Eggplants were once considered a Sexy Fruit. They were called “apples of love” by the Portuguese and Spanish . Medieval Europeans believed that eggplant was an aphrodisiac. Botanists once classified them as ” Mala insana,” -“mad apple,”- there was a belief that consuming eggplant would cause insanity.
In modern times they serve as an excellent meal, and are quite frequently used as a meat substitute. They are a favorite of Gardener’s around the World.
Eggplant grows best in a well-drained sandy loam or loam soil, fairly high in organic matter. Start early indoors in peat pots or cell packs. Rows should be 3 to 5 ft. apart. Plants should be 2 to 3 ft. apart,
Transplants should be about 6 weeks old and slightly hardened, grown in 2 inch. or larger pots.
The outdoor environment can be very harsh for a transplant. So, harden the transplants before planting outdoors to increase their survival rate.
Place them outdoors in their original containers where they will receive direct sunlight and some wind for a few hours each day for a week, possibly more.. Gradually lengthen the amount of time outside each day. Move the plants inside at night.
Timing is very important – Eggplants need the heat, some vegetables will tolerate a frost, eggplants will not. Eggplant is a very tender plant that requires a long, warm season for successful production.Be sure that all danger of frost has passed in your area and that the soil temperatures are an average of 60o F , 59 or 58 isn’t gonna kill it , but at least stay in the ballpark.
Check the days to maturity for the varieties of eggplant – this is on the seed package or garden catalog. Choose only varieties that will produce in the available time. Judge maturity from the time you set the transplants into the garden.
As with any transplants , placement of the root system is critical for an optimal survival rate among eggplants. Refer to the accompanying diagram.
See: Transplanting Seedlings
*Tip – Prevent cutworm damage when you transplant. Take a strip of newspaper 2 – 3 inches wide , wrap it around the stem of the plant. When you place the plant in its hole, have an inch of the newspaper strip below the soil surface, while the rest stays above, This will keep cutworms from chewing through the stem of the plant.
Also avoid Raspberries, Blackberries and strawberries either in rotation with, or in close proximity to one another.
Good Comapnion plants include Fennell, Basil, and Lettuce (Not Cabbage) and lots of Marigolds. See : Eggplant Compatible Plants
Water eggplant sufficiently to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. The critical period for moisture is during fruit set and fruit development.
Mulching can help to provide uniform moisture, conserve water and reduce weeds. Eggplants should receive slightly more than an inch of water weekly slightly more in sandy soils. Inexpensive Water timer systems are available
Related: How to Grow Black Beauty Eggplant
Fertilizer & Soil
Soil pH range 5.5 – 6.0 ~ See Tracking and Adjusting Soil pH for more extensive data. Lime and fertilizer applications are best based on a soil test whenever feasible.
In general, two pounds each of actual nitrogen, phosphorus (P2O5), and potash (K2O) per 1,000 square feet of garden space is adequate. An additional application of one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. after the fruit has set may be helpful to maintain plant development.
Now if you’re only growing a few eggplants, to simplify matters – Incorporate well-rotted compost, or manure fertilizer before transplanting and then sidedress after the eggplants begin to develop.
Try to avoid a continuous use of high phosphorus fertilizers or excessive amounts of manure as it results in an unhealthy phosphorus buildup in the soil.
Related: Types of Red Eggplants
Related: What Are Yellow Eggplants?
Pruning and Pinching Back
Modest pruning is highly recommended to produce high quality eggplants. Remove older leaves from the lower portions of plants to allow for more air circulation and lighting . Pinch suckers (the new growth that begins between the leaf and the stem) weekly. Maintain three branches per plant: two branches from the primary division of the main stalk and one branch below this division. All the other lateral branches are removed periodically. Properly pruned plants will generally bear their first ripe fruits a week or two earlier than unpruned ones. Size and abundance are also a factor.
Eggplant is not suitable for drying or canning. Freezing is the best method for home preservation.
Harvest before seeds become mature and when color is uniformly glossy. Black and Purple eggplants should be a vibrant black or purple. Novelty varieties such as white, red and green eggplants true to their cultivars hue. The only exception to this would be if you are seed saving in which case the eggplant should be over ripe not immature but pre-rotten. See – Eggplant Seed Saving
Wash, peel if desired, and slice 1/3-inch thick. Prepare quickly, enough eggplant for one blanching at a time. Water blanch, covered for 4 minutes in one gallon boiling water containing 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled). Cool, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Seal in zip closure freezer bags and seal and freeze.
For frying — Pack the drained slices with a freezer wrap between slices. Seal and freeze. See our Eggplant Recipes section for extensive ideas
Related: Eggplant Pests