It’s not as popular as its cousin tomato, but eggplant or aubergine has almost as many culinary uses in a range of cuisines. With its attractive glossy fruits, it’s a beautiful crop to grow in the garden. Some varieties are long and thin, others as small as grapes, with colours that range from black to white and even orange. This is an incredibly rewarding crop and easy to grow when conditions are right.
By
Phil Dudman

6 Sep 2012 - 3:29 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2017 - 11:50 AM

At a glance

Ease of culture: Easy
Where: All regions
Best climate: Warm to hot conditions
When: Spring and summer
Spacing: 50cm
Harvest: 3 months
pH: 5.5-7

 

Climate

• Eggplant is a warm-season crop. It needs temperatures between 21 and 30°C to do well
• It will grow year round in the tropics and most of the year in subtropical areas
• In temperate and cool zones, eggplant is grown from mid-spring to mid-autumn. Planting your crop in front of a north-facing wall will provide some of the additional heat they like, and extend your growing season

 

Soil

• Eggplant performs best in a rich, organic, free draining soil.
• Before planting, dig over the ground to a spade deep and fork in plenty of well-rotted compost and manure, and then mound the soil to improve the drainage.
• Eggplants prefer slightly acid conditions (ph 5.5-7) so there’s no need to add lime unless your soil is very acid. If your pH is higher than 7, add powdered sulphur to lower the pH.

 

Box: Family Medical History

Eggplants are in the same family (Solanaceae) as tomato, potato and capsicum, and share many of the same pests and diseases. To avoid build-up of pest and disease problems, avoid planting eggplant as an immediate follow up in beds where their cousins have been. Where possible, always rest these areas from other Solanaceae for a few seasons.

 

Sowing

• Planting is best done in spring and summer in most areas, but can also be done in autumn in the tropics. 
• In cooler areas, it's wise to plant as soon as the weather warms to take full advantage of the warmer months and maximise your returns. Also, give yourself a head start and plant seedlings rather than seed, which can take up to 3 weeks to germinate.
• While slow, eggplants grow readily from seed sown in pots of quality seed-raising mix, and allow you to grow interesting varieties not readily available as seedlings. Place pots in a warm protected spot and keep the mix moist until the seeds germinate. Seedlings can be planted out when 10cm tall, spaced 50cm apart.

 

Watering and fertilising

• Eggplants must be watered deeply and regularly during hot weather. Dry soil will lead to poor fruit production and splitting
• Mulch plants well to retain moisture
• Be careful not to overwater, which can cause root rot
• Fertilise with a balanced organic fertiliser every six weeks

 

Harvesting

• Eggplants start cropping 10-12 weeks after planting and continue fruiting while the weather is warm
• Fruit are ready to pick when firm and glossy
• Harvest young. Older fruit are bitter and contain large seeds, which make eating gritty
• Use secateurs to remove fruit to avoid plant damage