How to Grow Eggplant
Growing Eggplant In Your Backyard or Garden
Eggplants thrive best in full sun where summers are hot and long. It takes all summer for the plants to produce fruit. A long growing season with temperatures between 70° F and 85° is best.
Eggplants prefer well drained soils such as sandy loam amended with potash, compost and peat. Too much nitrogen from too much compost can cause the plants to produce too many leaves. So, don't overdo it. Soil pH should be between 5.8 and 6.5. The best way to determine your soil's fertilizer needs is to have it tested at your local Southern States dealer. If you are unable to have your soil tested, you can apply 3 pounds of 5-10-10 per 100 square feet.
Start seeds indoors 8 to 9 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Eggplant seeds germinate best at 70° to 90°F. When seedlings are 6 to 8 weeks old, begin to harden them off in preparation from transplanting. Plant them in the garden after all danger of frost has past and soil temperatures are warm.
If you purchase seedlings from a garden center for transplanting into your garden, avoid plants that are tall and spindly. Purchase plants without blossoms. Blossoms on newly planted seedlings will slow the growth and establishment of the plant. This will reduce fruit yield on the mature plant later.
Plants should be spaced in rows 3 to 4 feet apart with individual plants spaced 2 to 3 feet apart. Sidedress your eggplants with 3 ozs. of lime per 10 feet of row when the fruits are the size of quarters. Sidedress them again three weeks later.
Water your eggplant crop to a soil depth of 6 inches often enough to keep the garden uniformly moist. Maintaining adequate water supply is most essential when the plants are setting fruit and throughout the fruiting period. A good layer of mulch will help to keep soil evenly moist and discourages weeds.
Harvest eggplants when the fruits are of good size but before the flesh becomes tough. The fruit is ripe when a fingernail print remains on the skin when the flesh is lightly pressed. Transplants obtained at a garden center will most likely reach maturity 60 to 80 days after planting. Eggplants raised from seed will take longer at 100 to 120 days. Harvest the fruits by cutting the stems with a garden knife. Harvest eggplants at least once per week when the fruits ripen. Twice a week is optimal.