If you are looking to grow your own eggplant, the seeds are found at most garden supply and hardware stores. Farther into spring, seedlings are also found in the gardening section and farmers markets. Seedlings are a great way to start if you opt not to start sprouting the seeds indoors, prior to the end of winter.
To get started sprouting your own eggplant seeds, you need to make sure that the climate offers three consistently warm months for the growing season, such as in the Mediterranean climate. Also, you may want to give them a bit of a head start by growing them indoors about six to nine weeks before the last frost typically occurs.
It would be best to give the seeds a good soaking overnight in lukewarm water and then plant them in vermiculite about a quarter of an inch deep, keeping soil temperature at or around eighty to ninety degrees Fahrenheit consistently.
Upon reaching three inches in height, transplant the seedlings in individual pots, eventually transplanting into container pots outside. Be sure to do this after nighttime temperatures outside and soil temperatures are continually above seventy degrees Fahrenheit.
Raised bed gardening is a great way to grow eggplants since the beds tend to heat up faster than the ground temperatures during the spring. Always remember to give the plants plenty of room to grow. They typically need two and a half to three feet between them for ideal growing conditions. Water eggplants well after planting outside, continuing to keep the soil moist, but leave no standing water.
When the first flowers on the plant appear, pinch them off, allowing the vegetable to begin to grow. This trick tells the plant to focus on producing more eggplant fruiting branches, helping make the plant bushier, instead of thin.
Also, make sure to weed the bed and take out any foreign matter as needed, like twigs, rocks and leaves. Place bamboo poles around or alongside the individual eggplants to help encourage an upright stalk.
Some of the problems that eggplants may have are from overwatering. This makes them susceptible to disease. Flea beetles, the number one enemy of eggplants, thrive by chewing holes in the leaves of the plant. Kaolin clay is good to rid the pests, by dusting the foliage of the eggplant. Dust them after every rain.
Container gardening is best to avoid the beetles as opposed to growing in the ground. Also, Spider mites, green caterpillars and Colorado potato beetles are a nuisance. Knock them off the eggplants with your hands or with water, upon seeing them.
Health Benefits of Growing Your Own Eggplants
Apart from the obvious culinary benefits of cooking with eggplants, they give our bodies fiber, potassium and folate. They are also high in vitamins K, B6 and C. You will also get a lot of exercise out in the garden, along with sunlight and your daily dose of Vitamin D.
You will also get fresh, organic, untouched fruit of the earth with a much richer flavor, far exceeding store bought eggplants.