From when to plant your eggplants to how best to care for them and when to harvest, we’re about to dive in and teach you all that you need to know about these warm-weather vegetables.
What Time of Year Should You Plant Eggplants?
If you are thinking about growing eggplant, it’s a good idea to consider which time of year they typically do best.
“Eggplant seeds should be started indoors in mid-spring under grow lights or in a sunny window,” says Niki Jabbour, the author of “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener.”
The reason they do well when planted in the springtime has to do with the fact that eggplants are warm-weather season, meaning that—like tomatoes and peppers—they grow the fastest when temperatures are between 70 and 85°F (21 and 30°C), according to The Old Farmers Almanac.
Related Reading: 5 Tips for Starting a Garden
What Kind of Conditions Do Eggplant Plants Thrive In?
In order for eggplants to thrive, you need to make sure your eggplants are growing in proper conditions.
“Eggplants need plenty of sun to grow well and produce a good yield. They also appreciate well-drained, organic soil that has been amended with compost or aged manure,” Jabbour says.
Related Reading: How Eggshells and Coffee Grounds Can Make Your Garden Grow
How Do You Care for Eggplants?
To grow big, beautiful eggplants, Jabbour’s top tip is to “water consistently, especially if eggplant is planted in pots.”
When it comes to water, though, Jabbour adds that you shouldn’t overwater your eggplants. Instead, you do want to keep the soil slightly moist. “Drought-stressed plants yield fewer fruits so pay attention to soil moisture,” Jabbour says.
As for any special feed or fertilizer, Jabbour recommends fertilizing every two to three weeks with a liquid organic food like kelp or fish emulsion.
“This promotes healthy growth and big plants,” she says.
Alaska Fish Fertilizer, $9.98 from Home Depot
Is There Anything You Shouldn’t Do When Caring for Eggplants?
Try to keep the eggplant fruits up off the ground to prevent any damage to the stems or the veggies themselves. To do so, you could purchase tomato cages that wrap around each plant as reinforcements.
Ideally, you want your plants to stand tall and look bushy, not slumpy or lying on the ground.
Additionally, “Don’t try growing eggplants in a spot that doesn’t get at least eight to ten hours of sun each day. These plants love a bright spot with plenty of heat,” Jabbour says.
How Do You Know When Eggplants Are Ready to Be Harvested?
As for when to harvest them, Jabbour adds, “Once the last frost date has passed in late spring, the seedlings can be hardened off and moved to the garden.”
According to The Old Farmers Almanac, eggplants typically taste the best when harvested early, so be sure to keep an eye on them as they’re developing on the vine. Don’t just wait until late spring to check and see whether they’re ready.
Jabbour confirms this line of thinking, saying: “Eggplant fruits are ready to pick when they are firm, but not hard and the skin is shiny. Don’t leave them on the plants too long or they will become over-mature and bitter.”
Hutzler Garden Colander Harvest Basket, $28.73 from Home Depot
Related Reading: Veggie Harvest Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Garden
How to Eat Eggplant
Depending on how you like to eat your eggplant, there are plenty of ways to prep it.
For one, during summertime, it’s super yummy to have grilled on the BBQ. If you haven’t yet, you have to try our delicious Vietnamese Grilled Eggplant Salad.
Or, if you don’t have a grill handy, you can also prep your eggplant in the oven. For a recipe idea, check out our Eggplant and Mushroom Polenta Bake.
Header image courtesy of Juana Mari Moya / Moment / Getty Images