Proper timing and weather conditions play a big role when growing eggplant.
Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 60-100 days
Height: 2 to 4 feet
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows
Eggplant is a beautiful, warm season annual that is relatively easy to grow providing you have warm temperatures. The planting season must be consistently warm with day time temperatures around 80˚F and night-time temperatures not falling below 65˚F. Anything cooler will result in slow to no growth once you’ve set your plants outside.
A member of the Solanaceae family, eggplant is closely related to tomatoes, peppers, ground cherry and potatoes. Numerous varieties are available for home gardeners.
Eggplant should be planted in full sun and requires ample water and fertile soil with lots of organic matter. The plants are easily injured by frost and will not do well with long periods of cool weather (see Eggplant Requires Heat, Patience). Use plastic mulches, floating row cover and greenhouse buckets to warm the soil and increase eggplant yields.
How to Plant:
Eggplants should be treated like tomatoes, the only difference being that eggplant like it warmer. Plant them from nursery stock or starts after the soil has warmed in the spring. Set plants 18 to 24 inches apart in raised beds or double rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Apply organic fertilizer every two weeks throughout the gardening season.
To harvest large eggplants remove most of the side shoots and select two or three fruits to develop on one plant. For smaller fruits allow the plants to develop naturally. For best flavor, harvest while fruit is young and shiny. Cut fruits from the plants with an inch of stem attached. Allow 60-100 days to reach maturity from transplanting.
Insects and Diseases:
Eggplant is susceptible to flower drop and misshapen fruit due to extreme temperatures. Common pests to watch for include flea beetles, potato beetles, aphids and hornworms. They are also prone to plant diseases such as Verticillium and Fusarium wilts.
Tip: Grow eggplant in containers with organic potting soil to eliminate many soil-borne plant diseases.
Seed Saving Instructions:
To save eggplant seed let the fruits grow far past the edible stage. Seed saved from immature or ready to eat plants will not be viable. Grate or blend the bottom portion of the eggplant, which contains the greatest seed density, using a hand grater or food processor. The small seeds are firm and slippery so there is very little damage. Put all of the gratings into a bowl and fill with water. Squeeze the gratings vigorously. The good seeds will separate out and sink to the bottom. Allow seed to dry.