There are certain basic vegetables to grow as a gardener but with a bit of experience, you may be eager to expand your garden. Eggplants aren’t too difficult to grow and can be quite rewarding to have.
Eggplants prefer warm temperatures and plenty of nutrients in their soil. They also have a small window for harvesting. As long as you can manage these expectations, eggplants are not that hard to grow.
Is it hard to grow eggplants?
It is not that hard to grow vegetables but they do need specific criteria for the best results.
Above all else, eggplants need warmth, so don’t plant them outside too early. However, if it gets too hot out, say above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants may suffer and stop producing fruit.
If you don’t have adequate support for eggplants, the plant may become too heavy and will fall down. Use a cage at the beginning of their growth cycle to keep them supported.
Finally, you will need to stick to a regular fertilizing schedule as eggplants are heavy feeders. Add fertilizer every two weeks but be sure to use one that is lower in nitrogen so the growth emphasis is on the fruit and not the foliage.
Advantages of growing eggplants
Eggplants are full of nutrients and growing them makes it easier to incorporate them into your diet. Eggplants are rich in antioxidants and fiber and their meaty texture makes them an excellent substitute for real meat in vegetarian dishes.
By planting specific crops next to each other, you can better utilize your garden. For example, spinach is a cool-weather crop and will be done growing by the time your eggplants are ready for planting.
Beets will help to aerate the soil, making it better for eggplants that don’t like to get their roots wet. Furthermore, you can plant kale and cabbage nearby as they naturally deter pests that flock to eggplants.
Disadvantages of growing eggplants
Unlike other vegetables that have a wide window to harvest, eggplants have a very short window of opportunity. If you harvest too early or too later, they will have a bitter taste to them.
A lot of harvesting comes down to trial and error but within a season, you should get a feel for knowing when they are ready. Look for signs such as glossy skin and a gradual stoppage of growth.
To get those large eggplants you so covet, you will need to regularly fertilize your plant. This can be a bit of a hassle, especially if the rest of your garden isn’t as high-need.
How to grow eggplants at home
Eggplants like full sun so be sure your garden is not in too much shade. If it does have a bit of afternoon shade, this will be okay, however, as it will cool the plants in the extreme heat.
As for the soil, it should be able to drain well and have a sandy or loamy texture to it. To improve your soil, you should add manure or compost to the area.
You can either plant eggplants in your garden, in a raised bed, or in a container. They are very versatile plants and pretty adaptable.
Just note that if you decide to grow eggplants in a container, it should have a dark color. This will trap sunlight and keep the soil nice and warm.
Eggplants are a part of the nightshade family, which also includes peppers and tomatoes. One issue with the nightshade family is that they can be more susceptible to diseases.
It’s important that you rotate your crops so as to avoid planting eggplants in the same area each year. You also should not plant eggplants where you have recently planted peppers or tomatoes.
For this reason, many gardeners will plant eggplants in containers. This way, you know exactly where you planted them, and you can also get rid of the soil each year and start fresh.
Eggplants can’t be planted in the ground until all threat of frost is over. If you are worried about a shorter growing season, starting your seeds indoors is a good option.
Plant the seeds in trays about two months before the last frost date in your region. While this will vary according to location, it will be between late April and mid-May.
Even if the threat of frost has passed, you should still be cautious when planting your eggplants outside. You may need to use row covers to keep the seedlings warm for the first month outside, especially if the overnight temperatures start to drop.
The goal is to keep the soil around your eggplants moist but not soggy. To do this, water deep into the soil with a soaker hose or install a drip irrigation system for continuous water.
You want the water to reach deep into the soil so that the top 6 inches of dirt are moist. If you have quality soil that is not compacted, this will allow the water to move through it while preventing it from pooling.
Eggplants are considered heavy feeders which means they will need regular fertilizer as they grow. For best results, start with nutrient-rich soil that has a mixture of compost or well-aged manure.
Once you plant your eggplants, get in the habit of fertilizing them every two weeks. You should use a blend of 5-10-5 fertilizers as the plants don’t like too much nitrogen.
If you use a powdered fertilizer, be sure to water the area really well. This will allow the nutrients to reach deeper into the soil and enhance the whole area.
Restrict your eggplants
Depending on the variety of eggplants you are growing, the plant may become overburdened. If this happens, the whole plant can topple and break the stem.
Look for signs of weak stems and if the plant is struggling, pinch off some of the eggplants so that only five or six are growing per plant.
You can do this right away, after the flowers start to grow, or later on. Just be careful when removing any extra eggplants to avoid damage to the rest of the plant.
For large varieties, be sure to use a tomato cage or a sturdy stake. Place the apparatus around the plant while it is still young so you don’t damage it later on.
How long does it take to grow eggplants?
If you start from seed, eggplants can take between 100 and 120 days to mature. However, if you start with seedlings or transplants in your garden, you can expect to harvest your eggplants in 65 to 80 days.
The harvesting period for eggplants is between July and September. If you have a warm climate and plant later in the spring, you may have eggplants ready in October although you need to be cautious about this as they are susceptible to the cold.
What is the best way to grow eggplants?
Eggplants can quickly be loaded with heavy fruit so the best way to grow them is with plenty of support. Always use a tomato cage or stake to give them protection.
Place the cage around a small plant so that it grows into it. Otherwise, if you try to place the cage around an adult plant, you can accidentally damage it.
Where is the best place to plant eggplants?
The best place to plant eggplants is somewhere nice and sunny. This crop does not like cold temperatures, so only transplant them to your garden once the threat of frost is over and the nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use soil that is nutrient-dense but drains well. You can also opt for a soil pH level of between 5.8 and 6.5.
How to harvest eggplants
Once your eggplant stops growing in size, this is a sign it is ready for harvest. Test the skin as it should be glossy and have a firm texture.
If you’re not sure if your eggplants are ready, cut one off to test it. The inside should have seeds that are soft and fully formed.
If you think your eggplants are almost ready for harvest, check on the plants daily. There is a short harvest window so you don’t want to miss it.
Use a clean, sharp knife to harvest your eggplants. If you try to pull on them, the fruit won’t come off and you can damage the rest of the plant.
Cut just above the green cap. Wear gloves as the stems of eggplants can be quite rough.
How to store eggplants
After harvesting, eggplants will last for about two weeks. They prefer being stored in warm, humid conditions where the temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can store your eggplants in the fridge but they will only last for a few days. Never wash or cut your eggplants before storing them as this will open them to rot and they will only last a day or two.
Even though eggplants have some specific needs, such as warmth, aerated soil, and regular fertilizer, it is not too difficult to grow them. If you’re looking for a new addition to your garden, you should definitely consider eggplants.