Growing Healthy Organic Eggplants

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The eggplant is related to the tomato and potato plant. The typical eggplant is pear shaped and has its own special features. For eggplants to grow healthy they need a constant supply of warm conditions for about three months. If grown in cold soil or left open to chilly weather conditions, they are at risk of insects and disease infestations.

Planting

You should begin planting your eggplants indoors 6-9 weeks before the last frost.  To hasten the germination process the seeds should be soaked the night before.  Once the seeds have been soaked, plant them in ¼ fine, loose soils, for example, vermiculite. Bottom heat is needed to keep the temperature of the soil at 27° to 32°C for the required 8-10 days needed for sprouting. Seedlings should be transferred to separate pots when they reach a height of 3ft.  The seedlings can become sturdy if they are slowly introduced to the outdoors.  Transferring seedlings into larger pots is to be maintained while you are waiting for the air and soil outside to warm up to a minimum of 21°C.

When eggplants are grown in raised beds, they do well because the beds get warm very quickly during spring.  Allow your plants lots of room as this will help them to grow well and produce better.   Plants should be placed at a distance of 2 ½ to 3 ft. from each other. Give adequate water and empty 1-2 cups of compost tea around every plant, and then gently firm the soil. If you want your eggplants to grow bigger then you can transfer them to larger containers; 1 eggplant to a 5 gallon pot.

Growing guidelines

Mulching is needed immediately after transplanting. Pull all visible weeds gently with your hands. You can plant an early crop of lettuce between the eggplant transplants too. Spray on some liquid organic fertilizer once the eggplant flowers. Give your plants a weekly dosage of 1 to 1 ½ inches of water.

Pests and diseases

Flea beetles love eggplants. They bite the leaves, leaving small holes. Keeping the plants indoors or dusting the leaves with kaolin clay will deter the flea beetles.

The yellow-and- black-striped Colorado potato beetles and their numerous eggs found on the underside of the leaves can be removed by hand and then destroyed.  The tomato horn worms, 4 inch white striped green caterpillars can be effectively controlled by handpicking. It is extremely important that you leave the caterpillars covered with small white cocoons as these hold the parasitic brood of the braconid wasps which will benefit the plants. Yellow stippled leaves are caused by small spider mites; eliminate these by spraying with water.

Verticillium wilt, the most common eggplant disease, can be prevented by crop rotation and by planting resistant varieties.

When to Harvest

  • Eggplants are mature when the skin has a high sheen
  • The fruit is ready when the skin is pressed and the indentation does not spring back.
  • Use a knife or pruning sheers to cut the stem when harvesting
  • An eggplant that is cut open, revealing brown seeds inside is over-ripe.
  • Avoid over-ripe fruits by picking them when they are a bit young, between ? to ? of their fully grown size.

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