Learn how to grow eggplants, a delicious and exciting vegetable you can grow at home. Also known as aubergine or brinjal, eggplant still grows wild in its originating country of India and now it is cultivated all over the world. Eggplants come in many exciting varieties producing different sizes, shapes, and colors. From small round green Thai eggplant and orange tomato-looking Turkish eggplant to the more commonly known large purple-black eggplant called Black Beauty.
Yet grocery stores only stock one or two varieties of eggplant at most. Fortunately for home gardeners, we have the opportunity to grow an exciting number of colorful eggplants. And they not only look great but they also taste amazing. So let’s find out how to grow eggplants for an amazing harvest at home.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Eggplants
As a warm-weather vegetable, eggplant (Solanum melongena) is often grown as an annual. But in warm climates, it grows as a perennial. Meaning it can grow for many seasons.
Eggplant really needs warm soil temperatures of 73-82°F (23-28°C) and should only be planted once all chances of frost have passed. You can check your soil temperature with a soil thermometer.
The preferred soil pH is around 5.5-7 and to narrow that number down even further, aim for 6-6.5. You can use a soil monitor to gauge the pH as well as moisture and light.
In cooler climates, gardeners can consider growing eggplants in pots as they can produce the warmer soil favored by eggplants. Raised garden beds also provide warmer soil. And another method is to use row covers to help keep the soil warm. Remember to uncover the plants on warm days for pollinating insects to fertilize the eggplant flowers.
Eggplants love the sun, so plant them in a sunny spot with full sun. Ideally, 8 hours of sunlight a day or more.
Fertile, well-draining soil is preferred for growing eggplant. You can improve the soil by adding compost and well-rotted manure before planting.
Water eggplant regularly to encourage strong, healthy growth and ensure the fruit does not become bitter. Try to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Finally, mulch eggplants with an organic mulch to retain soil moisture, keep the soil warm and generally protect the plant. Keep mulch from directly touching the plant stem.
How to Grow Eggplant From Seed
To get ahead start on the eggplant growing season, you can start eggplant from seed indoors. They can be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost date.
For successful seed germination, a seedling heat mat will ensure soil temperature can be ideally maintained at 73-82°F (23-28°C). Having grown eggplants on a heat mat and without, I prefer using a heat mat to increase the rate of germination.
Use punnets or small pots filled with a quality organic seed raising potting mix. You can try these seed starter peat pots – they’re convenient to use because they can be planted directly in the ground along with your seedling at the time of transplanting them to the garden. And this eliminates root disturbance.
Plant eggplant seeds at a depth of 1/4 inch (6 mm) and water them in gently.
Position your potted eggplant seeds close to a window or other natural light. If there is not enough light, you can consider Grow Lights. You can read more on How to Start Vegetable Seedlings Under Grow Lights here.
Seedlings will emerge in 10-14 days.
During this time, keep the soil moist but not soggy. It’s a good idea to use a water spray bottle so as not to disturb the soil or damage the new, fragile seedlings.
Once the seedlings are 3-4 inches (7-10cm), they can be transferred into larger pots or into the garden once they have been hardened off.
Hardening off is the process of slowly exposing the new seedlings to the outside conditions. This is done over the course of a week or two by placing the plants outside for a few hours at a time and increasing the time over the coming days. It’s important not to skip this step in order to produce healthy plants that will thrive for you.
You can read more in our article Hardening Off Seedlings (& Avoiding Transplant Shock).
Garden Spacing And Staking Eggplant
Space eggplants 24-40 inches (60-100cm) apart, depending on the variety, and stake them for support to stop them from falling over. Because the plants can become large and weighed down with fruit, stacking will provide the necessary support.
You can stack the eggplants with a tomato stake or tomato cage at the time of planting to minimize root disturbance.
To secure the plants to their support, try using old stockings or any recycled soft stretchy cloth cut into manageable stripes to gently tie the plant to the stack or cage.
Eggplant is a close relative of the tomato, chili, and potato and part of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). As a result, it is not a good idea to plant eggplant in the same garden bed as their relatives because soil-borne diseases can develop. Practicing crop rotation of three years will minimize disease and increase fruit production.
So, that is, try not to plant eggplant in the same garden bed that has grown a relative of eggplant, or an eggplant, in the past 2 years.
