Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables
by National Gardening Association Editors
- Eggplants are a warm-weather crop.
- Start plants indoors in flats or peat pots about 2 months before the soil warms up in your region, or buy nursery transplants just before planting.
- A fertile, well-drained soil is required for best results.
- Use a covering of black plastic mulch to warm heavy clay soils before setting out transplants.
- Mix 1 inch or so of well-rotted manure or a general fertilizer such as 5-10-5 throughout the planting bed about a week before planting. Apply 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet.
- Set out the transplants when all spring frost danger is past. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of 5-10-5 or a shovelful of rotted manure or good compost with the soil in the bottom of each planting hole and cover with more soil.
- Add an organic mulch to retain moisture and control weeds after the soil has completely warmed up, about 1 month after setting out transplants.
- Side-dress with 1 tablespoon of 5-10-5 or 10-6-4 per plant when the plants have set several fruits, in southern regions where the growing season is long, side-dress every 3 to 4 weeks.
- See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common eggplant pests such as flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and tomato hornworms.
- Start harvesting when the eggplants are 4 to 5 inches long. The skin should be shiny; dull skin is a sign that the eggplant is overripe.
- Use a sharp knife and cut the eggplant from the plant, leaving at least 1 inch of stem attached to the fruit.