Growing egg-plants in the home garden can have an artistic twist, there are many small-fruited and ornamental varieties that are excellent for growing in containers or just used for decoration.
The flowers alone are very eye catching
Eggplants for the table also come in a large array of colors, from
shades of pink, green, yellow, white, lavender, violet, purple, black,
red, rose and orange, they can be one solid color, streaked or
Eggplant fruits can be round, oblong or slender and elongated with a variety of sizes from tiny, marbles, dwarf or large plants right on up to giant sized eggplants that are ribbed or smooth.
This cluster of black beauty eggplants is ready for harvest, it’s eggplant casserole tonight.
Another fairly commonly grown eggplant is the long green Japanese variety.
Eggplant is a cold-sensitive, warm season vegetable that are more susceptible to injury from low temperatures than tomato. It is essential not to transplant eggplants out into the garden until after all threat of frost has passed and the soil temperatures consistently above 70 F (21 C).
The season can be extended For growing eggplants with the use of plastic mulches, row covers, or some form of frost protect and soil warmer.
Eggplants don’t like sitting around in over wet soils, making a free draining, well fertilized soil rich in organic matter with lots and lots of well matured manure or compost a perfect home. A pH level of 5.5 to 6.5 is good.
The long season required for a growing eggplant to get to maturity makes it necessary in most areas to start seeds indoors.
When the eggplant seedlings have been hardened off and the weather conditions are favorable they can be transplanted to the garden.
Plant the seedlings in the soil at the same level on the plant as they were in their pots. Water well and apply mulch to conserve moisture and control weeds.
The most important aspects of caring for eggplant are;
Space plants 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) apart in the row for average size varieties, or closer for small fruited types. Space rows 30-36 inches (75-90 cm) apart.
Give the larger varieties planty of space , they can grow tall and spread fairly wide
Eggplant has moderate moisture needs. They are fairly drought tolerant and should not be over watered, as they are susceptible to root rot. Mulching will help to keep soil moisture consistent.
Eggplant water requirements do, however, increase slightly from the time the flowers first appear until harvest.
Good soil fertility is important when growing this nutrient hungry plant.
Apply 3-4 quarts per 100 sq feet (3.3-4.4 liters per 9.3 square
meters) of All-Purpose 5-5-5 Organic Fertilizer 2 weeks before sowing or
transplanting . When transplanting use liquid starter fertilizer.
Side-dress when the first fruit are set - repeat every 2-3 weeks until
the last fruit set.
For more details on vegetable garden fertilizer click this link
Similar to tomatoes and many pepper plant varieties eggplants will require some form of support to keep the plant from collapsing under the weight of fruit. Good support will also help to ensure proper air circulation.
For the smaller fruited varieties of eggplant a simple central stack that the plant can be secured to will be enough.
However many varieties produce copious amounts of large fruit and will require some serious support.
Use disease resistant varieties. Do not grow eggplants in the same bed that any member of the Solanaceae family, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers to mention a few, have been grown in the previous four years will help control both pests and disease.
Aphid, potato beetle, cucumber beetle, cutworm, flee beetle, leaf hooper, spider mites, tomato hornworm, whitefly.
Anthracnose, bacterial wilt, tobacco mosaic, verticillium wilt.
Eggplants are best when they are picked young. Do so gently, as they bruise easily. An easy test to see if a fruit is ready to harvest is by holding it in the palm of your hand and gently squeeze. If the flesh presses in and bounces back, it is in its prime for eating.
Black Beauty Eggplants
Japanese Green Eggplant
If the flesh is hard when squeezed the eggplant is immature and too young to harvest.
An eggplant fruit that has lost its gloss and when gently squeezed forms an indentation that doesn’t bounce back, is past its prime and should be discarded. Over mature eggplant fruits are spongy, seedy and usually bitter.
To pick eggplants, clip the fruit off with garden shears or knife. Cut the eggplant with the cap and some of the stem attached.
Like most other fruit bearing plants, harvesting the fruits regularly will stimulate the plant to continue producing fruit.
Eggplants do not like cool temperatures so they do not store well, even properly harvested eggplant fruits are not suited to long-term storage.
Under ideal conditions, good quality eggplants can be kept 1-2 weeks at 55 F (13 C) with a relative humidity of 85-90%.