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I like growing eggplant, and they are a mainstay in my garden, much like tomatoes are. The absence of bitterness in this versatile vegetable fruit may be achieved by harvesting it at the appropriate time of year. It is a fantastic complement to any meal. Growing them in pots isn’t the only way I care for them. I also grow them in my polytunnel, where I have more control over their growth and temperature.
Eggplant, or Solanum melongena, is a common daylight-neutral vegetable growing in the tropics and subtropics that may be harvested year-round in most climates. An early-season crop, eggplant is known as aubergine in Europe and brinjal in India. It cannot withstand cold temperatures and requires a long growing season to produce the best results.
This article will assist you in beating the odds when it comes to expanding what is often regarded as a difficult task—knowledge makes everything simpler. Spread throughout 10 facts about growing eggplants, you’ll find all of the information you need to put your knowledge into practice in order to cultivate the greatest eggplants possible.
The majority of commercially farmed eggplants are grown in New Jersey, California, Florida, and Georgia, with an average output of 25,000 pounds per acre in these states.
1. When growing eggplant, make the most of the season.
With its striking foliage and vibrant fruits (deep purple, green, cream, and other colors), this heat-loving annual is a fantastic choice for edible ornamental pots and vegetable gardens, where it will thrive in the heat.
Eggplants grow well in hardiness zones 5 to 12, but they need at least two months of nighttime temperatures in the seventies to produce effectively.
Transplanting eggplant is the most effective method of getting the plant started, and it is critical to get the plant started properly. Selection should be made for plants with well-developed roots in the soil ball.
It is not a good idea to begin planting too early in the season. Plant your seeds after the earth has warmed up and the fear of frost has passed. In comparison to eggplants, tomato plants are more vulnerable to frost damage.
Growing eggplant is a simple process. Plant eggplants in flats or cell-type pots that are a quarter-inch deep. Warm the soil (ideally between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit) until the plants emerge—heating mats may be necessary in certain cases. The fact that eggplants will not germinate in cold soil should not be overlooked. Using just enough earth to cover the seeds, place them in a warm, well-lit area of your garden.
In order to encourage rapid growth and prevent plants from becoming lanky, it may be necessary to provide them with more light (in their effort to reach for light). Lighting should be installed 6 inches above the plants and should be left on for 14 hours every day. Watering the soil with a fine mist can help to keep the plants hydrated.
Hardening off the plants before transplanting them to your garden is essential. This may be achieved by allowing them to roam free outdoors for two or three days and then bringing them inside each night after that. On the fourth day, let them outdoors for a full 24 hours.
It is best to transplant plants two weeks after the average last frost date, or when the daily average temperature is 68°F and the soil temperature has reached 60°F, keeping in mind that a cold snap might cause the plant to become stunted.
Eggplants are substantially bigger than pepper plants, and as a result, they should be spaced far apart. Additionally, considerable attention is required to ensure maximum eggplant output. Container gardening is a great way to raise small-fruited, exotic-colored, and visually appealing varieties. More information will be provided later.
2. Homegrown eggplants have a better flavor.
The majority of commercial types grown in the United States are purplish-black and have an oval or teardrop form. Asian eggplants, which are often long and thin in shape, and baby, or tiny, eggplants, are two kinds that are less often seen on supermarket shelves.
For the home grower, there are a variety of flavors, forms, and colors to choose from. The winners of the All-American Selection (AAS) competition are a good source of ideas for new plants.
In-container Eggplant Growing Techniques
One plant should be used per 14-inch pot (7 gallon). The types listed above will thrive in this size pot, as would any other variety. In addition, you may fit up to three plants in a 20-inch container. It’s important to remember that eggplants are prolific root growers, so you’ll want to give them plenty of room to expand. The depth of the standard pot sizes is equal to the diameter at the rim of all of the widely acknowledged standard pot sizes.
In certain publications, it is recommended that you fertilize your eggplants thoroughly. Unless you time your fertilizer applications to coincide with the timing of blooms and fruit development, you may wind up with less fruit than the plant is capable of producing. It is critical to offer nutrients that aid in the establishment of the plant as well as increase the amount of accessible plant food after the plant blooms and produces fruit.
After the first flowers have bloomed, sidedress with 0.15 nitrogen per 10-foot weekly row after they have bloomed. During wet years, you may want to add more side-dressing to your hair every week.
Maintain tight control over the flea beetles. Depending on the population size, their damage may range from a large number of little holes in your leaves to a significantly reduced leaf area and, as a result, a reduction in your fruit production. Pyrethrum is a good insecticide for controlling flea beetles and other pests.
