A beautiful, tropical addition to the Nightshade family, eggplant needs a long, hot season to set fruit. Offering fruits in colors of dark purple, lavender and white, eggplants are sure to add a special treat in containers and garden. They are extremely sensitive to temperatures below 55°F and are best protected until the weather warms up.
Eggplants require full sun, at least 7 hours of direct sun, and rich, well‐drained soil. Prepare the planting area by mixing 2‐3” of composted manure and lime into the top 4‐6” of the soil. Mix in an all‐purpose granular fertilizer and lime in the bottom of each planting hole.
You can start seeds indoors mid February through March, 6‐8 weeks before desired transplanting date. Sow seeds 1⁄4” deep and cover with a fine layer of soil. Bottom heat will help them spout faster. Transplant seedlings into 4” pots when they have two sets of true leaves. Harden off your seedlings two weeks before desired transplanting date.
Eggplants thrive in warm, dry weather and are best planted outdoors late May through June when soil It helps to warm the soil first by covering the planting area with 1‐2” of compost, plastic mulch or cold frame. Eggplant growth is stunted by temperatures below 55°F, so it is best to protect new plants with a cold frame, cloche or cozy coat product until temperatures are consistently warmer. Set out plants 12‐18” apart in rows 2‐3’ apart. Water in new plants with liquid seaweed or B1.
Keep new beds well weeded and slightly moist. You can cover new plantings with floating row cover for 3‐4 weeks to prevent flea beetles and other insects. Plastic or organic mulches can help heat the soil, retain moisture and prevent blight. It also helps to stake your plants to help support heavy fruit.
How much water your plants will require depends on the soil and weather. Eggplants are somewhat drought tolerant, but yield best with a steady supply of moisture. Weekly slow, deep (2‐3 gallons) waterings are ideal. Drip irrigation is the best way to provide even moisture and while having fewer disease issues.
Eggplants are heavy feeders and benefit from having an all‐purpose fertilizer added to each planting hole. Fertilize eggplants every two weeks with a mild liquid fertilizer once the fruits begin to appear.
Harvest when fruit has reached mature size and the skin is smooth and shiny. Over‐ripe fruit will be soft with dark seeds. Cut fruit from plant with knife or clippers, and watch for thorns on plants. Eggplants can store in the refrigerator 7‐12 days. Roasted eggplant freezes well.
Good gardening practices such as crop rotation, drip irrigation, proper planting time, floating row covers and removal of entire plants when harvest is done all help prevent many pests and diseases.