Eggplant are arguably the most beautiful of the vegetable plants. Ever wonder how the eggplant got its name? Because the fruit of the first varieties looked like eggs. White varieties such as 'Cresent Moon' are still available, as are purple, orange and, one of our favorites, the pale green 'Louisiana Long Green' . We once included this whole gambit in a children's garden to illustrate plant hybridization.
One of our favorite ways of enjoying eggplant is to prepare slices about 3/4 inch thick (easy with the long slender varieties — just slice in half length-wise), brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper (Mrs. Grass is good too) and grill. Even folks who didn't think they liked eggplant have enjoyed this dish.
Eggplants are part of the nightshade family along with peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.
- Warm Season crop.
- Start seed indoors or buy plants.
- Start seed 8-9 weeks before your average last spring frost date.
- Seed planting depth: 1/2”. They need dark to germinate. A good practice is cover the seed with 1/4"-1/2" of vermiculite. It's a good deterrent to "damping off" disease.
- Seed spacing: 1”.
- Need warmth to germinate. Ideal germinating temperature: 65-80 ° F. Heat mats are invaluable for maintining this temperature range.
- When the seedlings are about 3 weeks old and have at least 2 sets of leaves , transplant them into pots at least 4 inches deep.
- About a week after transplanting, fertilize seedlings weekly with a good all-purpose organic liquid fertilizer at half strength.
- “Harden off” your plants before planting them into the garden. That is, get them used to the real outdoors gradually, over the course of 7 to 10 days. Start with an hour a day outside during mild days and gradually increase the time, leaving them out overnight during warm (over 55 ° F) calm nights.
Planting and Tending
- Plant in garden after the last frost (irises will be in full bloom, roses will be budding, and oak leaves will be fully developed) or use special protection to get ahead of Mother Nature. Soil temperature should be at least 60 ° F and night temperatures consistently over 55 ° F. This is usually at least a week after the tomatoes have been planted. Peppers are planted around the same time as eggplants.
- Plant 15” apart. Apply mulch around plants. Cover with row covers until they bloom in order to protect plants from cool nights and flea beetles.
- Stake as needed, to keep heavy fruit off the ground and to prevent diseases. A simple short bamboo pole works well. Tie plants to the stake by looping soft cord or cloth (such as cut up t-shirts) around the plant (under a branch – this will help support it); then cross for a figure eight over to the stake and loop around the stake twice (to keep it from sliding down the stake) and tie.
- To fertilize eggplant, we like organic products such as Tomatoes Alive or GSC Organic Tomato Fertilizer when first setting out the plants. Over fertilizing produces too much foliage and not enough fruit.
- Spray plants monthly with compost tea or fish-emulsion solution.
- Always cut to harvest. Pick as soon as large enough to use and keep picking until the fruits lose their gloss. If they are hard and brown, you've waited too long.
- About 3 weeks before the first anticipated fall frost, pinch back new blossoms. This will channel the plants' energy into maturing existing fruits rather than producing new ones that won't survive the frost.
- Likes to be near:
- Does not like:
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You may also appreciate these books on growing vegetable gardens.