The Q&A Archives: Rejuvenating Droopy Pale Eggplant

Question: I have just planted my garden about two weeks ago from plants we started indoors. Everything is doing well, except my eggplant and my jalapeno peppers. They were very droopy the first day, so I covered them with plastic white milk jugs, and others with clear 2 liter soda bottles to hold in moisture. The leaves, even before I put the bottles on, had been gradually turning white and drooping severely. The temperatures here during the days has been around upper 70's and 80's, but I water every morning before sunrise, so as not to burn the leaves of the plants with the water. Now, the plants aren't doing much better, actually, they are getting worse. What can I do, and what is the cause of this? Sara Lewis Caldwell, ID

Answer: From the sounds of things, the tender leaves of your peppers and eggplants are suffering sunscald. Your efforts to protect them are on the right track, except I suggest some sort of polyester row cover (such as reemay), which will create a more moderate climate around the plants than the little bottle cloches you made. Feed them a gentle fertilizer, such as a seaweed/fish emulsion liquid, and be careful to not overwater (probably not a problem in western Idaho!). They may recover, but you may want to purchase seedlings from a greenhouse as a backup plan. One way to avoid sunscald next season is to "harden-off" the seedlings, exposing to the elements over the course of a week, increasing their time outside day by day. Start them off in a location sheltered from strong wind and sun, and gradually move them towards their ultimate destination, ending by leaving them out over night. This should condition them to the outside world and get them in shape to perform!

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