15 tips for growing eggplant

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speckled, purple and white eggplant
Eggplant by Grey Geezer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When you think of garden vegetables, is eggplant the first one you think of? Eggplant can be deep purple, white or white with purple flecks. It’s related to tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

If you’ve never grown eggplant in your garden before, read these planting, growing and harvesting tips.

Planting

  1. Only grow eggplant in an area of your garden where members of the tomato family were not grown the previous year.
  2. Eggplant is hardy in zones 4-10. They’re sensitive to cold, so they must be transplanted outdoors after the final spring frost.
  3. Start plants indoors 6-8 weeks before the final frost.
  4. Leave 18-24” between plants when transplanting.
  5. Leave 30-36” between rows.

Growing

  1. Eggplants are indeterminate, meaning they do not produce all of their fruit at once.
  2. Blossom end rot can occur in eggplants. Read tips for stopping blossom end rot.
  3. Don’t use overhead irrigation, as this can contribute to disease development in fruit.
  4. Apply mulch to help control moisture. Mulch also helps to minimize weed growth.
  5. Utilize row covers to protect eggplants from pests, if necessary.

Harvesting

  1. When fruit is 6-8 inches long and glossy, it’s ready to harvest. Eggplant is edible once it’s about a third of its fully-grown size. Eggplant can remain on the vine for several weeks until it is full-sized.
  2. To harvest, use pruning shears or a knife. Some cultivars have thorns on the stems or calyxes, so be careful when cutting.
  3. Don’t remove the calyx from the fruit.
  4. Eggplant is overmature when it turns brown or dull, spongy and seedy. It cannot be eaten at this stage.
  5. Use and consume eggplant soon after it’s harvested, as it will not last long once it’s off the vine.

Sources: Michigan State University Extension, University of Illinois Extension, Buckeye Yard and Garden Online

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