5 Tips for Growing Excellent Aubergines

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Closeup of an aubergine fruit

Whether you call it aubergine, eggplant, or brinjal, Solanum melongena is interesting to grow and great fun to eat. Ben Vanheems has covered growing aubergines in cooler climates, but even if you have plenty of heat, aubergine can be a tricky crop. After growing aubergines in several different places, I have learned five valuable tips worth sharing.

1. Try growing small-fruited aubergine varieties

Just as petite cherry tomatoes are easier to grow compared to varieties with huge fruits, aubergine varieties that produce modest-size fruits are the most trustworthy types for gardens. Long, slender Asian varieties like ‘Ping Tung Long’ never disappoint, or you might like the shorter fruits of ‘Millionaire’, ‘Bonica’, or another oval-shaped aubergine.

Compact aubergine ‘Patio Baby’. Image courtesy of All-America Selections

Compact varieties that do well in containers or square foot gardens are great fun to grow, whether you try heirloom ‘Morden Midget’ the European favorite called ‘Pot Black’, or ‘Patio Baby’, which won an All America Selections Award in 2014. These bushy aubergine varieties produce numerous secondary branches as the growing season progresses, which gives them staying power in the garden.

2. Start seeds late

There is never a hurry to start aubergine seeds, because the plants grow best under warm conditions. Thanks to their broad leaves, aubergine seedlings grow quickly, gaining size faster than tomatoes or peppers. If you have a long, warm growing season and use a split season planting plan, you can start seeds in midsummer for a fall crop. Set out the seedlings out during a spell of cloudy weather.

Flea beetles are a pain, but there are ways to prevent them

3. Anticipate aubergine flea beetles

Growing aubergines would be ridiculously easy if not for aubergine flea beetles. These tiny hoppers make minuscule holes in leaves of nightshade family plants such as potatoes and tomatoes – but aubergine is their favorite food.

The first tip I ever learned for sidestepping flea beetle problems was to grow the plants on a raised table, in dark coloured nursery pots, for as long as possible. Container grown plants often escape damage, because aubergine flea beetles don’t venture onto decks and patios in search of host plants, and the dark containers help warm the roots on sunny days. I pot up the seedlings as they grow, and set them out when their roots fill a 4-inch (10cm) pot and the plants are quite stocky.

Aubergines are among the few vegetables that don’t mind warm roots, so they grow well in roomy containers provided the plants are given plenty of water.

Covering aubergines with netting can help avoid problems with flea beetles

Large, vigorous plants can outgrow modest flea beetle damage, and young plants are easy to protect with row covers made from tulle (wedding net), which keeps out most flea beetles but does not retain heat. When the plants begin to bloom, remove the covers so bees can reach the flowers. This is a good time to install stakes to keep the plants from falling over as they load up with fruits.

4. Invite native pollinators

Self-fertile aubergine flowers can be fertilised by wind alone, but buzz-pollination by bees improves fruit set and fruit size. Many of the best pollinators are solitary bees – carpenter bees, bumblebees, and little sweat bees – who vibrate the blossoms to shake out pollen. If pollinators are absent or you have only a few plants, you can hand pollinate them by dabbing a dry artist's paintbrush in the open blossoms. Or, touch the back of the blossoms with a vibrating toothbrush to simulate a visit from a buzzing bee.

Aubergines are self-fertile, but will fruit better if visited by bees or are hand-pollinated

5. Provide timely feedings

About six weeks after planting, when the plants bloom and set their first fruits, they benefit from extra nutrients. You can side-dress the plants with organic fertiliser or composted manure, or give them a deep drench with a water-soluble plant food. Fertilise again in late summer, when the plants are holding a heavy set of fruits.

Container-grown aubergines need almost constant feeding, though you must look out for excessive salt buildup, which can cause the plants to stop growing. Every two weeks or so, drench the containers with clean water to leach out accumulated salts. Fish or kelp based organic fertilisers leave behind fewer salts than most synthetic products.

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Show Comments


"Please can corn be sowed with eggplant as companion plant?"
SAMPSON RTK HATSU on Sunday 22 September 2019
"This will be my first attempt at growing Aubergines from a gifted plant. Can i get reasonable results by growing them outside, and what type of feed will help them to mature Many thanks Major. Derby."
Major Mike Curtis on Tuesday 12 May 2020
"Any comments on growing Aubergines for the first time from a gifted plant "
Mike Curtis (major) on Tuesday 12 May 2020
"This is my first time growing eggplants. What is the best fertilizer to use? . My other question is can I use liquid chicken litter throughout the growing season every 10 days or so. Many thanks for your help."
Elizabeth Mason on Wednesday 10 June 2020
"Hi. I have just two plants in containers. They are blooming like crazy, but not not setting fruit. Suggestions? Thanks"
Jim on Thursday 25 June 2020
"I have 1aubegine plant but the flowers keep dying can you please help "
MMcavoy on Friday 10 July 2020
"My egg plant grown big and healthy but has not flower at all, Why and what do i need to do?"
mohsen shirzadi on Tuesday 14 July 2020
"I’m getting flowers but no fruit, plenty of bees around from my own hives. Have liquid fertilised, good, composted soil and plenty of water, they’re in a good sunny spot. I live in coastal Perth WA. "
Bev on Tuesday 29 December 2020
"I have four plants but only one produced 1 only egg plant. Also if i cut the plants back will they produce again."
Aly on Sunday 6 June 2021

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