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Eggplant Spacing: How Far Apart To Space Eggplant

Eggplants are native to India and require a long, warm growing season for optimal yields. They also need the appropriate eggplant distance in gardens to achieve the greatest production. So how far apart to space eggplants for maximum yields and healthy plants? Read on to learn more.

Proper Eggplant Spacing

Eggplant has a growing habit similar to that of a tomato; however, eggplants are planted closer together than tomato plants and some varieties don’t need to be staked. There are also smaller eggplant varietals and ornamentals that can be grown in containers. Either way, the proper spacing between eggplants can be crucial in the amount of fruit they set.

How Far Apart to Space Eggplant?

Whenever you plant a garden, some consideration and planning should occur in deciding where to set certain plants and drafting how far apart they need to be to maximize the use of the plot. Plants set far apart waste much needed space in the garden, while those set too close together vie for light and air, effectively decreasing your potential crop.

Plant your six- to eight-week old eggplant starts outside after all danger of frost has passed in your area. Choose a site that gets at least six hours of full sun per day — more is preferable. Eggplant distance in the garden should be 18-30 inches apart. Two feet apart is fine, although 2 ½ feet apart will keep you from accidentally breaking branches as you are harvesting your eggplant fruits. If you are planting lots of eggplant and need rows, leave an area 30-36 inches between the rows.

If you are short on space but adore eggplant and want to plant your own, plant them in containers on a sunny deck or patio. Single eggplants can be planted in a 5-gallon container. Multiple plantings can go in a long planter with at least 18 inches of width. In this case, space the eggplants 18-24 inches apart or for dwarf varieties, 16-18 inches apart.

If you wish to companion plant among the eggplant, for instance, with nitrogen-boosting legumes, leave enough space for both plants — about 18-30 inches from each plant. For blooming annuals, plant 6-8 inches from the base of the eggplant.

Once you have transplanted your eggplant babies, fertilize and use nitrogen rich side dressing around the plants, again when they are half grown and one more time right after you harvest the first fruit.

How Much Room To Give Eggplant – Knowledgebase Question

First, a few eggplant basics. Grow eggplant in the sunniest spot you can find where other members of the same family have not grown recently (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers). Raised beds are great for eggplant growing. Excellent drainage is a must, eggplant will not thrive in soggy soil. Because eggplant is a little challenging, and you will in all probability lose a few, I would recommend (if possible) starting with around 6 plants. This will require about 50 square feet of space in your garden. Eggplant like rich soil, a tad sandy. Work in some organic matter such as compost or composted cow manure at planting time. Shoot for a pH of 6 (between 5.5 and 7 is OK). Seed germination is very slow in the ground because seeds like to germinate in warm soil. For this reason, I would recommend you start seeds indoors and set the plants out after the soil has warmed up to about 70F. I can’t stress enough how much they like warm soil. Soil that falls below 50F after planting is disastrous. You might even consider using black plastic to warm up the soil. Now for spacing, the plants should be about 2-3′ apart in each direction. Don’t crowd them any closer, the plants will be more vigorous, disease free and produce better if given room to spread a bit. The spacing also helps the sun to reach the fruits and enable proper ripening. Eggplants don’t form long vines like many members of the squash family–they grow in a bushy shape, somewhat larger than pepper plants but not as big as most tomato plants. Hope that helps!

Grow and Save Eggplant Seeds

How to Grow Eggplant

Eggplant can be a beautiful addition to your garden. Eggplant enjoy a long growing season, but you can extend your season by starting plants indoors.

Time of Planting

It is best to sow eggplant indoors 7-10 weeks before transplanting outside. Start eggplant inside 3-4 weeks before the last frost. Transplant outside 4-6 weeks after the last frost into a warm and sunny location.

Spacing Requirements

Sow eggplant seeds ½ inch deep. Space plants 18-24 inches apart.

Time to Germination

10-14 days

Special Considerations

Make sure outdoor soil temperatures are at least 55-60 degrees F before transplanting eggplants.

Common Pests and Diseases

Eggplant can suffer damage from aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, anthracnose, and Tobacco Mosaic Virus. To protect against insect predation, transplants can be row covered in the spring.

When and How to Harvest

When harvesting eggplant for fresh eating, pick fruits when they are large but not too firm to the touch. Keep in mind that eggplant need to continue growing far past market maturity if you want to save seeds.

Eating

Eggplant can be roasted, grilled, pureed into baba ghanoush, or fried up as a main course. Its meaty texture withstands long cooking times.

Storing

Eggplant fruits can be stored for about a week in the refrigerator.

How to Save Eggplant Seeds

Life Cycle

Annual

Recommended Isolation Distance

Separate varieties by 300-1,600 feet.

