by National Gardening Association Editors
- Eggplants are a warm-weather crop.
- Start plants indoors in flats or peat pots about 2 months before the soil warms up in your region, or buy nursery transplants just before planting.
- A fertile, well-drained soil is required for best results.
Use a covering of black plastic mulch to warm heavy clay soils before setting out transplants.
Mix 1 inch or so of well-rotted manure or a general fertilizer such as 5-10-5 throughout the planting bed about a week before planting. Apply 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet.
- Set out the transplants when all spring frost danger is past. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
Mix 1 tablespoon of 5-10-5 or a shovelful of rotted manure or good compost with the soil in the bottom of each planting hole and cover with more soil.
Add an organic mulch to retain moisture and control weeds after the soil has completely warmed up, about 1 month after setting out transplants.
- Side-dress with 1 tablespoon of 5-10-5 or 10-6-4 per plant when the plants have set several fruits, in southern regions where the growing season is long, side-dress every 3 to 4 weeks.
- See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common eggplant pests such as flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and tomato hornworms.
- Start harvesting when the eggplants are 4 to 5 inches long. The skin should be shiny; dull skin is a sign that the eggplant is overripe.
- Use a sharp knife and cut the eggplant from the plant, leaving at least 1 inch of stem attached to the fruit.