Eggplant is a member of the family that includes peppers and tomatoes. But it’s not a really a fruit or a vegetable, it’s considered a berry. That’s not the only thing surprising about eggplant. While most folks are familiar with the purple oblong eggplants found at grocery stores, there are many other types of eggplants you can grow. They come in a rainbow of shapes and colors as well as different flavors.

How to Grow Eggplant

 

Eggplant is a warm-season plant that grows as a perennial in tropical climates. In Colorado, eggplants are planted once the soil and air temperature warm. Like tomatoes and peppers, eggplants are started from seed early in the season and then transplanted to the garden. For the best results, wait for warm days and nights before planting and choose eggplant varieties that have the shortest time to maturity, like 50 to 80 days.

Prepare

  • Locate the sunniest and warmest spot in your garden and dig in compost, well-aged manure, or other organic soil amendment.
  • Eggplant can also grow well in a large container where you have any more control over the soil fertility.
  • Plan on fertilizing the plants about once a month through the season to increase eggplant yield.
  • If starting your own transplants from seed, allow at least two months from the time they germinate for the plants to reach transplant size. Eggplants can be temperamental, so baby them with bottom heat and good lighting.
  • If buying transplants, select plants that are 6” to 7” tall without any flowers or fruit on them. Keep transplants in a warm location until the danger of frost has passed and it’s time to set them out in the garden.

Plant

  • When it comes to planting eggplants, patience is key. It’s better to wait for the soil and temperatures to get warmer than to expose plants to any cool weather. If plants suffer early in the season, they have a difficult time catching up.
  • Plant eggplants when soil temperatures are at least 70 degrees and when nighttime temperatures are a reliable 55 degrees.
  • Place plants 18” to 30” apart, in rows that are at least 24” apart. After planting, add a support to each plant, like a tomato cage.
  • Set up a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to ensure consistent and deep watering.
  • A layer of organic mulch, like straw or dry shredded leaves, will help maintain soil moisture and reduce the need for weeding.

Maintain

  • As plants start to grow, sidedress with a well-balanced fertilizer (like 10-10-10). Sprinkle the fertilizer between plant rows, 12” away from the base of the plants. Water in.
  • Maintain good watering practices, because plants will stop flowering and fruiting if they experience dry conditions. The result will be poor yields of fruit and the potential for blossom-end rot.
  • If you notice small holes in the leaves, flea beetles may be to blame. Use row cover cloth to exclude beetles until plants begin to flower.

Harvest

  • Keep track of the estimated days to harvest for the eggplant varieties you planted. It’s important to cut the fruit from the plant while it’s still glossy and before the seeds have a chance to harden. A good test for eggplant is to use your thumb to gently press the skin. If the indention springs back, the fruit is ripe and ready to cut from the plant.
  • Handle eggplants with care because they bruise easily; prepare and eat as soon after harvesting as you can.

Companion Plants

Plant Eggplant with these companions:

  • Green beans
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Annuals that attract bees, like borage, bee balm, lavender, sunflowers, sage, mint, etc.

Materials for Success

  • Soil thermometer
  • Drip irrigation system or soaker hose
  • High-quality compost or well-aged manure
  • Well-balanced dry fertilizer
  • Organic mulch
  • Row cover cloth
  • Tomato cages or other type of plant support.

To learn more about growing eggplant or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center. 

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