Gardening isn’t rocket science, meaning it’s not extremely difficult. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that because you have Heirloom Seeds, dirt and water you’ll have a bumper Garden. It’s just not that simple and those who have the dreaded “Black Thumb” can attest to that. Gardening is a skill that MUST be practiced and developed.
Imagine growing plants indoors before the frost season is expected to end, then you carefully transplanting them outside and they grew, but didn’t produce any fruit whatsoever. How much effort and time was wasted, simply because you didn’t know how to grow a particular plant and thought it was just as simple as throwing seeds in the ground?
You may blame the seed company for “Bad Seeds”, when in fact you just didn’t know how to provide the seeds with resources and elements that they needed to grow properly?
Here’s a prime example:
Q: I planted some eggplant this year and it did not produce any fruit. It did flower, grew tall but it did not produce any fruit whatsoever. What did I do wrong?
A: Gardening already has enough problematic external factors involved that adds to the challenge of having a success crop, so not being knowledgeable only adds fuel to the fire.There is water for example. Too much rain or over watering certain vegetables like Eggplant will encourage Verticillium wilt.
This disease kills more eggplants than any other disease.The lack or the abundance of good compost and fertilizer will kill your plants in a heartbeat.Hot and/or cold temperatures will also play a vital role in your garden’s production.
Planting your transplants out before the last frost might mean the destruction of your plants before they actually get a chance to grow. Back to eggplant problem and the question of why it did not produce any fruit. Firstly, many varieties of eggplant do require long growing seasons and need more than 60 days to produce fruit. Eggplants thrive in hot summer weather.
If you live in the Northeastern part of the USA you should start your eggplant seeds indoors about six weeks before your last spring frost, or about two weeks after tomatoes and peppers. Eggplant seeds germinate best at temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
One trick that I like to use are Germination Tray Heaters. If you’re growing eggplant indoors you’ll want to keep them under bright fluorescent lights for 14 to 16 hours each day, and transplant them to 4-inch containers when they have grown three leaves.
After the chance of the last frost has expired move your eggplants outdoors so that they can benefit from the warm sunny days. However, don’t forget to bring them back indoors if temperatures drop below 55 degrees. You can plant your hardened-off seedlings when they are about eight weeks old.
When planning your garden, allow one or two eggplants per person, as a healthy plant will produce about 5 pounds of eggplant over the course of two months or more. The type of soil and location where you plant your eggplant is important.
You’ll want to choose a sunny, well-drained location that has fertile soil (pH between 5.5 and 6.5). Eggplants are in the Solanaceae family or commonly known as the “Nightshade family”. These include other plants such as tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.
Note: You shouldn’t plant members of the nightshade family in the same spaces where other nightshade plants have grown for the last two years. Why you ask? It reduces contamination and helps to reduce pest problems associated with the same varieties.
A couple of weeks before planting, get outside and loosen up the soil in your planned planting area. Mix in a couple inches of rich compost with the soil as well as a balance of organic fertilizer and/or composted manure like rabbit or goat, and water well.
To help warm your soil you should consider covering it with black plastic film. Eggplants should be planted 24 inches between plants and plan ahead for stakes or other supports as eggplants can/will grow tall.
Growing Eggplant in Containers:
Growing eggplant in containers will help to keep Flea beetles and Potato beetles at bay. In this instance I recommend keeping your eggplants that are in containers off the ground, placed on a table outdoors. This will help keep them out of range of ground-dwelling beetles.
Plants produce best in 16-inch-wide pots or planters. Dark-colored pots help accumulate heat in cool climates. Growing eggplant in containers requires fertilizing as often as needed to maintain steady growth and good leaf color. Plants that need to be watered often also need to be fed more frequently.
Eggplant Harvesting and Storage tips:
You can begin harvesting your eggplants when you’re able to press your thumbprint on the fruit and the fruit bounces back. Under-ripe eggplants are too hard to take a thumbprint, and overripe ones are so soft that a thumbprint leaves a permanent bruise.
Your eggplant skins should be tender and glossy. Use pruning shears, very sharp knife or scissors to harvest eggplants with their cap (calyx) intact. You will know if an eggplant is over-ripped, because it will be sour in taste. Storing eggplant is easy, simply keep the fruit at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator for no more than three days before cooking or preserving to obtain maximum freshness. Your garden is there to give you delicious fresh fruits and vegetables so take advantage of it by picking your produce as you need it.
Saving Eggplant Seeds:
Eggplants are self-fertile, so saving seeds from open-pollinated varieties is simple provided that different varieties are grown at least 50 feet apart. I recommend choosing the best plants that are in the middle of your growing season.
Use the first few fruits to eat or cook with. Allow the next couples of fruits to grow until the take on the leathery texture. During this process they’ll also turn yellowish brown in color. Meanwhile, clip off most of the new flowers produced by the plant so that its energy is directed into the ripening seeds.
Removing your ripped eggplant seeds is actually easy. Cut off the bottom end of the eggplant and pick out the seeds from the center of the fruit. You may also tear the pulp into spongy bits & pieces and place them in water.
Squeeze the eggplant pulp like a sponge until the largest seeds drift to the bottom. Carefully drain off the water and then lay out your eggplant seeds to dry at room temperature for a couple of weeks. Under good ideal storage conditions i.e. temperatures of under 75 degrees or less, eggplant seeds should remain viable for five years or more.
My Eggplant Growing Recommendations:
Wait for warm weather to set out young eggplants transplants. You’ll want to do this because the transplant will not thrive until soil temperatures rise above 60 degrees. Again eggplant does better in warm/hot environments.
You’ll want to water deeply ensuring that you give eggplants 1 to 2 inches of water per week once the plants are producing fruit. Allow the soil to dry slightly between each watering, as this will discourage the growth of Verticillium Wilt amongst your plants.
Verticillium wilt can be prevented by ensuring good drainage and warm soil to discourage this soil borne fungus, which causes plants to wilt and eventually collapse, often with yellowing between the leaf veins, hence the name Verticillium wilt.
Sunscald occurs when leaf cover is insufficient to screen plants from strong sun. Fruits with brown patches of sunscald are edible, but may ripen unevenly. Out here in West Texas (High Desert) we like to provide many of our sun loving plants with some type of screening.
Eggplant do not require any pruning beyond removing old, withered leaves. As the plants grow tall, numerous side shoots will form along the plant’s main stem. These side shoots will bear flowers and fruits later in the growing season. In regions of long growing season, eggplants can be topped back by half their size in midsummer to stimulate the growth of new fruit-bearing branches.
Midseason fertilization keeps eggplant productive until cool fall weather stops their growth.
Pest Control for Eggplants:
Flea beetles frequently chew small holes in eggplant leaves which seriously weakens young plants. Growing eggplant in containers keeps the ground-dwelling beetles at bay. Gardeners can also use row covers to protect the young plants until they start to bloom.
Potato beetles and their larvae will have a field day with your eggplants. These beetles will destroy your plants by eating the leaves and effective weaken their body structure. Pick the yellow and black adults or the soft-bodied, red or gray larvae and drown them in soapy water.
As you’ve read there are preventive measures that you must take as a Gardner which should help in ensuring that your efforts in the Garden aren’t wasted. I’ve outlined several tips that will help you grow Eggplants successfully.
With those tips you’ll be able to produce delicious, sweet tasting fruits for your Italian recipes like Eggplant Parmesan/Parmigiana. Why not plant one of the most famous Eggplants named Black Beauty Eggplant today? Still popular since it’s introduction in 1910.
Happy Gardening & Keep it Growing!
The editor of Resounding Earth, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.