Eggplants are a delicious vegetable grown on a plant that enjoys hot summers and full sun. There are tons of varieties of eggplants to experiment with growing. Some come in a very light color, some with striations, and some are a rich, dark purple that’s nearly black. Some eggplants grow small fruits, others large. Some grow fat, stubby fruits, others long and thin. Let’s dig in to how to grow eggplant.
Eggplants are an excellent vegetable to grow on a sunny balcony, as they tolerate container planting quite well. Growing a garden is an important hobby, and eggplants are a great addition to any garden. Some things to know:
- Latin name: Solanum melongena
- Other names: Aubergine, brinjal
- Native to: India
- Invasiveness: Not invasive
- Tenderness: Annual
- Sun: Full sun
- Water: Twice Weekly
- Soil: Well-drained, fertile, sandy loam soil
- Hardiness zone: 5-12
- When to plant: After the danger of frost has passed
- Spacing: 18 inches apart in rows 36 inches apart
- Plant height: 18-36 inches tall
- Bloom period: Summer
- Time to maturity: 100-120 days
- Container friendly: Yes
- Fertilizer: 5-10-10
- Toxicity: Leaves and tubers may be toxic
- Deer resistant: Yes
- Pest resistant: Mixed, some genetically modified versions are.
Overall, eggplants are a tender annual that demands full sun and fertile, sandy loam soil. They don’t need a ton of water but should be watered twice weekly, more if you’re in a very dry place. They flower in summer and mature in 100-120 days. Eggplants, like many nightshades, are deer-resistant.
How to grow an eggplant from seed
Starting an eggplant from seed is a pretty straightforward process, but like with all seeds, a little prep work and research will go a long way. We strongly recommend picking up heirloom eggplant seeds that are certified organic. That way you are getting a seed that is untreated with any kind of chemical and you can store the seeds of your eggplant for next year.
You will want to start your eggplants indoors about eight to ten weeks before your area’s last frost date. Eggplants like warmer weather, so you will want to ensure that the soil you start the seeds in is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Sow your eggplant seeds in small pots filled with organic vegetable potting soil. Ensure that your seeds are buried one-quarter-inch deep. Water them and cover them with a plastic film of some kind to retain moisture. Keep your seeds in a warm spot.
Your seeds will germinate in seven to fourteen days if kept in ideal conditions. Once they’ve sprouted, keep them moist and allow them to develop their roots for the next eight to ten weeks before planting outside.
What kind of soil does an eggplant need?
Eggplants grow best in well-drained sandy loam soil that is high in organic matter, like compost. The ideal pH is between 5.8 and 6.5. This pH will yield the best growth and fruiting for your eggplant. Two weeks before planting, mix a 5-10-10 fertilizer into your garden soil. Composted manure is an ideal fertilizer for eggplants. Eggplants love warm soil, so if you’re planting them in pots, choose a black-colored pot.
When to transplant your eggplant outdoors
Eggplants are safe to transplant outdoors when the final threat of frost has passed. This can happen anywhere between April and June depending on your location. If your frost date is behind you but it’s still cool outside, we recommend laying down a black plastic cover over your garden bed. This will help keep the soil warm for your young eggplant.
You should plant your eggplants 18 inches apart from one another. If you’re planting multiple rows, set the rows apart 36 inches.
Eggplants are not the most thirsty plant but they do need a good soaking at least twice a week. If you live in a very dry area, you may want to increase watering to 3 times per week.
You should plant your eggplants in a very sunny spot, ideally in a spot that gets more than six hours of direct, afternoon sunshine per day. If you’re growing eggplants in pots, you can move the pots throughout the day to give them the necessary sunshine. It is advised that you grow several eggplants in order to guarantee pollination of the plants. Your eggplants may eventually become heavy with fruit, so you may need to stake your plants to keep them upright.
Eggplants aren’t too picky, with their soil needs, but they do not tolerate being stuck in soggy, waterlogged soil. They need well-draining, preferably somewhat sandy and fertile soil in order to truly thrive.
The planting site for eggplants should have a one inch layer of rich compost tilled into the soil prior to planting as well as the administration of a 5-10-10 fertilizer. Fertilizer can be repeatedly given to your eggplants every 2 weeks until time of harvest.
Eggplants are native to India but are not widely considered invasive when planted elsewhere. Always plant carefully when planting anything non-native in your garden, but especially if you have hard freezes every year, your risk of eggplant invasiveness is nearly zero.
When is your eggplant ready for harvest?
If you’ve started your eggplant from seed, expect to be harvesting eggplants 100 to 120 days following the date you sowed the seeds. This should be between 65 and 80 days after you’ve planted them outdoors.
The best way to tell if your eggplant is ready for harvest is when the skin of the fruit is shiny, unwrinkled, and is a uniform color throughout. When your eggplant no longer rebounds after applying slight pressure to it, it’s ready for harvest. It’s advisable that you don’t wait too long to harvest the eggplant, as it will soon begin to toughen as the seeds inside mature.
If you want to save eggplant seeds for the following year, allow one or two fruits to become over-ripened.
History of Eggplants
Eggplants originate in India and have been cultivated in India and China for over 1,500 years. Trade routes introduced the eggplant to the Middle East and Europe, and later Africa. The Spanish brought eggplants with them to North and South America during the 1800s and they’ve been grown in the Americas ever since.
In China, one tradition dictates that a woman must know a minimum of 12 eggplant recipes before she can be married. In Italy, it was once believed that anyone who ate an eggplant, which they called the ‘mad apple’ would lose their minds and be rendered insane.
We hope you find our guide on how to grow an eggplant to be useful!
Keep reading: What does eggplant taste like?