Recently, I have shared article information on popular garden items such as tomatoes, peppers and squash. Today, I will stay with a garden theme and share information on eggplant.

For a brief history lesson, Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing eggplant into the United States. Eggplant is a part of the Solanaceus family. The original eggplant fruit did look white and like chicken eggs. Now, you can grow eggplant that can come in various shapes, sizes and colors. I will add that some people will grow eggplants as a container ornamental plant. Today, I will be sharing information from a UGA circular by Malgorzata Florkowska and Bob Westerfield, UGA Horticulturists.

For starters, according to medicalnewstoday.com, the eggplant can provide many heath benefits. This site states that a serving of eggplant can provide at least 5% of a person’s daily requirement of fiber, copper, manganese, B-6, thiamine along with other vitamins and minerals. Eggplant is a source of phenolic compounds that can act as antioxidants. The site also stated that eggplant fiber may also help with cholesterol levels. These could be good reasons to try growing eggplant fruit in your garden spot this growing season.

How do you grow eggplant? Per our literature, you can grow eggplant from seed indoors if you choose. You should start from seed indoors about six to eight weeks before the last expected frost. Cover the seeds very lightly with soil and keep them in a warm place with good light. Florkowska and Westerfield add that supplemental light may be required to obtain strong plant growth and to prevent the plants from being too leggy. You should set up lights 6 inches above the plants and keep the lights on for approximately 14 hours a day. You should water the soil using a fine mist to keep the plants moist.

You should harden-off the plants before transplanting into the actual garden spot outdoors. The plan to harden-off the plants is to leave them outside for two or three days, but bring them back indoors at night. On the fourth day, leave the plants outdoors for 24 hours. If you do not want to grow from seed,

you can purchase transplants from a garden center. Our UGA information breaks down eggplant varieties into purple and white varieties. The popular purple fruit producing varieties are Black Beauty, Classic and Epic. The Black Beauty and Epic can be earlier maturing varieties in the 60-64 day range. The white eggplant varieties will mature in normally 70-80 days with popular varieties being Ghostbuster, Santana, Snowy and Casper.

Eggplant will perform better in warm soils. It is suggested to wait to buy transplants until the danger of frost has passed and the weather is staying sunny and warm. Soil temperatures should be in the 65 to 70 degree F range before planting transplants. The growing area should receive 8 to 10 of sunlight per day and the area need to drain excess moisture well. Ideally, you should submit a soil sample in order to get correct liming and fertilizing recommendations.

Soil testing is economical at $9. We are shipping soil samples to our UGA Soil Test Lab weekly with results coming back in 5 to 6 working days. We can send you the proper soil sampling procedure and even have soil probes available for client checkout and use. For eggplant, soil pH should be in the 6.0 to 7.0 range for best plant growth. If you choose to not conduct a soil test, you can use 10-10-10 or 13-13- 13 fertilizer at the rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet of row. Spade or till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Our info adds that adding organic matter in the form of topsoil, compost or a bagged amendment and incorporating into the native soil can improve the results. After you amend and till, level the area with a rake. Florkowska and Westerfield add that eggplants can also be planted in raised beds. Plant eggplants in a row and space 18 inches apart with at least 30 inches between rows. Note that when plants are mature, they may need support such as from tomato cages. Mulching can help with weed issues and can help conserve soil moisture. You should water as needed to a depth of 6 inches with drip irrigation if possible. Keep in mind that eggplant need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.

Eggplant fruit can be harvested when they develop a shiny skin and feel firm when squeezed. You should cut the fruit with a sharp knife or pruners. Note to never twist the fruit to break it from the plant stem. This can limit the future production. Eggplants can produce till frost in the fall. Eggplant fruit is highly perishable. You can store harvested fruit in a paper bag in the coolest place of the house for up to two days. Fruit will store in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Fruit can be stored in the freezer if they are skinned, sliced and blanched before freezing.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at gbowman@uga.edu.

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