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Eggplant Growing and Harvest Information

by chuck.mcmullan
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Eggplant is a versatile fruit often used in Italian dishes such as ratatouille, caponata, and lasagna. Eggplant easily absorbs the flavors of whatever sauce it is cooked in. Interestingly, all parts of the plant are poisonous, except the fruit.

Where to Grow Eggplant

Eggplants require a long, warm growing season, as they’re sensitive to cool climates and are extremely sensitive to any frost and light freezing. Four months of 60-85 degree temperatures is the ideal climate. In the cooler spring climates, the plants must be started indoors. They can be grown successfully in containers in city gardens.

Varieties of Eggplant

Black Beauty; Black Magic Hybrid; Royal Knight; Burpee Hybrid; Jersey King Hybrid; New Hampshire. White Beauty is a novel, white-fruited variety.

Soil for Growing Eggplant

A warm, loam soil enriched with compost or well-rotted manure.

Planting Eggplant

Germination in 1 week to 12 days.

When – Start seed indoors to allow at least 10 weeks for young plants to develop. When the seedlings are about 3 inches tall, transplant them to individual peat pots; when they are about 6 inches high, they are ready to be planted outdoors. Harden off seedlings and plant outdoors when days and nights are warm.

How –

In rows 3 feet apart, with 2 feet between plants. Where cutworms are a problem, protect seedlings with a paper collar. Each plant should bear an average of 4 fruits.

Make sure outdoor soil temperature is at least 55-60F before transplanting; otherwise they will become stunted, turn yellow, and are slow to bear. Difficulties growing eggplant are often related to cool weather conditions. Plant them in the hottest, sunniest spot available and cover with plastic jugs (bottom cut out, cap off) until leaves poke through the top. As frost approaches, pinch back new blossoms so that plant nutrients are channeled into the remaining fruits.

Temperature
Germination75 - 95 F
For growth70 - 85 F
Soil and Water
FertilizerHeavy feeder apply compost tea every 2 weeks
Side-dressingApply after the first fruit appears
pH5.5 - 6.5
WaterHeavy
Measurements
Seed Planting Depth1/4"
Root Depth4 - 7'
Height24 - 30"
Width3 - 4'
Space between plants
In Beds18"
In Rows18 - 30"
Space Between Rows24 - 48"
Average plants per person1 - 2
Harvest
Pick when the fruit is no more than 3-5" long or 4" in diameter, and before the skin loses its luster. Cut the fruit with a small amount of stem. Fruit seeds should be light colored. Brown seeds indicate the fruit has ripened too long. Eggplant vines are spiny, so be careful to avoid pricking yourself.
First Seed Starting Date: 33 - 55 days before last frost date
Last Seed Starting Date: 125 - 177 Days before first frost date
Companions
CompanionsAll beans, pepper
IncompatiblesNone

How Eggplant grows

A rather decorative vegetable plant, with beautiful foliage and very lovely flowers growing from a strong central stem.

Cultivating Eggplant

Water weekly if there is no sufficient rainfall; leaves will yellow if plants are not kept consistently moist. Feed every 4 weeks. Spread a small handful of well-balanced fertilizer in a circle around the base of each plant and scratch in very lightly. Do not overfeed, as this delays fruit set. The flowers are very beautiful but no more than 4 to 6 fruits should be allowed to develop per plant. If too many flowers appear, pinch the extras off. Use mulches to keep weeds down.

Storage Requirements
Keep a small piece of stem on the eggplant during storage, and don't pierce the skin. Eggplant is best used fresh.
Fresh
TemperatureHumidityStorage Life
32 - 40 F80 - 90%6 months
46 - 54 F90 - 95%1 week
Preserved
MethodTasteShelf Life
CannedFair12+ months
FrozenFair8 months
DriedFair12+ months

Harvesting Eggplant

80 days. A glossy coating on the fruit is a sign of readiness. Dull coatings or seeds that have turned brown indicate overripe fruits. Eggplants should be picked as soon as they are ripe, with slightly immature fruits tasting best. Because the stem is woody, cut, do not pull, the fruit from the plant. Store picked fruit in a cool place until it is eaten. Eggplant deteriorates rapidly, so don’t wait too long to use it.

Eggplant Pests

  • Colorado potato beetle – Defoliates plants.

Eggplant Diseases

Eggplant is susceptible to the same verticillium wilt, a soil-borne disease, that affects tomatoes and potatoes. The best control is preventive: crop rotation. Do not plant eggplant where tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplant have been grown in the last 3 years.

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