- Does Eggplant Grow on a Bush or a Vine?
- Eggplant Support Ideas – Learn About Support For Eggplants
- Do Eggplant Plants Need Support?
- Eggplant Support Ideas
- Eggplant Supports
- What Is Companion Planting?
- Best Companion Plants For Eggplant
- About Eggplant
- Tips For Growing Eggplant
- Eggplants Need Structural Support
- Harvesting Eggplant
Does Eggplant Grow on a Bush or a Vine?
Best Conditions for Eggplant Bush
When you plant your garden, choose an area that gets direct sunlight at least six hours each day. Eggplants love sunlight and warm weather up to 85°F (29°C). Plant your eggplant seedlings in well-drained soil, and water them thoroughly every week. As your eggplants grow, you should support them, so they don’t droop down into the soil.
Using bamboo, wooden or PVC stakes is effective if you only have a few eggplant bushes. If you have rows of eggplants, you can try the following methods for helping your plants stay upright:
- Three-pronged cone cages
- Foldable cages
- Ladder cages
- A-frame cages
- Stake and weave supports
Pruning Eggplant Bushes
As your eggplant bush grows thick, large foliage, it’s beneficial to prune the leaves and stems. Pruning boosts fruit production by increasing the air circulation around the plant. It also prevents fungus and bacteria growth from damp, shaded areas on the foliage.
Another advantage of pruning is that it makes it easier for you to see any bugs on the eggplant leaves. When you trim off suckers and excess foliage, the plant uses more energy for fruit development, instead of supporting prolific foliage. Since pruning thins the leaves and exposes more branches, some people mistake them for vines.
Increase Fruit on Eggplant Bushes
When your eggplant fruits are still young, it’s time to pick them, rather than waiting until they reach full size. Harvesting your eggplants regularly, actually encourages more fruit and plant growth. By picking your eggplants often, you extend your growing season with plenty of new, healthy fruit.
You can tell if your eggplants are ripe by checking them for glossy skin that is firm to the touch. If your eggplants have dull, soft skin, or they’re starting to turn yellow, then they’re overripe. If you allow them to reach the overripe stage, the flesh will taste bitter.
Eggplant Support Ideas – Learn About Support For Eggplants
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. Fruit varies in size with large fruited cultivars over a pound 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 thick and 4-6 feet long. 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 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 long because you’ll need to get 2 feet 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 to work with staking the eggplant.
Place the stake 1 to 1 ½ 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.
Eggplants do not need support or cages as much as tomatoes do, but they have been known to topple over from their own weight. Some varieties are more prone to this than others. Even small varieties such as the egg shaped or Asian miniatures which produce prolifically, will be stretched to the limit after a good season of growing. Supporting eggplants is a good idea that doesn’t require a whole hell of a lot of labor.
In addition to supplying physical support for the plant itself stakes for eggplants will also help keep the fruits from touching the ground as they grow. This alone will reduce the possibility of disease issues. Eggplants grown on well maintained and supported plants are also easier to harvest when the time comes.
The best time to stake an eggplant is when its young, the stake in this case not only serves as a support but as a guide that will help train the plant to the desired growth pattern. A stake should be sturdy enough to support the full mature weight and height of the fruit laden plant. The taller the anticipated height of the plant, naturally the taller the stake you’ll need. It should also be of sufficient girth and composition to support the load. You don’t wanna use balsa wood, which is almost like Styrofoam, it’s gonna break. The stakes sold for tomatoes at the garden center will suffice, use your judgement so far as height and tensile strength goes for your particular cultivar.
Your not trying to kill Dracula so do not drive in your stake near to the plants heart, keep it at least an inch away from the plant stem, preferably a tad more.
If you enjoy grilling outdoors, eggplant is a must in the homestead garden. Companion planting and a bit of effort will help ensure a bountiful harvest of succulent, sun-blessed orbs. During the height of the summer season, you will harvest several eggplants a week. Plant a few more, and they are a profitable cash crop to sell at the fresh market.
What Is Companion Planting?
Numerous horticulture research studies support the age-old wisdom of companion planting. Companion planting is a gardening method of placing plants that support and encourage the growth and well being of other plants, close to each other.
Companion planting brings diversity and harmony to the homestead garden. The intermingling of compatible plants presents a diverse array of benefits. Companion planting helps control weeds, attracts pollinators to the garden, offers shade and shelter, conserves soil moisture, and wards off harmful insect pests and disease.
Environmentally and health conscious gardeners cultivate organically grown foods: eggplant is no exception. Wishing to avoid exposure to toxic herbicides and pesticides, they choose to practice gardening methods that rely on nature, common sense, and a vigilant attitude to manage their garden production. Companion planting is a key ingredient in an overall gardening modality that is good for people, pets, plants, and the planet.
Best Companion Plants For Eggplant
For centuries, in many parts of the world, eggplant was grown strictly as an ornamental plant for its attractive foliage and eye-catching fruits. Within the flowerbeds, eggplant was paired with companion flowering plants.
Mexican marigold, nasturtium, snapdragons, and sunflowers repel aphids, white flies, flea beetles and ants. Nasturtium is also an excellent dense ground cover as well as a vining edible plant that ward off many types of crop-munching insects. Both the flowers and the leaves of nasturtiums are consumed in salads or used as an attractive plate garnish.
Eggplants growing alongside a companion plant, tomatoes. Karen and Brad Emerson / Flickr (Creative Commons)
Legumes (peas and beans) enhance garden soil by converting nitrogen in the air, into nitrogen in the soil. Planting bush beans next to eggplants is also an effective method of keeping the Colorado potato beetle from decimating the garden crop. If you plant trellis growing peas or beans, be sure to plant them in a location where they will not shade eggplant: eggplant demands full sun for optimum growth, texture, and flavor.
