Easy Eggplants (cont)
By: Charlie Nardozzi with Peter Kopcinski
Pests and Diseases
It's best to grow eggplants in a part of the garden where you haven't grown any other Solanum crops -- tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers -- previously. Many pests of eggplants are pests of these related plants too. The chief scourge of young plants are flea beetles. These small, black beetles create a spray of holes in leaves when they feed. To keep flea beetles away, cover the transplants with floating row covers, and spray a botanical insecticide such as pyrethrum to control any beetles that sneak under the cover.
The Colorado potato beetle is a pest of mature plants, and often prefers eggplants to potatoes. Check under the leaves for the tell-tale masses of orange eggs and crush them. Spray Bt 'San Diego' on the larvae to control them.
The most common diseases are verticillium wilt and phomopsis blight. Verticillium is a soil-borne disease that attacks plants weakened by stress. The leaves begin to wilt and yellow, the yield is reduced, and sometimes the plants are lost. The best cures are rotating crops with unrelated crops, keeping plants stress-free, and growing early-maturing varieties. If none of these options work, grow plants in containers filled with a peat moss-based potting soil mix.
Phomopsis is a problem in hot, humid areas such as Florida and the Gulf Coast. The disease causes leaf spots, canker-like lesions on the stems and sunken dark areas on the fruits. Clean up plant debris well in fa and plant resistant varieties such as 'Florida Market' to control this disease.
One of the biggest mistakes home gardeners make with eggplant is that they harvest the fruits too late. The sooner you pick the fruits, the better they taste. Once the seeds begin to form and the skin has a dull appearance, the fruits are overripe. Begin to harvest eggplants when they are about one-third their maximum size. While the skin is still shiny, cut off the fruits with a sharp knife, leaving one inch of the green stem (the calyx). Store fruits in a 45° to 50° F room with high humidity to preserve their texture and flavor.