Start eggplant seeds indoors 6-9 weeks before the last frost is expected. Eggplants need warmth, so it is best to start them indoors and transplant them once the weather is warm enough. Aim to germinate the seeds 6-9 weeks before the last frost of the year is predicted. Eggplants should not be re-planted outdoors until the temperature is at least 70 °F.
Soak the seeds overnight before germinating them. Eggplant seeds have a better chance of growing if they are soaked thoroughly before planting. Place the seeds in a small container and completely cover them with water. Let the seeds sit overnight, then drain the water.
Fill seed trays with a fine, loose growing medium. For the best results, germinate eggplant seeds in your favorite soil-less growing medium. Using your fingers, push 2-3 eggplant seeds into the growing medium in each individual seed container. Plant the seeds ¼ inch deep, cover the seeds and mist or sprinkle water onto the surface. Cover your seed trays with a humidity dome.
Eggplants seeds will germinate as soon as 5 days or in as long as 2 weeks, depending on the temperature they are kept at. Warmer temperatures will spur a quicker germination period. Try to maintain a temperature of at least 65 °F for your eggplant seeds while they are germinating.
After your seeds have germinated, remove the humidity dome.
When your seedlings are about 3 inches tall, pot up into bigger pots if needed. You should aim to finish your eggplants in a 4-inch pot or larger.
The potted seedlings should be kept indoors until the outdoor temperature reaches at least 70 °F.
Choose a spot in your garden that gets full sunlight. Eggplants require very high temperatures to grow and thrive in a garden. Ideally, choose a spot that gets sun for more than 6 hours per day to plant your eggplants. Eggplant grows best in healthy, well-drained soil. Use a gardening rake to loosen the top 8 inches of your soil. Pour a 2-inch layer of organic soil amendment on top of the soil. Use the rake to mix it into the soil evenly.
Eggplants do best when they have room to spread and grow. Dig holes slightly larger than your seedlings' roots, spaced 24–30 inches in all directions.
Mulching will help prevent the growth of weeds and keep your plants warm. Straw, compost, and grass clipping are good choices for natural mulch materials. Scatter about an inch around the base of your eggplant seedlings.
Use bamboo sticks or other suitable stakes to hold up your plants. Insert the stakes into the soil about 1–2 inches away from each seedling. As the plants grow, they will lean onto the stakes and won't disturb any surrounding plants.
To thrive, eggplant need at least 1 inch of water per week. Aim for one weekly, intensive watering rather that multiple, short watering sessions. Frequent watering promotes shallow roots, which can compromise the durability of your eggplants.
Row covers are great for protecting eggplants from the cold, disease, and insects- particularly flea beetles, which can destroy eggplant quickly in some parts of the country.
Harvest eggplants 16-24 weeks after sowing when their skin is glossy. Keep track of your planting schedule from the day you first sow your eggplant seeds. At the 16-week mark, start checking your eggplant crops to see if they are ready for harvesting. When the skin is shiny, cut off eggplants near the stem with sharp pruning shears.
Eggplant, Solanum melogena
Pollination, self/insect; Life Cycle, annual; Isolation Distance, 50-100 feet
Eggplants are self-pollinating, though they are visited by insects, so distance should be observed or screened cages used. To ensure vigor in your seed genetics, grow at least 6 plants together. Let the fruits grow far past maturity as seed saved from immature or ready-to-eat plants will not be viable. Seeds are also much easier to remove from overripe fruits, and can be done by picking out the seeds by hand or putting the flesh in a blender with a few inches of water and mixing on low speed. The seeds should sink and the pulp will rise so you can poor it off. Allow cleaned seed to dry completely before storage.