Hot peppers are a good neighbor to eggplant and most other garden vegetables. Hot peppers emit a chemical from the plant roots that helps prevent Fusarium, root rot, and a wide range of other plant diseases.
Eggplant can be somewhat prone to insect attacks. Strongly scented herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, horehound, oregano, sage, basil, tarragon, and all varieties of mint help repel insect invaders repulsed by the pungent herbal scent emitted by the herbs. Thyme is especially effective against garden moths and aphids.
Savvy homesteaders plant herbs for medicinal and culinary use, to protect other plants, to attract pollinators, and to sell as a cash crop at their local farmer’s market.
Catnip is another plant that will keep flea beetles from infesting your garden. However, catnip negatively impacts he growth and development of peas and beans, so keep these two combative plants apart from each other.
Eggplant and spinach are good companions as the taller eggplant shades tender young spinach while spinach helps conserve moisture in the soil while suppressing weeds. Spinach is an attractive edible ground cover in any sunny location in the garden.
Potatoes, tomatoes, tomallitos, and chili peppers, like eggplant, are all members of the nightshade family. As family, they are compatible and supportive companion plants to commingle with eggplant.
Native to China and India, eggplant (known as aubergine in the U.K. and Europe) is part of the nightshade plant family Solanum melongena. Cultivated today for its tasty edible fruit, eggplant is a nutrient-rich vegetable packed full of nutrition, fiber, and flavor. In South America, the shiny purple summer vegetable is known as brinjal. Fairly easy to grow, eggplant can be enjoyed raw, cooked, steamed, sautéed, grilled, and fried.
Cultivated in China since the 5th century B.C., eggplant was a food staple in Africa before the middle ages. While early varieties of eggplant were rather bitter, newly developed varieties are sweet and creamy, making them an excellent addition to the homestead garden.
Today, China, Japan, Turkey, Egypt, and Italy are the largest growers and consumers of eggplant. Eggplant is an esteemed component of the Mediterranean diet and is a favored ingredient in many culinary preparations in France, Italy, and Greece. Eggplant presents a pleasing, slightly bitter taste and a soft, sponge-like texture.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) is a close relative of potatoes, tomatoes, tomallitoes, goji berries, and peppers. For hundreds of years after eggplant’s introduction to Europe, the bitter nightshade plant was reserved as an attractive landscape decoration.
The fruit was considered poisonous and said to cause dementia and insanity. For centuries, tomatoes carried the same undeserved erroneous reputation as a poisonous plant.
Eggplant is available in a diverse array of cultivars including a wide range of hybrids. An edible ornamental plant, eggplant is typically a purplish-black in color and elongated or teardrop shaped.
Tips For Growing Eggplant
Propagated from seed, eggplant does best when started from transplants. A cold-sensitive plant, eggplant should not be set out in the garden until the soil has warmed and all danger of frost is passed.
Similar to tomatoes, eggplants suffer injury at low temperatures and fails to flourish until soil temperatures warms. Before moving transplants outdoors, it is important that seedlings be hardened off by reducing temperature and water.
When planting eggplant, choose a sunny location with loamy, well-drained fertile soil. Eggplant isn’t too picky, and will manage to grow in most garden conditions as long as the days are warm with plenty of sunshine.
Eggplant grows at Snug Harbor Heritage Farm on Staten Island. Kristine Paulus / Flickr (Creative Commons)
To prepare the soil for planting eggplant, work the soil well, removing rocks and roots. Eggplant is a heavy feeder. Before planting, integrate a generous amount or organic compost or well-aged herbivore manure (e.g. sheep, goat, horse, or cow) into the soil to add additional nitrogen and other vital nutrients.
Like other members of the nightshade family of plants, eggplant presents a sturdy vine with fruits hanging from it much like tomatoes. The eggplant reaches several feet in height at maturity. Plant seedlings approximately two feet apart in a row. Space rows three feet apart.
Once established, eggplant is fairly drought tolerant, thriving in the heat of summer. However, for optimum production, flavor, and texture, provide the plants with a minimum of one inch of water per week. To do its best, eggplant requires six to eight weeks of nighttime temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Eggplants Need Structural Support
As your plants mature, you will soon see why eggplant needs support. Eggplant can grow up to six feet tall. The ripe fruit is large and heavy.
Fruits vary in size, with larger varieties producing fruit that weighs up to a pound each. Without support, heavily laden plants bend and break. Keeping the fruit, especially elongated varieties, up off the ground helps prevent plant disease, defines fruit shape, and makes harvesting easier. Anticipate an abundant crop when choosing support (cages or trellis work well) or staking for your eggplants.
When selecting eggplants for harvest, fruits should be solid and heavy for their size. No matter the variety or if the mature fruit is white, purple or green, the skin should be smooth and shiny without evident bruising or decay.
To determine if the fruit is ready for harvest, gently press the fruit with the pad of your thumb. If the spot bounces back it is ready to pick. If the indentation remains, the fruit is not yet ripe. Eggplant tends to bruise easily. Handle gently when harvesting.
Basil, flowers and eggplant harvested in the morning on May’s Flower’s in Sanger, California for the farmers market. Bob Nichols / USDA
Eggplant requires approximately 110 days to reach maturity. The crop is harvested across an extended period, until cold temperatures or the first frost inhibits growth.
Watch Your Garden Grow – Eggplant, University of Illinois
Eggplant, Cornell University
Field Performance of Bt Eggplants (Solanum melongena L.) in the Philippines, US National Library of Medicine – National Institute of Health
Eggplant, University of Florida