Growing eggplant in the home garden is a great way to enjoy fresh vegetables all year long. Learn everything you need to know about growing eggplant or aubergine in the home garden, including where to plant them, how much sunlight they need, and what type of soil works best. Let’s get started learning about growing eggplant!
The Benefits of Growing Eggplant
Eggplant can get kind of bad rap since people have strong feelings about eating it. Most are usually lover or haters of eggplant, also known at aubergine in Europe. But whether you love it or hate, there are definitely some benefits to growing eggplant in the home garden.
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The first benefit of growing eggplant is they grow pretty easily! This is great if you’re a new gardener who’s looking for an easy start with vegetables. Eggplants are also rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties which may help fight off cancer and other diseases.
There are so many eggplant varieties to choose from! You can find eggplants that grow short and round, long and thin or medium sized eggplants with large fruits as well as smaller ones called ‘Bambino’. With all of these options it’s easy to experiment with different types of eggplant until you find the one that suits your tastes.
Popular Varieties of Eggplant
There are classic large eggplants or more narrow Japanese eggplant varieties, so which eggplant types are the most commonly grown? Check out my list:
- Black Beauty: This classic eggplant variety is one of the most popular types grown in the home garden, and more than likely what you see at the grocery store as well.
- Fairy Tale Hybrid: This smaller variety has beautiful purple and white striated patterns over the skin. A lovely garden addition!
- Casper White: Just like the name implies, this white eggplant is smaller but has a beautiful white color.
- Ichiban Eggplant: This long, Japanese variety is my personal favorite. They are slender eggplants that are prolific growers. A family favorite!
When and Where to Grow Eggplant
Eggplant can be planted in the spring and summer months, but does best when transplanted outside after danger of frost has passed. In warmer zones, eggplant will continue to grow well into the fall and can withstand cooler temps once they’re established.
They need full sun to grow well, so plan for a space that gets at least 6 hours of sun each day! Raised beds are a perfect place for eggplant, since the soil is typically well draining. Also take into consideration how much space an eggplant will require. They can grow 2-3 feet tall in some cases (with support) and can spread wide as well.
How to Grow Eggplant at Home
Starting from seed– If starting eggplant from seed, it is best to start them indoors about six weeks before the last frost in your area.
Eggplant needs a warm, well drained soil with plenty of compost added for moisture retention and eggplants prefer slightly acidic soil (pH between pH of around five up to seven).
Transplanting– Transplant eggplant plants to the garden when the danger of frost has passed. Be sure to harden off any seedlings that were started indoors or that were purchased from a greenhouse. This is important to their survival and cold hardiness.
Eggplant Spacing: Space eggplant plants at least 18″ apart in rows 36-48 inches apart when growing eggplants in the home garden. If using a raised bed garden or square-foot gardening, then plant one plant per square foot.
Watering Eggplants– Eggplants need even watering throughout their life cycle, but they do not like wet feet so avoid watering them from overhead or by drenching the soil.
Fertilizing eggplants– Eggplant plants should be fertilized at least once a month with a balanced fertilizer that includes nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Some eggplant varieties may require additional calcium during blossom time to strengthen stems and improve fruit set. Some good quality fertilizers that I use are:
Pruning Eggplants– eggplants can be pruned three to four weeks after transplanting the plants. Prune the eggplants as needed, but do not remove more than one third of a plant at any time. Pruning can help control size in smaller garden spaces.
Mulching– It is recommended that eggplant plants have a two inch layer of mulch applied around the base for weed suppression. Use a good quality weed-free mulch or use compost as a mulch. Not sure how to compost? Learn how to start composting here.
Growing Eggplant in Pots– Eggplants can easily be grown in pots, and many of the same planting guidelines apply that were listed above. Use good quality potting soil, and choose a pot that is large enough for a plant that could reach 2-3 feet in height and spread.
How to Harvest Eggplant
Not sure when to harvest eggplants? Here are some tips for harvesting eggplants:
- Eggplants should be harvested when eggplants are dark colored and have reached full size. The original seed package or planter stake will have details about how large to expect the eggplant to be.
- Harvest eggplants by cutting them from the plant at the stem with a sharp knife or pruners.
- Eggplants should be harvested early in the morning after the dew has dried and before it gets too hot outside for best flavor. This is true for most of the vegetables you may grow in the home garden.
- Store harvested eggplants in a cool, dry place such as the fridge (in a plastic bag) or garage. They don’t keep very long after being harvested, so have plans to use them fairly quickly.
- Also, don’t cut eggplant until you’re ready to use it.
How to Preserve Eggplant
After the harvest, how can you preserve eggplant to eat later? There are three ways! Eggplant can be preserved by freezing, pickling or drying.
Freezing eggplant may be the easiest method, though it does require blanching or baking ahead of time to kill the enzymes that will affect texture and flavor. I’ll have a post coming soon for how to freeze eggplant!
Pickling eggplant is less common here, but apparently Italians love it! Check out this recipe for Pickled Eggplant from An Italian in my Kitchen.
Drying eggplant requires the use of a low temp oven or dehydrator. It can even be made into eggplant jerky! Who knew?
I hope this helps you to grow eggplant in your own home garden. It really is an incredibly versatile plant that yields delicious fruit.
If eggplant plants are well tended, then they can produce an abundant amount of eggplant for you to use, preserve, or give away!