Growing Eggplant

Growing Eggplant

Variety: Eggplant, Brassica oleracea
Zones: 2 to 10
Soil Type: Well drained soil, rich in organic matter. Amend soil with lime.
Soil pH: 5.8 to 6.8
Sunlight: Full sun
Watering: Average watering
Fertilizer: Balanced (14-14-14) vegetable fertilizer
Availability: Sold as seeds or starter plants. When buying plants, look for compact, healthy growth.

When to plant: Eggplants should not be planted until all danger of frost is past and the soil temperature is at or above 60 degrees.

Planting Method

Seeds: Seedlings should be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. One week before planting set plants outdoors on frost-free nights to harden them off. Transplant seedlings or plants after all danger of frost has passed.

Live plants: Plant starter plants 18" to 24" apart and stake tall varieties to keep fruits from touching the ground.

Watering
Eggplants need 1" of water per week either from rain or by hand.

Fertilizing
Eggplants should be fed three weeks after transplanting and once a month during the growing season.

Production
Eggplants will produce four to six fruits per plant. Pinching off blooms about a month before the first frost will encourage your eggplant to concentrate on maturing existing fruit before the frost.

Harvesting
Cut eggplant fruit from the stem when big enough to use. If your eggplant fruit turns brown or hard, it is past harvesting but may be used for gathering seeds. When your eggplant begins producing fruit that is no longer glossy, its season has ended.

Diseases
Verticillium Wilt: an infection caused by the fungus Verticillium albo-atrum, which stunts growth and causes wilting. Plants are more susceptible to verticillium wilt when under stress. Proper fed and watered plants will resist infection. Infected plants should be removed at once (including as much of the root as possible) to limit spread. Don't compost infected plants, as the fungus will spread.

Blossom End Rot: Brown or black spots at the blossom end of a fruit. Blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium in the plant. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers and uneven watering.

Pests
Tomato Hornworm: These large, green worms have white diagonal stripes and a large horn on their tails. Deep tiling of the soil in the off-season will kill the pupae. Remove worms by hand or apply a commercial pesticide.

Aphids: Small, soft-bodied insects that suck moisture from plants. Wash infected area with water or apply insecticidal soap. Ladybugs will eat aphids as well.

Cleanup
Eggplant diseases will over winter in dead plants. Remove plants at the end of the growing season and do not place in compost.

Saving Seeds

Eggplant seeds can be collected from fully mature fruit. Allow the fruit to stay on the stem until it is dull and hard. Cut the fruit open and remove the seeds. Rinse seeds and place on paper towel to dry. When seeds are fully dry, place in a paper bag and store in a cool dry place. 

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