Organically approved, GreenMatch is the only herbicide permitted for use on eggplants. It is a broad-spectrum post-emergent-directed herbicide that burns down emerging weeds and is licensed for use on eggplants. The only thing this product does is kill small, emerging weeds when it comes into contact with them. It doesn’t do anything to the soil or to the weeds that have already grown back.
Apply the liquid formulation after the sun has set to reduce the risk of harm to pollinating bees, particularly bumblebees. When using any pesticide, always read and follow the label guidelines completely. Despite the fact that eggplants have excellent blossoms and self-pollination is not likely to be an issue, bees are essential for effective pollination.
When growing eggplants in pots, they don’t always need support. However, if you’re growing a heavy bearer, you may want to consider installing a tomato cage as soon as the plants are transplanted. It is very important to install support as soon as possible, because later adding it might cause damage to the root. This is why it is important to do so.
Growing eggplant is a perennial crop (avoiding frost is crucial), and you may need to trim the plant to maximize harvests if you want to get the best results.
First and foremost, it is important to leave alone the first primary division, which is formed by the base of the plant and includes the first two stems that arise from it, as well as one additional strong and sturdy stem. All others must be eliminated from the equation.
Although this may seem to be a serious case at first glance, the plant should quickly recover and produce new green growth and fruit.
4. When growing eggplant, be careful to reinforce the structure with new transplants.
Adding support after your eggplant plant has developed may cause harm to the roots and may even cause the plant to perish. Pot plants should be supported with cages or trellis to avoid lodging (plants falling over). If you are growing eggplants as perennials (which means you will be able to shield them from frost and freeze), you might consider using bamboo stakes and rope to support the fruit when it first appears.
When growing outdoors, consider using large containers or raised beds in addition to the traditional garden. Space plants according to their mature plant size; bigger cultivars should be placed 18 to 24 inches apart, and smaller cultivars should be planted 12 to 18 inches apart.
Examine whether or not the soil is well-drained and whether or not the plants get at least six to eight hours of direct sunshine every day. Before you begin planting, work a generous amount of compost into the bed. If you’re using container soil, be sure to use a fertilizer with a delayed release.
Hot caps or row cover cloth should be used to protect young plants during the night, and they should be removed during the day. The fact that eggplants are largely composed of water means that they need at least an inch of water in the soil every week while they are in growth mode.
It will help keep the soil wet if you apply an inch or two of organic mulch on top of the soil. When fruits are developing, it is critical to keep them well watered.
Large-fruited varieties should be staked to prevent them from collapsing under the weight of their fruit. Long, slender-fruited varieties should be staked to assist more straight fruit growth.
Check for flea beetle or Colorado potato beetle holes in the leaves on a weekly or more regular basis, depending on the severity of the infestation. Fabric row coverings, which are utilized throughout the transplanting process, will keep these insects out.
This is because biological control is becoming more popular as a way to deal with these pests. For example, a new soil-based insecticide that is less harmful to beneficial insects like ladybugs and predatory mites is being used more and more.
5. Eggplants make excellent ground covers and row covers because of their low maintenance requirements.
Increased yield and shorter harvest times are possible using ground mulches composed of black plastic, which may raise soil warmth, limit weed growth, and save moisture. In order for black plastic mulch to work, the soil surface must be smooth and the plastic must stick very well to the soil.
This can only be accomplished via the use of a machine that has been expressly designed and equipped for this particular task. Clear plastic mulch is wonderful for transferring heat to the soil, but it is ineffective at keeping weeds at bay in most situations.
A new type of plastic mulch film, known as IRT (infrared transmitting) or wavelength selective films, is somewhere in between black plastic and transparent film, and it delivers increased weed control and soil warming while remaining relatively inexpensive.
The cost of these films is higher than for black or clear films, but in many cases, they are the most cost-effective option when soil warming is important.
A variety of crop coverings, including plastic, spunbond, and nonwoven materials, have been developed for use as windbreaks, frost protection, as well as to boost yield and earliness of harvest. When combined with plastic mulch and drip irrigation, they function effectively in various crops.
The use of row coverings consisting of nonwoven or spun-bonded polyester, polypropylene, and perforated polyethylene is recommended for the first 4 to 8 weeks after transplantation. Coverings should be taken off as soon as the plants start to flower so that pollination can be the best it can be for the plants.
During the day, row covers may boost heat unit accumulation by 2 to 3 times above ambient temperatures, and as frost protection overnight, they can increase heat unit accumulation by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. Soil temperatures and root development increase under row covers, and early yields and, in certain cases, total yields increase as a result.
