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If you've ever tried and failed to grow eggplants, don't feel bad. You're not alone. Eggplants like to be pampered. These divas of the vegetable garden have a very low tolerance for stress, so unless your garden is in the perfect zone, growing them successfully is going to require a little bit more of your time and attention than usual.
Most cultivars need at least 100 to 150 days of warm weather to produce, so gardeners in cooler zones (like zones 3 and 4) need to look for early producing varieties that mature in 60-70 days. Ichiban and Dusky are two good examples.
Eggplants need temperatures of approximately 75-85 degrees F (25-30 degrees C) to produce. Growth is stalled below 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) and may permanently stop if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) for any length of time. Placing dark colored rocks or bricks around the base of the plant can help retain the heat of the sun while plants are young.
Pollination can only occur during warm nighttime temperatures. Watch the weather. If temperatures are predicted to dip below 60 degrees F, you may want to cover your plants to avoid flower drop. Eggplants are self-pollinating, so hoop houses and row covers can be used from planting until harvest. Just make sure if you use plastic to remove it during the day to avoid cooking the plants.
Eggplants become stressed with too much or too little water. Try to keep the soil as evenly moist as possible through the season.
They like small amounts of food all season long. Too much nitrogen will produce lots of foliage but not much in the way of fruits. Feed plants with a diluted liquid fish emulsion weekly until flowers appear. Container plants should be fed a high pot-ash organic liquid fertilizer once fruit starts to set.
Eggplants appreciate a site that is warm, humid, and sheltered from the wind. Hoop houses, greenhouses, or row covers are good choices for keeping out cool temperatures, damaging winds and insects like flea beetles, while retaining the heat and humidity. If you use plastic row covers cut ample slits along the sides for ventilation and make sure to remove them during the heat of the day.
Tall plants should be staked to support the weight of growing fruit.
A few years back, I decided to plant an enormous organic garden. This took a lot of work and preparation. Planting salad, cucumbers, and tomatoes weren't so difficult. However, planting tomatoes in large quantities took a bit of time to understand the best way to string them up and keep them off the ground.
At this time I considered eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini as specialty plants. The reason being is our climate and rain seasons. Here on the islands we can grow food year round. However, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini can only be planted at the end of April and harvested in June. Otherwise, the plants don't do well in the heat and rain season.
I had never planted eggplants before. In March when I was buying the seeds for the organic garden, I chose a package of Black Beauty eggplant seeds. I started the seeds in starter trays. The seeds, sprouted easily and grew quickly.
The eggplants grew quickly once I had them in the ground. Within a month I had flowers on the plants. I had plenty of eggplants for my customers and to eat. However, when the plants flowered the second time the eggplants weren't the same. This time, many of the plants produced a yellow eggplant instead of the deep purple eggplant. Furthermore, some of my plants didn't produce any more flowers.
I tried to search on the Internet to see what the problem was. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the answer. In most places the plants will die off at the end of summer. Here in Tahiti the plants continue to grow and produce eggplants. Therefore, I started to experiment with the plants I had. Currently, I have over 50 eggplants that have produced food for the past four years. Some of my plants are over 5 feet tall and have started to grow into trees.
Follow these simple tips to keep your eggplants growing year round and producing food.
1. Cut the eggplant stems as close the branch as you can. Don't cut the stem in the middle and leave part of the stem on the plant.
2. Use a pair of sharp pruning shears to cut the eggplants.
3. If one of the eggplants falls off the plant immediately cut the stem.
4. Never try to twist or break the eggplant off the plant.
5. Once the plant has finished producing eggplants and before the next flowers start to set on the plant trim the plant. This means cutting the plant way back. Make sure you cut all the lower branches off the plant. I found that cutting the plant way back will produce a second crop of beautiful, large eggplants.
6. Every four months I cut the eggplant way down. I remove all the leaves from the plant and only leave the branches. I also cut all the smaller branches off the plant.
7. When you first plant the eggplants in the ground you'll need to plant them rather deep. Otherwise, when the plants start to grow the roots will start to grow on top of the ground.
8. Dig a long trench next to the row of eggplants. Lay the hose in the trench and slowly soak your ground. Don't water the plants directly. This method makes a strong root system and helps the plant grow and produce flowers.
9. If your plant produces a yellow eggplant, remove it immediately. Afterwards, trim back the plant. Trim off all the flowers on the plant and some of the smaller branches.
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I want to grow Black Beauty eggplants in pots. Do I need to prune the bottom or the little leaves off two weeks after planting? The two bottom leaves are yellow and there are a lot of little buds coming up on the sides. Please help.
Hardiness Zone: 7a
By grifft from Levittown, NY
Go to-how to grow eggplants in pots-lot of info there, good luck.
My fiances grandfather died and we got his eggplant to put in the ground. Since we've transplanted it, it continuously flowers but I cannot get it to bear fruit. It's been in the ground for about a month now. It is in direct sunlight as directed and is watered infrequently. The plant looks healthy overall and all of my other vegetables are doing magnificent, but this one is frustrating me to NO avail. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Hardiness Zone: 10b
Jillian from Jupiter, FL
You might try pollinating the flowers with a feather. Just touch each flower lightly inside to transfer pollen from one blossom to the next. I've heard that the bee population is way down this year, so this may work as a substitute for the bees.
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The weather has been great this summer for gardening. This is the first of a lot of eggplants to enjoy.
Long Island, NY
I planted three eggplants. This is the first flower. Judging from the number of flowers, I'm going to have lots of eggplants this season!
Long Island, NY