The eggplant belongs to the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. It is thought to have originated in India and has been cultivated throughout India and China for more than 1500 years.
Egg plant is a heat loving bushy plant, and with the proper care, will produce a beautiful, bountiful harvest.
Eggplants need rich, fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. You should enrich your soil with about a 1 inch layer of compost worked into the top several inches of dirt over the planting area. You’ll want to have a mulch of hay, shredded leaves, or straw to help retain moisture for your plants.
Eggplants need really warm soil to grow well, so you might want to preheat the soil by covering it in black plastic about two weeks before planting. Your garden spot should be in full sun as it will take at least five months of warm weather for fruit production.
When to Plant
Sow your seeds about eight weeks before your anticipated planting date. Seeds take one to two weeks to germinate. After the first true leaves appear, transplant your seedlings into 4 inch pots (or larger) to avoid overcrowding the roots.
About two to six weeks after the last spring frost date, set out your transplants. In the South, plant a second crop about four months before the first fall frost. You’ll want outdoor temperatures consistently above 70 degree F before setting out your transplants.
How to Plant
Space your plants 24 to 36 inches apart. Set transplants at the same depth that they are in the pots and water well before mulching in. Keep your plants well-watered or they’ll have a tendency to be small and bitter; however, don’t let the soil become soggy. Water your plants at soil level to avoid wetting the foliage.
You might need to plant stakes next to the plants to tie them to as they grow. Eggplants are prone to falling over when loaded down with fruit, so support will be needed. You can also use a tomato cage to support the plants.
From seed to harvest, eggplants take about 100 to 150 days to be ready. From transplants to harvest, the timeframe is about 70 to 85 days. You can begin harvesting once the eggplant has reached about one-third its mature size. Because the stems are thick and spiny, fruits should be cut off with pruning shears.
Eggplants are susceptible to verticillium wilt. The best defense is to practice crop rotation. In addition, other bacterial and fungal diseases can infest eggplant, leaving spots on the leaves or fruits. If the symptoms are mild, the fruit may be edible. Once the plant is past its usefulness, however, destroy all infected plant material, including the roots.
Flea beetles and potato beetles can also be serious pests. Cover your crops with a row cover and remove when the flowers begin to open. You can also use a Bt spray on the plants.