Study: Putting paper between the soil and the plastic film may help stop yellow nut-sedge from growing through the mulch.
6. Eggplants are a member of the Nightshade family of plants.
Eggplants are related to potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers since they are members of the Solanum family. All of these plants are day-neutral, which means that they do not need a certain amount of darkness in order to blossom, in contrast to other photoperiod-sensitive species.
Short-day plants: in order to blossom, they need a 14-to-16-hour continuous dark period. Cocklebur, soybeans, coffee, and chrysanthemums are just a few examples.
Long-day plants: in order to blossom, they need 14 to 16 hours of direct sunshine and 8 to 10 hours of complete darkness. Beets, radish, spinach, carrots, onions, wheat, and maize are just a few examples.
Day Neutral Plants: These plants do not respond to changes in light or darkness. Peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and sunflowers are examples of such plants.
A lot of photos show that photoperiodism plays a role in the migration and hibernation of animals, even though the effects of photoperiodism on animals aren’t as clear as they are in plants.
7. Sun, soil, and water are the most important factors in growing eggplants.
When growing eggplant, it is important to remember that they are a warm-season crop that cannot be hardened off to the cold. It is crucial to have an 80-day growth season for the transplanted crop. According to the University of Florida, temperatures of 79°F during the day and 68°F at night are optimum for producing eggplants. When the temperature is below 63 degrees Fahrenheit or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, plant growth slows down. When these levels are reached, pollination problems start to show up.
The duration of the day has minimal influence on the amount of blooming that occurs. The onset of fruit set may be hampered by cooler temperatures. Temperatures and humidity levels that are too high might have a negative impact on crop yields. It is not a problem for eggplant to grow in droughts or during periods of heavy rainfall. It won’t be able to withstand long periods of wet soil because it will have a lot of diseases that will rot the roots.
It is possible to grow eggplant in a variety of soil types. Generally speaking, you should integrate at least 4-inches of compost into the top 12-inches of all vegetable beds as a common practice. The pH of the soil should be between 5.5 and 6.5 for eggplant development. Eggplant is often grown on light or sandy loam soils that drain well and maintain a steady temperature throughout the season.
8. Eggplants may have roots that extend up to four feet into the ground.
For healthy plant growth and development, sandy loam or silt loam soils with no physical impediments, such as those found in sandy loam or silt loam soils with no physical hurdles, are preferred.
In order to grow eggplant, either furrow or drip irrigation may be employed. Certain farmers use black plastic mulch and drip tape in the spring planting season to keep weeds, moisture, and soil temperature under control. Watering is especially important throughout the stages of flowering, fruit set, and growth.
The quantity of water required is determined by the time of year and the stage of growth of the plant in question. The bulk of the water-and nutrient-absorbing roots are found in the top 17 inches of soil, according to the USDA. It is important to properly regulate irrigation in this root zone in order to maintain soil moisture. The availability of calcium in moist soil is increased, which helps to avoid blossom-end rot.
9. When growing eggplant, it is important to harvest them with caution.
Harvest the big, oval kinds when the fruit is 2 inches in diameter or when the fruit is 2 inches in length. Continue to pick the fruits until they are 4 to 6 inches in diameter or until they are ripe. The fruit will be solid and bright when it has reached the correct harvest stage. An excessively developed fruit will be dull, seedy, and rough, and it will have a harsh taste. To remove the fruit, use a knife or hand shears to cut it away from the stem, leaving an inch on each fruit.
Solanine, a deadly toxin, may be present in fruit that has been harvested too soon. If the fruit is firm and your thumb cannot make an impression on it, it is still immature and you should discard it. A readiness signal is provided when an indentation created by pressing your thumb into the skin springs back. If the fruit is spongy and your handprint is still visible on the surface, it is overripe.
Eggplants are prone to bruising, so handle them with care. Always cut the eggplant so that the cap and a part of the stem are still attached. The reason for this is that eggplants detest cold temperatures and do not store well.
Harvest and use them as soon as possible to ensure the best possible flavor. Use plastic wrap or plastic containers to wrap them and store them in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days if you need to keep them fresh longer. Keep an eye on it since it will rapidly develop soft brown spots and become bitter. When the stem and crown are still green and pliable, this is the best time to use them.
Growing Eggplant at Home: A Concluding Statement
Growing eggplant may be a lot of fun, particularly if you grow hybrid varieties of the plant. Pot plants with brightly colored fruit and purple basil may form a visually appealing show. You’ve got everything it takes to be a successful gardener; now it’s time to get to work.
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