Wonderfully versatile eggplant varies greatly from type to type. Depending on the cultivar, their fruits range in size from that of a grape to that of a football. Their fruit comes in white, yellow, red, green, violet, and purple. This wonderfully international vegetable, which originated in India, forms the basis for that country’s baingan bharta, as well as Greek moussaka, French ratatouille, Italian caponata, and a host of soups, pasta dishes, and meatless casseroles.
Whether you plant them in the vegetable garden or perennial garden, give eggplants plenty of space to mature. Plants can grow 2 to 4 feet tall and wide, which means they need to be staked. Eggplants also thrive in heat like their close relatives tomatoes and peppers, so they go outside until after cool spring temperatures pass. Fruit fails to set at temperatures below 65°F.
Garden Plans For Eggplant
Eggplant Planting Tips
Eggplants belong to the Solanaceae family. Other members include peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and tomatillos. As a group, Solanaceae plants are vulnerable to many of the same diseases that limit fruit production. These diseases have the potential to stay in the soil from one growing season to the next. Prevent successive disease cycles by planting Solanaceae crops in a different spot every year, rotating back to the original growing space every three or four years.
How to Grow Eggplant
Eggplants grow best in full sun; moist, well-drained soil; and warm conditions. Do not put eggplant transplants in the garden until nighttime lows are regularly above 50°F. If you plant eggplants outside too soon, they'll suffer cold damage that may keep them from bearing fruit. Wait for the warmth.
Eggplants can be started from seed planted indoors about eight weeks before your last frost date. Plant seeds ¼-¼ inch deep in a soilless germination mix. Provide bright light and a heating mat, or place the seed tray in a warm place to encourage germination. Thin or transplant seedlings when leaves appear to keep 2 to 3 inches of space between them. Transition plants outside when weather is warm and plants are at least 5 inches tall.
When planting transplants in the garden, whether started indoors or purchased at the garden center, space them 18 inches apart in rows that are 36 inches apart. Sink a sturdy stake into the ground near each plant so you're ready when they become top heavy with fruit. Loosely tie the main stem to the stake as plants grow. Provide 1 inch of water per week during the growing season to encourage quality fruit.
Harvest eggplants when they reach mature size for the variety; the fruits should be shiny and firm. Eggplants will store well for about one week in the refrigerator.