Eggplant (solanum melongena) of the potato family, and native to India. This plant usually produces dark purple fruit, however, some other colors are available.
Eggplants are an excellent addition to any garden. The variety of colors and shapes make them a fun choice for the backyard gardening venture. Growing eggplant isn’t difficult. However, Eggplants have specific requirements and need a long, warm, growing season. New eggplant seed varieties are being developed that allow for a shorter season and colder climates, so if this is a concern, seek out those varieties.
Growing Eggplant from Seed
To start, if you are planting from seed, the soil temperature needs to be between 80 F-90 F. In most locations, this requires you start the seeds indoors for the eggplant to have enough time to reach maturity. A heating mat or grow light may be necessary to keep the soil temperature up. The seedlings can be planted outside when the daytime temperature is consistently between 70F-80F. Start the seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the ideal outside temperature is anticipated.
How To transplant Eggplant Seedlings
Plant seeds in the grow pots 1/4 – 1/2 inch deep. They will need 12-14 hours of light. This is another reason a grow light may be necessary. Keep the soil moist but not water-logged.
Transplanting Eggplant Seedlings
After there is no possibility of frost and the seedling have 3-4 leaves, they can be transplanted to the garden. Planting eggplant in the garden is simple. Place the seedlings 18-24 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart.
How to Irrigate Eggplant
Eggplant plants demand regular and deep watering. Inadequate watering can lead to fruit drop. The plants may need to be staked, depending on what variety is planted. Tie the plants up to the stake as they grow.
When To Harvest Eggplant
Eggplants can be harvested when they reach a third of their anticipated size for the variety. This is when eggplants taste the best. The fruit should be smooth, shiny, and firm to the touch. A good ripeness test is to lightly press a thumb into the fruit and see if it bounces back. The fruit is past prime if the indentation stays. Overripe eggplant is bitter, and its seeds are large and the fruit is woody. Keep a close eye on the plants as they reach maturity so the fruit can be picked at its height.
How to Harvest Eggplants
A knife or pruning shears will be needed to cut the thick stem of the fruit. Continuously harvesting the ripe eggplant will encourage the plant to produce more.
Eggplant should be used soon after it is harvested. Eggplant does not keep well; if necessary, store it at room temperature for 1-2 days before cooking.