Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a warm-season vegetable that typically has a long growing season and grows slowly during cool periods. Next spring, plant after the soil has warmed and chance of frost as passed. Set out 6 to 8-week old transplants to have a head start towards harvest. Seeds will germinate quickly with soil temperatures between 70 and 90F. In the central region of South Carolina, which includes the Pee Dee, there are two planting seasons: April 10-June 15 and July 15-August 1.

When purchasing transplants, do not purchase tall, spindly plants or plants with blossoms. Blossoms on transplants will slow their growth after transplanting, and can result in lower yields. Space plants 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart in rows that are 3 to 4 feet apart.
When most people think of eggplant, they are visualizing the standard Italian eggplant varieties, which are oval-shaped, glossy, and have a 6 to 9-inch-long purple-black fruit. The Asian eggplant varieties vary in color and shape. They can be elongated, oval or round, and have thinner skin with a more delicate flavor. Specialty eggplants come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors including green, white, and orange. Recommended varieties for South Carolina include:
• Italian types: Black Magic, Classic, Dusky, Epic, Night Shadow, Santana
• Asian types: Ichiban (purple, elongated), Calliope (white and purple, oval), Kermit (green and white, round)
• Specialty: Casper (white, elongated), Ghostbuster (white, oval), Gretel (white, mini, elongated), Hansel (purple, mini, elongated), Millionaire (purple, elongated).
When fertilizing eggplants, always start off with a soil sample. Follow the results of a soil test to maintain a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Apply the preplant fertilizer according to the soil test recommendations. Broadcast fertilizer evenly and incorporate it into the soil by disking or tilling to a depth of 6 inches. Side dress plants with 5 pounds of calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0) per 1000 square feet or 300 feet of row three to four weeks after planting. For smaller gardens, use ? pound of calcium nitrate fertilizer per 100 square feet or 30 feet of row. Side dress another 5 pounds per 1000 square feet or ? pound per 100 square feet three to four weeks after that. Side dress fertilizer 4 to 6 inches away from the plants to avoid burning the roots. If the fertilizer is broadcast, avoid burning the plant foliage by watering overhead to wash any fertilizer granules off the leaves.
Water sufficiently to a depth of at least 6 inches. Mulching can help retain consistent soil moisture, reduce weeds, and conserve water. Soil moisture is very important during fruit set and fruit development.
Depending on the variety, eggplants can be harvested in 65 to 80 days after transplanting. If starting from seed, eggplants can take 100 to 120 days to reach maturity. Eggplants may be harvested at any time after they have reached sufficient size, but should be removed before the flesh becomes tough and seeds begin to harden. For Italian eggplant ripeness, try pressing your thumbnail against the fruit lightly. When an indentation remains, the fruit is ripe. Japanese eggplant can be harvested when fruits are the size of a finger or hotdog. Eggplants can be harvested once, sometimes twice per week. Harvest the fruit by cutting stems with a sharp knife or hand pruners because the stems are tough and heavy. Harvested fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for a week. Email Outen at [email protected]
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.