Planting eggplant, the first steps to start your crop off right

Planting eggplant

An easy veggie to grow, eggplant is a pleasure to eat as well. With its purple peel and white flesh, the summer-flavored fruit vegetable make our fests a true delight. Discover the most important step to grow this staple vegetable in your patch: planting.

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Where to plant eggplant?

A summer vegetable? With good reason: it simply adores full sun! Eggplant needs a lot of sun exposure to ripen fully. Reserve all the warmest and sunniest portions of your garden for it, as long as it’s also a bit sheltered from wind. Just like tomato, eggplant appreciates rich, cool soil that drains well.

When to plant eggplant?

Sow your eggplant seeds under shelter as early as March-April. To transfer your seedlings (or young plants purchased in nursery pots) to the ground, you must wait for the end of all freezing. Usually, this is around mid-May, but the exact date depends on where you live.

How to plant eggplant?

Sowing seeds under shelter

Sowing eggplant in nursery potsYou can buy seeds directly, or keep them from one year to the next. This only works for true-to-seed varieties. In order to get seedlings that are ready to transplant mid-May, you need to start your sowing March-April, under a cold frame.

  • Fill your nursery pots with a blend of soil mix and sand
  • Drop 2 to 3 seeds in each nursery pot
  • Cover with a thin layer of substrate
  • Water using a gentle spray and keep the ground moist until seeds sprout
  • When germinated seedlings have 4-5 leaves, thin by keeping only the most vigorous sprout in each nursery pot
  • Keep your young seedlings in their pot until the last frost date has passed

Sowing directly in the growing bed

Direct sowing of eggplant in the growing bedDidn’t come around to sowing your seeds early in a sheltered spot? Don’t panic, it’s still OK to sow directly in the ground.

  • Dig furrows about an inch deep (2-3 cm) and 1½ feet apart (50 cm)
  • Every 20 inches (50 cm), drop 2-3 seeds
  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil
  • Keep the soil cool until they sprout
  • As for sheltered sowing, thin when most saplings have a few leaves each

Planting eggplant directly in the ground

Seedling from an eggplant transplanted to the groundAll right, no more freezing in the weather forecast! Finally the time has come to transplant your new eggplant seedlings! If you buy trays of seedlings in garden stores, make sure you plant the best and lushes seedlings first. Avoid planting that have yellow spots or collapsing stems. Take a minute to check on the root system: roots should be white or cream-colored, and shouldn’t twist round and round inside the pot.

  • Space each seedling 20 inches to all sides (50 cm)
  • Dig holes that are a wee bit wider than the size of the nursery pot itself
  • Add a handfull of compost at the bottom of the hole
  • Mix into your garden soil a lot of compost: up to half! Eggplant is always very hungry for nutrients!
  • Position the root clump in the hole, backfill and press down
  • Water abundantly

Planting eggplant in a pot

It is perfectly possible to grow eggplant in a pot. Use, if this is the case, a pot that is at least 2 feet (60 cm) across (diameter).

  • Eggplant planted in a potCheck that the bottom of the pot has a hole so that water can flow out
  • Pack a layer of clay pebbles along the bottom of the pot
  • Fill with a blend of vegetable patch soil mix with two handfuls of compost or organic fertilizer
  • Settle the plant at the center of the pot and level the substrate
  • Press down well all around the eggplant seedling
  • Cover with a layer of mulch to reduce water evaporation
  • Water abundantly

Companion plants and crop rotation

Planting carnation before or alongside eggplant is recommended. This flower helps repel whitefly and nematode pests. Ideally, try to plant eggplant after growing Allium (garlic, shallot, onion, leek), corn, lawn grass and green manure. However, avoid growing onion and potato in the vicinity of eggplant.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Unsplash: Nina Luong
CC BY 2.0: sakura, Cristina Sanvito
CC BY-SA 2.0: Maggie McCain
Pixabay: Emilian Robert Vicol