The most popular variety of eggplant that people will recognize immediately is the black beauty. It is that dark purple colored eggplant that is about ten to twelve inches long and an oblong shape. However there are more than a dozen varieties available.
Eggplants like it warm. In fact they like the ground to be hot. This does not mean if the ground is a bit cooler they won't grow. What it means is to have your eggplants excel in growth and produce faster the temperature of the soil should be around eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-nine Celsius).
The best way to keep that temperature up there is by placing grass clippings around the base of the plant. When the grass clippings begin to decompose heat is generated and that heat transfers to the soil giving your eggplant the optimal growing temperature.
Because eggplants like it warm, I recommend that you start your seeds indoors. You can buy a portable mini greenhouse for less than five bucks at home and garden centers. Place them on your window sill where the sun hits first thing in the morning and in a few days your eggplant seeds will have germinated. Once there is no fear of frost outdoors and your eggplants are at least three inches tall you can them move them to the outdoors.
Once you have planted them in the ground, keep in mind that eggplants require lots of water and full sun. Without one, the other or both, it will take longer for them to produce their fruit, if at all. So make sure you pick a spot in the garden that receives sun all day and give them a heavy watering every couple of days or so.
For you advanced gardeners or those of you that want to take your vegetable gardening to a whole new level, planting beans, peas, peppers and/or potatoes alongside your eggplant all make for great companions to the eggplant. Although companion planting goes beyond the scope of this article, it is the process of planting different vegetables together in the same area because they compliment each other for a number of reasons. You can learn more about companion planting at our website.
Another advanced technique is monitoring the pH level of your soil. Soil test kits are available at your home or garden center for a couple of dollars and you can obtain this reading in just a few minutes. Eggplants like the soil to be a bit more acidic. Optimally the soil pH level should be in the 5.5 to 7.0 range for best results. Again, you can find more information about pH levels at our website.
Eggplant is best harvested when it reaches maturity, which is about ten to twelve inches in length for most varieties. Letting it go longer could result in flavor loss and too soon makes for a less tasty and harder fruit. When picking the eggplant I recommend that you use shears or garden scissors and cut the eggplant from the plant at the stem leaving half of the stem connected to the plant and half connected to the fruit.