Eggplant (Solanumm melongena) is a warm-season vegetable that has a long growing season and grows slowly during cool periods.
It grows best in temperatures between 70 and 85F. Seeds will germinate quickly when soil temperatures are between 70 to 90F. In our region, eggplant can be planted in the spring after the last frost from April 10th to June 15th or during the summer from July 15th to August 1st.
When purchasing transplants, stay away from tall, spindly plants or plants with blossoms. Blossoms on the transplants will slow their growth after transplanting and may result in lower yields. Plants need to be spaced 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart in rows that are 3 to 4 feet apart.
The standard eggplant is the Italian eggplant. These varieties produce oval-shaped, glossy, purple-black fruit that is 6 to 9 inches long. The Asian eggplant varieties have thinner skin and more delicate flavor and vary in color and shape. Asian eggplants can be elongated, oval, or round. Specialty eggplants have a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors to include red, white, green, and orange. Recommended varieties for the Italian eggplant include: Black Magic, Classic, Dusky, Epic, Night Shadow, and Santana. Recommended Asian eggplant varieties include: Ichiban (purple, elongated), Calliope (white and purple, oval), and Kermit (green and white, round). Recommended specialty eggplant varieties include: Casper (white, elongated), Ghostbuster (white, oval), Gretel (white, mini, elongated), Hansel (purple, mini, elongated), and Millionaire (purple, elongated).
Eggplants need a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5. The best way to determine your soil pH is to get a soil test. The recommendations will tell you what fertilizer you need and how much to apply. To avoid burning the roots, side-dress fertilizer 4 to 6 inches away from the plants. If you broadcast fertilizer, water the foliage after fertilizing to wash away any fertilizer granules off the leaves to avoid burning the plant’s foliage.
Water the garden soil to at least 6 inches deep. Water is critical during fruit set and fruit development. Mulching can help retain soil moisture, conserve water, and reduce weeds.
Eggplants can be ready to harvest 65 to 80 days after transplanting and 100 to 120 days after starting from seed. Eggplants can be harvested any time but should be removed before the flesh becomes tough and seeds begin to harden. Gently press your thumbnail against the side of the fruit. If an indention remains, the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked. Eggplants can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.
For more information on eggplant, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or E-mail Outen at
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