Fertilizer for Eggplant Plants
Fruit production can be supported with organic fertilizer or pelletized chicken manure as the flowers are forming. Then follow the manufactures instructions for additional applications during the growing season.
Starting with excellent soil that is rich in compost and aged manure will also help eggplants thrive.
Eggplants produce flowers that self-pollinate by releasing the pollen within the flower. However, pollination is increased by bees and beneficial insects who move the pollen around the flower when they visit. You might notice a bee buzzing inside the flower and see they create a vibration. You can help achieve the same result with a gentle tap of the flower on a daily basis. Wind and the natural movement of the plant also pollinate the eggplant fruit.
Eggplants require a long growing period of 10-16 weeks to produce, depending on the variety. As a result, they’re usually harvested from mid to late summer.
Eggplants can be harvested when they stop growing but are still firm and their skin is glossy. An additional test of ripeness is to press a finger gently to the skin, you are looking for the skin of the eggplant to ‘bounce’ back. This is a good indicator of ripeness, along with the above tips.
If skin becomes dull it’s probably overripe. Eggplant can be bitter if harvested too early or too late, getting it right is a skill you will enjoy mastering!
Harvest the fruit about 1 inch (2.5cm) above the stem to help increase the storage time.
Eggplants will store in the fridge for 2 weeks.
If you’re looking for a tasty recipe to use your eggplants, you might like to try one of these delicious recipes:
Easy Eggplant Chutney Recipe from Plant Food at Home
Eggplant Kebab recipe from Sour and Sweets
Rich Creamy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan from My Pure Plants
Stuffed Eggplant (Lebanese Batinjan Mahshi) from Plant Based Folk
Popular Eggplant Varieties
There are many eggplants home gardeners can choose to grow. Here are a few popular varieties:
Black Beauty – this classic eggplant is grown commercially and found in grocery stores. The large fruit and early harvesting nature of the plant make it a great choice to grow at home.
Rosa Bianca – a lovely Italian variety with lavender and white fruit. Prolific producer and well suited to hot climates.
Listada de Gandia – attractive white and lavender striped fruit.
Italian Long Purple – An heirloom variety with dark purple elongated fruit to 10 inches (25 cm) long. Italian Long Purple have few seeds and are well suited to easily adding to dishes.
Ping Tung Long – productive plant producing thin, long purple fruit.
Pests And Disease
Many of these pests can be withstood by mature eggplants. As a preventative measure, it’s beneficial to use row covers on seedlings.
Another clever preventative measure is to use fruit and vegetable exclusion bags on the eggplant fruit to protect them from a wide range of pests. I use inexpensive organza bags and tie each eggplant gently in the bag as pictured below. Having a selection of different sized organza bags at home will come in handy for many other types of fruit and vegetables in the garden, including tomatoes and bell peppers (capsicum).
Flea Beetles – these pests chew holes through the leaves of plants. A few natural control options include planting a trap crop such as radishes or nasturtium, use sticky traps or Diatomaceous Earth.
Colorado Potato Beetles
Aphids – encourage beneficial insects into the garden. Ladybugs feed on aphids. Aphids can also be sprayed off with a hose or a solution of soapy water using mild dish liquid and water in a spray bottle.
Many eggplant diseases can be controlled by planting disease-resistant eggplant varieties and practice crop rotation.
Blossom End Rot – usually a result of over-watering. Ensure soil is free draining and reduce watering.
Above all, by following the planting tips provided throughout this article, the likelihood of pests or disease occurring will be greatly minimized.
Eggplants are a delicious vegetable and exciting addition to your summer vegetable garden. It is incredibly satisfying to harvest eggplants, knowing they will be on the dinner menu that evening. As home gardeners, the numerous varieties of eggplant ensure we have many discoveries to make in the garden. What’s your favorite eggplant?
Grow Lights – use Grow Lights for raising seeds indoors in low light conditions.
Seed Starter Peat Pots – start seed easily in these peat pots.
Glass Spray Bottle – gently water seedlings with a water spray bottle.
Organza Bags – used as fruit and vegetable exclusion bags to protect eggplant from pests.
Are you interested in growing more edible plants in your garden at home? We have lots of articles on growing: