish featuring all three vegetables called ratatouille.
In warm locations, the vegetable is grown as a perennial but in most areas of the US, it is treated as an annual.
It is a popular ingredient in many cuisines, including Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian. It can be grilled, roasted, sautéed, fried, or used in stews and casseroles.
Eggplant is also a common ingredient in vegetarian and vegan dishes, as it can substitute as a meat replacement in many recipes.
Health benefits of eggplant
Eggplant is native to India, but has become popular in many parts of the world due to its versatile taste and nutritional value.
It is low in calories, but rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, vitamin C, and folate.
Eggplant vs aubergine
If you have ever wondered “are eggplant and auburgine the same vegetable,” here is the answer to your question!
Eggplant and aubergine are two names for the same vegetable, which has the botanical name: Solanum melongena.
People who live in North America typically refer to the vegetable as “eggplant,” while those who live in Europe and Asia often call it “aubergine.”
There is no difference between the two in terms of the plant itself or its nutritional value. The difference in names is simply a matter of regional and cultural preference.
Tips for growing eggplant
Eggplant is a relatively easy crop to grow, and can be grown in the ground, in containers, or in raised garden beds.
Let’s check out the requirements for this popular vegetable, step by step. By following these tips, you can help ensure a successful crop of eggplant.
Sunlight and temperature requirements for eggplant
Eggplant needs plenty of sun to grow and thrive, so choose a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
This vegetable is a warm-season crop that requires a long growing season, and is typically planted in late spring or early summer. If you are growing eggplant from seed, they can be started indoors about eight weeks before your last spring frost.
When to plant eggplant? Simple – do not put eggplant transplants into the garden until well after the last expected frost for your area and the temperatures are consistently above 50° F (10°C) .
Eggplants grow most quickly when temperatures are between 70° – 85°F (21° – 30°C). During cool weather, their growth is much slower.
Varieties of eggplant
There are many types of eggplant that you can grow. Here are some popular varieties:
- Black Beauty: One of the most common and popular varieties of eggplant. It produces large, dark purple, oval-shaped fruit that are rich and meaty, with a mild flavor.
- Japanese: This variety of eggplant is long and slender, with a thin, delicate skin. It has a sweet and mild flavor, and is often used in Asian cooking.
- Rosa Bianca: An Italian heirloom variety which has a unique, round shape and a striking pink and white striped skin. It has a creamy texture and a mild, sweet flavor.
- Indian: This type of eggplant is small and round, with a glossy, dark purple skin. It has a slightly bitter taste and is often used in Indian curries and other dishes.
- Long Purple: As the name suggests, this variety of eggplant is long and slender, with a deep purple skin. It has a mild flavor and tender flesh, and is great for grilling or roasting.
- Fairy Tale: This petite eggplant variety is small and round, with a glossy, deep purple skin. It has a sweet and nutty flavor, and is perfect for grilling or roasting whole.
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Planting and caring for eggplant
The best soil for eggplants is one that drains well and is very loamy. Adding compost, manure or other organic matter will help in this regard.
Raised garden beds with soil that has been enriched with compost or manure is an ideal growing place to grow eggplants because the soil in this type of beds warms more quickly than soil at ground level.
Eggplant also prefers slightly acidic soil, so aim for a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. A soil test kit will tell you what the soil pH in your garden is.
Eggplant seeds must be sown indoors at least 8 weeks before the plants are set out, or you can purchase small transplants at planting time.
When choosing transplants, pick those in individual pots so that the soil is disturbed the least when you plant them. Check that the stems are green and pliable, not woody.
Place eggplant seeding transplants into the soil 18 – 24 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart, since the plants will get quite large. Water well after planting and add a layer of mulch to retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and keep weeds under control.
Black plastic mulch is a good choice because it protects from weeds and also warms the soil.
Watering and fertilizing eggplant
Water eggplant deeply and infrequently. The plant likes 1-2 inches of water a week.
Drip irrigation or soaker hoses give the best results, rather than watering from above. Be sure to water so that moisture goes deeply into the soil.
Take special care about watering during the periods of fruit setting and developing, which are crucial times for consistent moisture. It’s also important to keep the water up in hot, dry weather.
Eggplants which do not receive enough water may grow into weird shaped fruit.
Apply a balanced fertilizer every 2 weeks or so. A fertilizer too high in nitrogen will produce lush foliage growth rather than fruits.
Since eggplants hang from the branches of a plant that can grow several feet in height, staking is important for best results.
Choose sturdy stakes that will support a plant up to 3 feet tall. Bamboo stakes or those made out of metal are durable and will support the weight of the plants and their fruit.
Place the stakes into the ground when the plants are young. Doing this will ensure that the eggplant stems won’t become too brittle or break easily.
Use soft twine or Velcro plant ties to attach the plants to the stakes. Make sure to tie them loosely, since the stems will expand as they grow.
When the plants grow, gently guide them up the stake, using additional ties as needed. Be careful not to tie the plants too tightly, as this can damage the stems.
To keep the plants from becoming too top-heavy, you can prune off any excess growth or fruit as needed. This will help to keep the plants balanced and upright.
Eggplant size and color of fruits
We normally think of eggplant fruits in the familiar dark purple color, but they also come in pink, green, white, plant and variegated colors.
The size of eggplants ranges from large fruits that are gourd-shaped to long slender varieties that come from Japanese eggplant.
To encourage the plant to produce larger fruits, limit each plant to just 5 or 6 fruits. You can do this by pinching off any extra flowers that develop.
