The Q&A Archives: How Much Room To Give Eggplant

Question: I wanted to put some eggplant in my garden next year and wanted to know how much room to give the vines. My cantelope got out of control this year, and I was wondering if I'd have the same type of problem with eggplant. My garden is not huge, and I don't want it to be overrun by one type of plant. Also, how early can you plant eggplant? I've never done it before and don't know much about it.

Answer: First, a few eggplant basics. Grow eggplant in the sunniest spot you can find where other members of the same family have not grown recently (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers). Raised beds are great for eggplant growing. Excellent drainage is a must, eggplant will not thrive in soggy soil. Because eggplant is a little challenging, and you will in all probability lose a few, I would recommend (if possible) starting with around 6 plants. This will require about 50 square feet of space in your garden. Eggplant like rich soil, a tad sandy. Work in some organic matter such as compost or composted cow manure at planting time. Shoot for a pH of 6 (between 5.5 and 7 is OK). Seed germination is very slow in the ground because seeds like to germinate in warm soil. For this reason, I would recommend you start seeds indoors and set the plants out after the soil has warmed up to about 70F. I can't stress enough how much they like warm soil. Soil that falls below 50F after planting is disastrous. You might even consider using black plastic to warm up the soil. Now for spacing, the plants should be about 2-3' apart in each direction. Don't crowd them any closer, the plants will be more vigorous, disease free and produce better if given room to spread a bit. The spacing also helps the sun to reach the fruits and enable proper ripening. Eggplants don't form long vines like many members of the squash family--they grow in a bushy shape, somewhat larger than pepper plants but not as big as most tomato plants. Hope that helps!

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