By: Amy Grant
If you’ve ever grown eggplant, you probably realize that supporting eggplants is imperative. Why do eggplant plants need support? Fruit comes in several sizes depending upon the variety, but staking eggplants regardless of size will also retard disease while allowing for optimal growth and yield. Read on to learn about eggplant support ideas.
Do Eggplant Plants Need Support?
Yes, it’s wise to create a support for eggplants. Staking eggplant keeps the fruit from touching the ground, which in turn, reduces the risk of disease and fosters fruit shape, especially for elongated eggplant varieties.
Eggplants are also prone to falling over when heavily laden with fruit, so supporting your eggplants will protect them from potential damage and fruit loss. Staking eggplant also makes for easier harvesting.
Eggplant Support Ideas
Eggplants are botanically related to tomatoes, with which they pair beautifully. Eggplants are native to India and China but were brought to southern Europe and the Mediterranean by Arabic Traders. Luckily for us, they were then introduced into North America. Eggplants are delicious stuffed and hold up well on the grill.
Eggplants are bushy plants with large leaves borne on woody stems. Some varieties can attain heights of up to 4 ½ feet (1.3 m.). Fruit varies in size with large fruited cultivars over a pound (453 gr.) in weight while the smaller varieties tend to be especially heavy bearers. For this reason alone, providing a support for eggplants is vital.
Ideally, you want to stake eggplant when it is small — at seedling stage when it has a few leaves or at transplanting time. Staking requires a support that is 3/8 to 1 inch (9.5 to 25 mm.) thick and 4-6 feet long (1-1.8 m.). This can consist of wooden or metal rods coated with plastic, but really anything can be used. Maybe you have something lying around that can be repurposed.
Drive a stake of any type an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm.) away from the plant. Use garden twine, old laces, or pantyhose looped around the plant and the stake to support it. You could also use a tomato cage, of which there are several types.
If you’re of the forgetful ilk or tend to be lazy, then it’s likely that your plants have reached a size that is rapidly getting out of hand and you haven’t staked them. You can still stake the plants; you just need to be a bit more careful.
In this case, the stake should be about 6 feet (1.8 m.) long because you’ll need to get 2 feet (.6 m.) into the soil to support the large size of the plant (you may need to use a mallet to get the stake down that deep.). This leaves you 4 feet (1.2 m.) to work with staking the eggplant.
Place the stake 1 to 1 ½ (2.5 to 3.8 cm.) inches near the plants and carefully begin to pound into the ground. Try the other side if you meet with resistance. Resistance is likely the root system of the eggplant and you don’t want to damage it.
Once the stake is in the ground, tie the plant back below any stems or branches. Don’t tie too tightly, as you may damage the plant. Leave a little slack to account for growth. Keep checking the plant as it grows. You will most likely have to continue to tie the plant back as it gains in height.
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Read more about Eggplants
The Secret to Growing the Most Flavorful Eggplants
The range of sizes, shapes, and colors of the heat-loving eggplant (Solanum melongena) tells the story of its enduring popularity. Native to India, where it grows wild, it has been cultivated in Southeast Asia for thousands of years.
Europe was introduced to the vegetable in the 8th century via the Moors, who brought it to Spain, Sicily, and southern France via North Africa. In the sunny, dry climate of the Mediterranean basin, eggplant found the warm growing conditions it prefers and soon found its way into the classic cuisines of the region.
A classic eggplant is deep purple and pear-shaped, but when you grow your own, you can try a cornucopia of other colors and shapes, from elongated lavender-and-white Fairy Tale to the round, violet-blushed Rosa Bianca. But to succeed with eggplants, you'll need to supply them with steadily warm growing conditions for at least three months. Eggplants growing in cold soil or exposed to chilly weather will sulk and potentially suffer from insect and disease problems.
Does eggplant grow on a vine?
Eggplants are plants with heavy fruits. These plants require a lot of sunlight and water to grow. When provided with perfect growth conditions they tend to grow tall and bushy.
Once they start to bear fruit more often than not the heavy fruits cause the stem of the plant to stretch and touch the ground. This creates the illusion of a vine. So technically the eggplant is not a vine but appears so when it bears fruit.
When to Plant
First, you need to decide whether you want to grow from seed or transplants if you decide to plant from seed, plant indoor for about 8 to 9 weeks before the last spring frost.
Make sure that the soil’s temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It should take between 2 to 3 weeks for the seeds to germinate.
Plant each seed in the soil about a quarter of an inch. Plant the seeds 2 to 3 inches apart so there will be enough space for them to grow.
What if the available soil is not warm enough? Don’t worry. If the soil is not warm enough, you can use a heating mat to increase the temperature.
If you decide to buy transplants, try to buy high-quality transplants. Avoid buying plants that are tall, young, or spindly.
If you buy such transplants, your yield will be less than optimal. You surely don’t want that when to plant them, wait until the frost threat has passed.
You can move the transplants outdoor once the outside temperature stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Just like the seeds, you need to give room for the transplants to grow.
Place each transplant about 18 inches from each other. If you plant in rows, make sure each row is at least 36 inches apart.
The Best Time to Harvest Eggplants & Everything Else You Need to Know About Growing Your Own
Including the most delicious ways to eat them, of course.
When growing eggplant, also sometimes known as brinjal or aubergine, there are certain steps you can take to up your yield.
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.
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.
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.
Pick eggplant when the skin takes on a high gloss. To test, press the skin. If the indentation doesn't spring back, that fruit is ready for harvest. To harvest, clip the eggplants off the plant with pruning shears, keeping the cap and about 1 inch of stem intact. Watch out for the small prickles that line the stems and the cap of some varieties, as they are a skin irritant.
Eggplants will keep for two weeks if refrigerated. If you cut open an eggplant fruit and find that the seeds inside have turned brown, the fruit is past prime quality and the flavor may be bitter. The best way to avoid this is by picking fruits on the young side, when they are a third to two-thirds of their fully mature size.