Start eggplant seeds indoors about six weeks before your last spring frost. Eggplant seeds germinate best at temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the plant growing under bright fluorescent lights for 14 to 16 hours each day. Bottom heat would be ideal, since it is useful in getting them up and growing.
Transplant them to 4-inch containers when they have three leaves, and move them outdoors on warm, sunny days, but bring them indoors when temperatures drop below 55 degrees.
Plant your hardened-off seedlings when they are about eight weeks old.
When to Water
For healthy and rapid growth, your plants need about an inch of water per week. It is recommended to use drip irrigation for more efficient absorbtion of water. Also mulching could help retain moisture in the soil.
Eggplants are likely to die even with a light frost (31-33 degrees F.). So it is recommended not to plant them until all danger of frost has passed by weeks. To grow eggplant in cool areas, start by growing cultivars that tolerate cool temperatures, such as ‘Orient Express’ or ‘Elondo’.
The tiny, black flea beetle is by far the worst pest of eggplant, but big, healthy plants usually produce well despite tiny leaf holes made by lots of flea beetles. In some areas, a common soil-borne fungus, verticillium wilt, causes eggplants to wilt and die. Where verticillium is a common problem with non-resistant tomatoes (they are close eggplant cousins), grow eggplants in containers filled with premium potting mix.
Eggplants prefer fertile, well-drained, slightly acid soil that is high in organic matter for best growth and yield, but tolerate a broader range of soil types.
Eggplants can reach a height of 2 to 4 feet. Stake plants over 24 inches tall..Take that into consideration when planning your garden. Make sure there is enough distance between your tall vegetables and short vegetables. That way both will get enough sun light.
The primary criteria for harvesting eggplants is to pick them while the skins are glossy. If the eggplant’s skin becomes dull, the seeds are beginning to mature and may start to get bitter.
Eggplant loves warmth and grows best in very sunny, well-drained locations. Eggplant is a heat-loving vegetable that does best in temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures inhibit pollination and fruit-set; at 50 degrees, the flowers will drop. At 90 degrees F, the flowers will also drop.
Eggplants are heavy feeders, but avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers. They may encourage lush foliage growth at the expense of fruit. Pinch off blossoms 2 to 4 weeks before first expected fruit so that plants channel energy into ripening existing fruit, not producing new ones.
A healthy plant will produce about 5 pounds of eggplant over two months or more.
Try growing eggplants in raised beds, which heat up quickly in spring. Plants given plenty of room are healthier and more productive, so space them 2½ to 3 feet apart in all directions.
Eggplants are prone to falling over when loaded with fruit, so you may want to tie plants to stakes to keep them upright. If you drive a stake into the ground just an inch or two from the plant at the time of planting, you won’t disturb the plant by trying to do it later. You can also use small tomato cages to support the plants.
Growing eggplants outdoors requires full sun. Try planting them on a south-facing area of your yard once they are larger than 3 inches. Ample sunlight provides the energy needed for large fruit production through photosynthesis.
Eggplants do not have incompatible plants that you should avoid. It seems to be friendly to most plants.
The following vegetables will do well when planted next to eggplants: Basil, Beans, Lettuce, Peas, Potatoes, Spinach. Planting certain vegetables next to each other can deter insects and encourage growth.
Next year, DO NOT plant tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers in the same location where you planted eggplants this year. Because they are all members of the nightshade family. Instead use that spot to plant other vegetables from a different family such as:
- Carrot (Umbelliferae): celery, carrots, parsley
- Legume (Leguminosae): peas, beans, lentils
- Mustard/Brassica (Cruciferae): broccoli, caulifower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes.
- Sunflower (Compositae): lettuce, artichokes.
- Cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae): pumpkins, melons, squash, gourds, cucumbers.
- Allium (Amaryllidaceae) - onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives.
- Goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae): spinach, Swiss chard, beets.
Growing Eggplant Overview
In General, eggplants are not hard to grow as long as they get enough sun light and warm temperatures 70 and 85 degrees F. For more planting information, please visit our Farming Tips homepage.