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Veggie Bites – Eggplants

My friend starts her eggplants around this time of year for the same reason.  Eggplants, or Aubergines, are in the nightshade family, just like tomatoes.

Greetings fellow gardeners,

Another cold and snowy morning. The snow muffles the sounds of the morning and the air is fresh and crisp; I can almost hear the soft snoring of my perennials tucked in under the snowdrifts. We are another day closer to spring.

The peppers I planted are starting to germinate and are showing their very first leaves or seed leaves which are called cotyledons.  Two of the seedlings are now working on their true leaves, and that is exciting. They are so slow, which is why I started them early. 

First signs of peppers

My friend starts her eggplants around this time of year for the same reason.  Eggplants, or Aubergines, are in the nightshade family, just like tomatoes. I find that they can be a bit fussy in my garden, but I have grown them successfully once I started understanding their needs. Like my peppers, eggplants need a long, warm growing season, so starting them early helps with that. I found that when I tried growing them in the ground, they did not do well, but I got some good fruit when I planted them in a pot.

Start your eggplant early and when it has filled its seed-starting container, transplant it into a two-gallon pot. A two-gallon pot is how much space one eggplant will need to grow properly. An eggplant needs a long growing season of up to 100 days, so an early start is worthwhile. As the plant grows, you will notice the leaves look almost fuzzy and that is okay! If, however, the leaves are full of small holes, you may find that you have an infestation of flea beetles. By giving your eggplant a longer time hardening off before it is set out, you may find that you can avoid the cycle of the flea beetle.

I treat my eggplants as I treat my tomatoes: with good drainage and regular organic feedings. As the eggplant continues to grow, it will start to flower– beautiful flowers that look like a hummingbird favourite. Once the flower is growing, you know the eggplant fruit is not far behind. I think the most difficult part of growing eggplants is knowing when to harvest. I have a tendency to let mine sit too long as I wait for bigger fruit. You will see the fruit as it grows becoming dark and shiny. If the shine starts to go, you know you are waiting too long. In addition to the large dark eggplants we know, there are dwarf hybrids as well as alternative colours like white, green, lavender, and rose. 

It is quite cold out there. As I looked outside into the back yard, I saw what looked like a cloud of ice fog just hanging in the air. That is cold. If you are starting your seeds near a bright sunny window, be sure there are no cold breezes coming in. If it does feel cold, a cover made with clear plastic will help protect your seeds and seedlings. Many stores sell long cell packs with clear plastic domes that would protect your seeds from the cold that may be creeping in.

Once again, I am finding myself bringing in armloads of wood to keep the fire in the woodstove burning. Judging by the number of cats flopping about, this is appreciated. Keep reading your seed catalogues and have a wonderful week. Judith.