Eggplant is a tender vegetable that is related to the tomato. The bushes grow 5 feet tall with hairy gray-green leaves. The fruit varies is size, shape and color.
Eggplants need warm soil and warm temperatures. Temperatures should remain above 68 degrees. Full sun is a must.
These heavy feeders should be planted in heavily composted soil with lots of manure, if available. Side dress frequently, especially when the plant begins to bloom.
Eggplant is fairly drought tolerant and should not be overwatered as it is susceptible to root rot. Mulching around the plant will help maintain even moisture. Watering may be increased when blooms appear.
Plant after the ground has warmed and all danger of frost has passed. Seeds should be started indoors at least 8 weeks before transplanting. Place transplants in the garden slightly deeper than they were in their pot. Cold soil will shock the plant and set it back several weeks. In case of an unexpected late frost, cover young plants with hotcaps or milk jugs.
Add a tablespoon of balanced fertilizer. Eggplants don't need or like much fertilizer, so don't don't overdo it. It's a good idea to fertilize again when buds or tiny eggplants appear, but keep it light.
Eggplants are suitable for growing in large containers or tubs. Container growing will help prevent soil borne disease.
Your eggplants will taste best when young. Start harvesting when the fruits reach 1/3 their full growth. They are ready once the skins turn glossy. Once the outside skin turns dull they are past their prime and will contain lots of seeds. Cut the stems with a sharp knife to prevent damage to the vine.
Pests and Diseases
Eggplant is a delicacy for insects. Here in the Southern United States, it's not unusual to set out transplants, and find that two days later all that's left is the stems (if that). It's a good idea to spray with an herbal insect spray when transplanting.
Aphids, spider mites and caterpillars are the main culprits.
||Tiny (less than 1/10 inch) soft bodied pear shaped insects with whiplike antennae. Varied in color. Leaves turn yellow.
||Plant alliums such as garlic and chives. Anise, coriander, nasturtiums, and petunias may be helpful. Use yellow sticky traps or yellow dishes containing soapy water. Soap-Shield and mint tea spray is highly effective. Lacewings will eat 100 aphids per day.
||They devour huge amounts of leaves and sometimes fruits. They leave behind waste that resembles rabbit pellets.
||Fall tilling helps to destroy underground pupae. Rotating crops helps. Interplant with borage (this also improves tomato flavor) opal basil, and marigolds. Dill is a good trap crop. Spray with Bt They are easily handpicked.
||These little mites live on the underside of leaves and thrive in hot, dry conditions.
||Try lightly spraying the undersides of leaves with water daily. Be careful not to soak down you eggplants, as they do not like or need a lot of water. If you find you are infested apply sulfur.
Leaf Spot and Fruit Rot are funguses. Providing full sun and good aeration go a long way toward preventing these diseases. If you find these funguses you may want to plant resistant varieties next year.
To prepare eggplants for cooking, sprinkle cut slices with salt and allow the juices that form to drain away in a colander. After 30 minutes or so, rinse well and pat dry. The eggplants will be less bitter and easier to cook.
Virginia Cooperative Extension: Eggplants