Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Grow Eggplant

I (Gia) am the type of gardener who likes challenges.  If someone says "it can't be grown in the Pacific Northwest", I am just the type of gardener who tries to grow it.

There are quite a few veggies that reputedly "don't" grow well in the Greater Seattle Area.  Here is a short list:  

1.  Okra
2.  Melons
3.  Eggplant

These sun lovers usually do not fare well at our community garden but for two years in a row I've had success with eggplants and I would like to share my success with you.  

I planted six eggplants: 2 Satin Beauty, 2 Japanese long, 1 Millionaire and 1 Green Apple.  They have all done wonderfully well this year!   I bought all my eggplants from local hardware stores, they are organic and started as 4 inch potted plants.

Here is a quick "How To" tutorial on how I got such great results!

Firstly, I prepared my raised bed in April (you can also do this in May). I like raised beds or large pots for these heat lovers.  I peeled back the industrial black plastic that had been covering the plot the year before and I added fresh compost and 5 pounds of rock dust to the 3 x 15 foot row.  I then re-covered the raised bed and let the soil heat up for the next 2 months.  (See black plastic in photo below)

Secondly, I purchased my starts in mid-May and let them harden off at home for 7-10 days.  After the acclimation period, I introduced my starts to the garden.  I placed the 4 inch starts in a warm location in my plot for another week to see if they could handle being out in the wide open garden.  I watched them carefully for frost damage or cold stress during this week.  If they fared well after a week then they were ready to be planted into their permanent growing locations.  If not, I coddled then for another week until it was warm enough for them to be happy outside 24/7 at MCGA.

Thirdly,  I planted them 2-3 feet apart with a large stake next to each plant as they can get heavy when loaded with fruit.  In each planting hole I added 1 cup of organic vegetable fertilizer. Remember since these are sun loving plants, do not place them in a location in which they will be shaded whatsoever by other plants.  I watered the starts every 2-3 days until they started to flower.  After they began to flower, I watered every 3-4 days and I fed them every two weeks with an organic liquid fertilizer for vegetables.

Lastly, I staked the plants when necessary, I pruned away all dead and/or damaged leaves, I dusted with diatomaceous earth when the flea beetles started coming around and eventually the plants' growth outpaced the flea beetles.  Harvest when the eggplants reach the desired size, cut the thick stems with pruning shears and watch out for thorns!

I watched these beauties grow for almost three months and felt a certain amount of pride when I gave away my largest eggplant to a fellow gardener.

*Now onto conquer growing a proper melon!

 Satin Beauty-a very prolific plant.  Each plant has 6-8 large 2-3 pound fruits.


Satin Beauty and Japanese Long

Satin Beauty, Japanese long, Satin Beauty and Green Apple

Millionaire and Green Apple

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