Aubergine Solanum melongena, Eggplant, Garden egg, Brinjal

An exotic, tropical vegetable that has become a common ingredient in many a household thanks to greenhouse-grown year round supply. Aubergines or ‘eggplants’ are stunning to behold in a home greenhouse or veg garden. Different varieties offer purple, white, blue, lilac, yellow and orange colours with sizes and shapes ranging from the moderate to the massive and the slender to the spherical. Aubergines are members of the same family as tomatoes, potatoes and capsicums.

These are great plants for kids to sow and care for because they produce such amazing looking fruits and the potential harvest can be highly rewarding for young gardeners keen on results!

Companions Marigolds, peas, thyme and tarragon.

Quantity 1 plant per person.

THE GROWING LIFECYCLE



Aubergine

  • Sun-loving
  • Rich fertile soil
  • Sow sed indoors
  • Summer crop
  • Exotic colourful fruits

 



Our Top 5 Varieties

Black Beauty has characteristic roundish, oval purple fruit and is a drought tolerant variety.

Long Purple a good choice for cooler areas with shorter summer seasons as it matures relatively fast.

Black Egg has smallish fruit on compact plants – ideal for container growers.

White Star has large, snowy white fruits and is a good choice for cooler areas – though it still needs a sunny spot.

Asian Bride has slender fruits that are multi-coloured white and lilac –purple. Compact, sturdy plants.

Getting started

When

Aubergines are intolerant of cold temperatures so wait until all risk of frost in your area has passed – this normally means at least after Labour Day – before you plant your seedlings in the garden. In colder parts of the country you may find you have to wait until December or plant in a greenhouse.

In warmer areas sow indoors or under cover in August and plant out mid to late October as long as it is warm.

In cooler spots sow indoors or under cover in September and plant out when all risk of frosts has passed.

Where

A place in the sun is best for ripening the large fruits. Even better if you can grow them against a north-facing wall that will reflect the sun’s heat during the day. Aubergine plants grow to about knee-height.


Its all about warmth for aubergines. If you generally get 3 to 4 months of reasonably stable temperatures through summer then this is a plant for you.

Soil

Like zucchini and tomatoes, aubergines are gross feeders and require a soil rich in nutrients that also drains well. I dig a round hole about the size of a bucket and fill it with rotted compost, seaweed, chicken poo, sheep pellets – whatever I have to hand – mixing with the garden soil as I go. If the bed I have chosen has a soil that generally hangs on to moisture then I’ll add a few spades-full of grit or fine pumice and mix that in too to help with drainage.

SOW & PLANT

SOW

Aubergine seeds are best popped into a small pot (around a finger length in height) of seed compost and put on a sunny windowsill, in a cold frame or in a greenhouse to grow on and get a head start on the cooler weather of early spring.

If you plant two seeds per pot you can select the stronger of the two when they have developed a pair of leaves (just pinch out the weaker one at soil level).
If you are buying seedlings then go for specimens that are well-rooted, stout and upright.

PLANT

Make a hole in your soil that is as deep as the seedling’s pot and pop the seedling in before back-filling and gently firming the soil around it. Water well.
It is a good idea, if planting outdoors, to use a cloche over seedlings in the early stages but remove cloches once weather has really warmed up or seedlings might rot due to a build up of humidity inside their enclosure.

Aubergines can be grown in pots which means you can find a nice hot sunny corner for them to do their thing. As long as you pack your pots with nutritious organic material and maintain a good watering regime you should be rewarded with eye-catching fruits.

MAINTAIN

Water your plants as they start to grow. Mulch around the base of the plant but keep mulch a thumb’s length away from the stem as this can rot if it comes into contact with too much moisture.


Give your plants a high potash feed of liquid comfrey every two weeks. Bees are not overly drawn to aubergine flowers so when they appear, hand-pollinate the flowers by using a soft paintbrush and gently brushing across the centre of each flower. Each flower has male and female parts so all you are doing is making that all important momentary connection.


Aphids can attack aubergine plants. Treat any visible infestations with Neem oil, Garlic oil spray or Tomato leaf spray.
Wilt can also be a problem. Remove affected foliage, if practical, and treat with Baking soda spray. Alternatively remove entire plants. Do not compost or you risk contaminating compost with spores.

HARVEST OR PICK

Harvest aubergines whilst fruit are firm and the skin is still glossy as this usually coincides with the flesh being sweet and seeds small and soft.