The plants can grow 2-5 feet tall and the standard fruits range from 6-9 inches, although some varieties are smaller.
Growing companion plants for eggplant
Companion planting is the practice of growing different plants together in the same garden bed. The goal of doing so is to improve the plant’s health and productivity. Here are some companion plants that can benefit eggplants:
- Beans are a great companion plant for eggplants, since they can help to replace nitrogen in the soil, which can benefit the growth and productivity of the eggplants.
- Basil is a good companion plant to use when growing eggplant, since it can help to repel pests like thrips, spider mites, and aphids. It is also thought that the flavor of eggplants is improved when basil is grown nearby.
- Marigolds are another good companion plant for eggplants, since they can help to repel nematodes and other soil-borne pests. Also, the bright flowers of marigolds can attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings, which can help to control other pests in the garden.
- Nasturtiums planted near eggplants will attract beneficial insects to the plant.
Avoid planting eggplants in the vicinity of peppers and tomatoes, since they both suffer from the same soil-borne diseases.
Common pests and diseases for eggplant
Like any garden vegetable, eggplants are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. Here are some common ones can affect eggplants:
- Cutworms are caterpillars that can cause damage to various types of plants, including eggplants. Make collars out of cardboard or newspaper around the base of the plant to prevent them from crawling up the stems of eggplants.
- Flea beetles can cause significant damage to eggplant leaves and stems, leaving small holes and causing wilting. Control them with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Also be sure to control garden weeds and clean up debris at the end of the season.
- Spider mites are tiny pests that can be difficult to see with the naked eye, but which can cause significant damage to eggplant leaves by sucking the sap and causing yellowing and wilting. They also can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
- Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects which can be found in large clusters on eggplant leaves and stems, and can cause stunted growth and distortion of leaves. As with the two pests above, aphids can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Ladybugs also love to eat them!
- Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that can cause yellowing and wilting of eggplant leaves, as well as stunted growth and a reduced crop. Plant disease-resistant varieties and practice good crop rotation to keep this disease away.
- Fusarium wilt is fungal disease that also causes yellowing and wilting of eggplant leaves, as well as a brown discoloration of the stem. It also can be prevented by planting disease-resistant varieties and practicing good crop rotation.
- If your eggplants encounter sudden wilting and then die, the culprit may be bacterial wilt. This bacterial disease can spread quickly throughout the garden. Practice good sanitation and plant disease-resistant varieties to help prevent this disease.
- When your eggplant develops brown leaf spots with concentric rings, early blight is likely to be the cause. Crop rotation, pruning off lower branches and staking eggplants will help to keep this from developing.
Eggplant harvest time is 65-80 from transplanting to picking the crops, depending on the variety you choose. If you start from seed, the eggplant growing season is 100 to 120 days before it’s time to harvest.
Eggplants taste best when harvested young. Over-ripe and under-ripe fruits can taste bitter.
Knowing when to harvest takes a bit of skill. Signs of readiness that it’s time to pick your eggplant are:
- fruits that do not spring back when you put gentle pressure on them with your fingers
- skin that is glossy, unwrinkled and uniform in color
To harvest eggplants use garden gloves, since the tops of eggplant fruits can be prickly.
Cut off the fruit with a sharp knife, pruners, or a pair of sharp scissors. Never pull the fruit off the plant, since you may also pull off some of the stem.
Make a cut close to the stem, leaving about an inch of the stem attached. Place the harvested eggplants in a cool place and use them as soon as possible, since eggplants do not store well.
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Cooking with eggplant
Are you looking for some delicious and healthy recipes to make with the eggplant that you have grown?
This versatile vegetable is a staple in many cuisines around the world and can be used in a variety of dishes, from appetizers to main courses.
Eggplant is also delicious seasoned with garlic out and rosemary and grilled.
In this list, we’ve compiled a few of the tastiest and most creative recipes featuring eggplant as the star ingredient.
- Vegan Lasagne With Eggplant and Mushrooms
- Stuffed Eggplant with Ground Beef
- Cheesy Eggplant Lasagna
- Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
- Easy Eggplant Parmesan with Home Made Marinara Sauce
Growing eggplant is a great way to add something different to your vegetable garden. With its delicious flavor, numerous health benefits, and versatility in the kitchen, eggplant is a vegetable that deserves a place in every backyard garden.
Why not give it a try and discover the joys of growing eggplant in your garden?
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Admin note: this post for growing and planting eggplant first appeared on the blog in April of 2013. I have updated the post to add all new photos, a project card with growing tips, and a video for you to enjoy.
Growing Eggplant - From Seed to Harvest
Eggplant, is a vegetable that belongs to the nightshade family. In warm locations, the vegetable is grown as a perennial but in most areas of the US, it is treated as an annual.
Follow these tips, and you can help ensure a successful crop of eggplant.
Print out the growing tips below and add them to your garden journal.
- Eggplant seedlings
- Organic matter or compost
- Hose or watering can
- Choose a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours or sunlight a day.
- Add organic matter to the soil and till well.
- Plant seedlings 18 - 24 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart.
- Water consistently. Eggplants like 1-2 inches of water a week, particularly when setting fruit.
- Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer every two weeks.
- Mulch the plant well.
- Eggplants are a warm loving crop that like temperatures between 70° – 85°F (21° – 30°C)
- Stake the plants well to support the weight of the fruits.
- For larger fruits, allow just 5-6 fruits per plant. Prune any extra flowers.
- Eggplants grown from seedlings are ready to harvest in 65- 80 days, depending on variety.
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