If there’s one thing you grow this year, let it be eggplant. I can’t believe I waited so long to try my hand at eggplant. It’s hands down the most satisfying food I’ve ever grown. I got probably fifteen eggplants from a single plant this past fall and I can’t wait to grow more this spring. If you are a novice gardener, keep reading because eggplant is WAY easier to grow than tomatoes. I really don’t know why eggplant isn’t prevalent in every garden. Here’s how to grow eggplant!
Why grow eggplant?
First of all, let me start off with the why: I’ve never eaten tastier eggplant in my life than the ones I grew myself. I am ruined for store-bought eggplant. Not to mention the plant itself is gorgeous. My eggplant easily was four+ feet tall with huge, gorgeous leaves and glossy black eggplant. I’m so mad at myself for not taking a further back photo when I had the chance. I’ll update this article with photos this spring! Hell, if you don’t like eating eggplant, the beauty of the plant is reason enough to grow it.
Where to Plant
Plant transplants in a raised bed garden or container. That’s right, patio dwellers, you can grow eggplant on your patio or balcony in a container! It actually does quite well in a container. Eggplant likes warm weather so if you live in a cool climate, use a dark-colored pot, which can get 10 degrees warmer than other pots. Eggplant needs to be well-drained so a pot or raised bed vegetable garden like mine is perfect. Just like tomatoes, eggplants need plenty of room and a cage or a stake. The fruit is heavy and the plant can topple over from the weight!
Eggplant is one of the easiest vegetables to grow because very little plagues it. It’s only real pest is the black flea beetle, which are said to not trouble eggplants that are grown at least a foot and a half off the ground, meaning patio containers and raised beds are the perfect place to grow eggplant. Another pro for beginner gardeners! You’ll want a five-gallon container per eggplant and four square feet per eggplant for a raised bed.
When to grow eggplant
Many websites describe eggplant as “heat loving” but I feel like those authors don’t live in the south. Eggplant doesn’t love extreme heat like I have here in Dallas, but don’t fret. Keep your plant alive through the summer and you will be rewarded with a bountiful fall harvest. Eggplant thrives in 70-90 degree weather, but any hotter and it may not produce fruit. That makes it an ideal spring and fall vegetable for me here in zone 8 but it may very well be a summer vegetable for you.
Watering & Pollinating
Like many vegetables, try to keep the soil evenly moist – don’t let it dry out in between. A good rule of thumb is to stick your index finger in the dirt up to the first knuckle. If the dirt doesn’t feel moist, water your veggies! Eggplant need plenty of water – at least two inches per week. Eggplants self-pollinate (technically, the wind pollinates the plant) and you only need a single plant to get loads of eggplant. And here’s another reason to love growing eggplant: the little purple flowers that become fruit are so pretty!
Soil & Seaweed
Gardeners get super into soil and compost but I’m no chemist and I have amazing success with Organic Miracle-Gro Raised Bed Soil. (If growing in a pot, use a soil specifically for container gardening.) I also use Sea-Magic on all of my roses and vegetables. (See my post about Sea-Magic here.) It increases the sugar content in vegetables making them beyond delicious, plus it’s very easy to use. In the spring, I mix the powder with water in a gallon jug and then every 3-4 weeks, I add half a cup of the solution to my watering can before watering my vegetables. So easy!
There are two ways to tell when eggplant is ready to harvest:
- The skin is glossy, not dull. See how shiny and gorgeous the skin below looks?
- Press your thumb lightly against the skin. If it’s ripe, your thumb should leave a brief indentation.
Be sure to wear gloves when you harvest eggplant. The top is actually quite sharp! You’ll need shears to cut the stem about an inch above the fruit. This isn’t a tomato situation where you can pluck the fruit off the plant. I’ve had great success keeping eggplant for a week stored at room temperature in large freezer bags.
There are many kinds of eggplant: tiny, huge, striped, white, purple. The eggplant variety featured in this post is Black Beauty, one of the most popular varieties to grow. I can’t wait to grow more kinds! I hope this gets you excited to try growing eggplant yourself.