The most important thing to know when learning how to grow eggplant is that eggplant can be tricky to grow. If you abide by this, you will be prepared to take the time to carefully nuture this great vegetable.
Important Things to Know About Eggplant
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family which includes peppers and tomatoes. This family requires a long growing season and warm, rich soil. Eggplant requires approximately 100-120 days to mature.
Eggplant seeds should be started indoors to help lengthen the growing season, and shouldn't be transplanted outdoors until the temperature is 21°C/70°F. In order to prevent disease, do not plant eggplant where potatoes or tomatoes have been grown within the last three years.
How to Grow Eggplant - All the Right Steps
Planting the Seed
- Start growing eggplant 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost in your area.
- Soak eggplant seeds overnight to encourage germination.
- Plant 3 seeds per 4-inch pot, keeping in mind that you will eventually cut out the two weaker ones. To prepare a pot, fill it three quarters full with potting soil. The soil should be two parts potting soil and one part sand. (Another option is to use vermiculite, at your own discretion). Water thoroughly by misting or bottom-watering, to keep soil damp. [Note: When purchasing pots, look for glazed clay pots if possible. They retain more heat and moisture.]
4. Plant the eggplant seeds 1/4-inch deep. Water thoroughly by misting or bottom-watering, to keep soil damp.
5. Keep pots in a place where the temperature is ~25°C/~77°F , which is the temperature required for germination. Germination may take up to three weeks. Bottom heat is recommended to keep the soil warm.
6. From the time of sprouting until the time you want to transplant your eggplants, the temperature should be gradually reduced to 21°C/70°F.
7. Supplemental light is recommended. Give the seedlings ~12 hours of light to produce robust plants.
Seedlings and Hardening Off
- When the eggplant seedlings are 1 1/2 - 2 inches high, cut off the two weakest ones, leaving the strongest plant to grow.
- Once temperatures are consistently above 10°C/50°F, begin to harden off the eggplant. Visit our page on growing vegetables to learn how to harden off the eggplant.
- Do not transplant eggplant near tomatoes or peppers (disease prevention). Additionally, do not plant in soil where eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes have previously been grown (They are susceptible to the same soil-borne diseases).
- Once temperatures are above 21°C/70°F and the seedlings are ~6 inches high, eggplant can be transplanted.
Transplanting and Care
- Prepare the garden soil by mixing in a little compost or 1/2 lbs of 5-10-5 fertilizer for every 10 feet of row. Keep the rows spaced 3 feet apart.
- Set the growing eggplant out on an overcast day or in the evening so that the sun will not hurt the plants.
- To plant, dig shallow holes (2 feet apart) so that the soil will still have a slight depression around the stalk once in the ground.
4. Fill the holes with water. Once drained, place the eggplant in the holes and fill loose soil around the plants. Water again.
5. Growing eggplant requires watering ~1- 1 1/2 inches per week. Water deeply (12 inches deep), but keep in mind that eggplant does not like standing water. If the weather is hot, you may need to water more than once per day to keep the soil moist.
6. Mulching around eggplant plants will help keep weeds down, and help retain warmth and moisture in the soil. If weeding is necessary, do it by hand.
- As the eggplant plants begin to grow, tie each plant loosely to a stake to provide stability.
- Some resources suggest pinching off all but 6 flowers per plant to encourage the best harvest.
- Approximately 80 days from when eggplant is transplanted into the garden, the fruits will be 5-6 inches long and 4-5 inches in diameter, depending on the variety.
- When the fruits have dark, glossy, purple skins they are ready to pick! Once the fruit is no longer glossy it will not be as good to eat.
- Cut fruit off the main plant ~1 inch above the fruit.
- Eat as soon as possible...eggplant does not store well (Refrigerate after picking).
How to Grow Eggplant - What Can Go Wrong
Eggplant are susceptible to a soil-borne disease called Verticillium Wilt. This disease effects tomatoes, potatoes, peppers as well as eggplant. The best prevention of this disease is crop rotation. Do not plant eggplant where any of these other vegetables have been grown for 3 years.
Eggplant pests include flea beetles, potato beetles and aphids. Flea beetles are the most common pest, eating small holes in the leaves. The best prevention is to:
- keep eggplant indoors until transplanting in early summer
- cover the rows with a floating cover
- dust the leaves with kaolin clay (may need to reapply after precipitation)
How to Grow Eggplant - Varieties
The most common variety of eggplant in North America is American eggplant also known as regular or classic. These plants produce fruit that is large and deep purple. Other common varieties include White, Italian, Sicillian, Japanese, Chineses and Indian.
Growing Eggplant - Conclusion
Growing eggplant is a challenge for any gardener. If you have any 'growing eggplant' tips you would like to share, contact us and we'll include it on this page. Enjoy!