Recommended Population Sizes

To ensure viable seeds, save seeds from at least 1 plant. When maintaining a variety over many generations, save seeds from 5-20 plants. If you’re saving seeds for genetic preservation of a rare variety, save seeds from 50 plants or more.

Assessing Seed Maturity

At seed maturity, eggplant fruits generally change color, taking on a yellow or brownish cast, and their glossy skins become dull. Their flesh will soften and ripe fruits easily separate from the plant when pulled.

Simply pull ripe fruits from the plant.

Cleaning and Processing

Seed-mature eggplants can be extracted by cubing the fruits and processing them in a food processor with a small volume of water to make a slurry of seeds and flesh. If seed damage occurs, a dough blade can be used instead of a chopping blade. After blending, pour the seed slurry into a larger container and add more water. Agitating the watery mash will dislodge seeds from the pulp and allow the viable seeds to settle to the bottom of the container. Repeated decanting will remove most of the pulp and any immature seeds. The mature seeds that remain can then be transferred to a strainer and rinsed with a strong stream of water. Immediately after rinsing, seeds should be spread in a thin layer on screens or coffee filters to dry in a warm, well-ventilated space.

Storage and Viability

Store eggplant seeds in cool, dark, and dry place in an airtight container. When stored in these conditions, eggplant seeds will remain viable for 4-6 years.

Download the PDF

Eggplant


The exquisite flavour and versatility of home grown eggplants makes them a summer garden essential. Some people think they look ugly, but that does not deter most of us from growing these fairly hardy vegetables.

Planting Schedule

Warm Areas: Sow seed: September, Seedlings: October- December
Temperate Areas: Seedlings: Late September – December (after frost risk has passed)
Cool to Cold Areas: Seedlings: October – December

Position, Position, Position!

Now, here’s a bit of info you can use at your next trivia night… eggplants and tomatoes are related (just like cousins)! Position-wise though, eggplants vary from tomatoes in that they like it warmer… a fair bit warmer. Eggplants can’t handle frosts at all, and, like me, they hate long periods of cool weather. Stick a few in a sunny spot in the garden and leave about 50cm between them, as they can get pretty big. They’ll thank you for it!

Talking Dirty

Due to the family ties between eggplants and tomatoes (and potatoes and chillis), we need to remember the following two things: they love what tomatoes love, and they can’t be planted where tomatoes (or their other rellies) have been for at least three years. Check out the Companion Planting chart here for other good and bad neighbours.

So, just like tomatoes, top eggplants thrive in a fertile soil, rich with compost, pelletized poo and topped with a layer of straw. Eggplants will do even better if the bed is prepared for them a month before planting out, so whack it all in and count the days. The tip here is to ensure the soil drains freely, and isn’t too heavy (meaning really dense or clay). As with most Yummy Yards plants, ensure that the mulch is not pushed right up to the stem, as this can lead to collar rot and all sorts of nasties!

Feed Me!

Feeding your eggplants with poultry poo based granules just as the flower buds appear will do “eggsalent” things for the yield of your plants. If you feel the need to feed, and you missed the bud stage, make a chook poo tea by soaking poo pellets in water, and giving it to your eggplants to drink. Other than that, the beaut rich soil in the bed you have prepared should provide a far whack of nutrients to these tasty tackers!

What about the Water?

Eggplants, like most summer veggies, do not like to dry out, so keep a close eye on the soil moisture. Left to dry out, eggplants can produce hideous, misshapen fruit, making ugly even uglier… so, for the sake of a good looking garden, just don’t do it! Once again, a nice mulch layer will assist.

Are We There Yet?

Generally speaking, my eggplants take about 13 weeks to mature, bearing in mind that I live in the second coldest place on earth (second only to my lawyer’s office… that’s a joke). Eggplants can take varying lengths of time to mature (can’t we all), but, depending on variety, between 10 – 14 weeks is the norm. These guys are ready to roll when they are big enough to use, are firm, and the skin is glossy. Don’t leave them on the plants too long, as they can over ripen and go wrinkly, which makes them even uglier, and not so tasty!

Stake ya’ Claim!

Like their cousin tomatoes, eggplants need to stake their claim, and must be well supported in order to be productive and upstanding. Staking eggplants, especially the bigger fruiting varieties, prevents the vegetable equivalent of the “Dolly Parton”, where the plant becomes so top heavy with eggplants it is unable to support itself. Nice solid tomato stakes, driven into the ground about 10 centimeters away from the stem of the plant should do it. Join the stake and the stem together with an old stocking (don’t tie it too tight) and you’ll find this is the beginning of a fruitful and supportive relationship.

Pests and the Rest

Eggplants don’t seem to suffer from an enormous amount of pest and disease issues, but, being related to tomatoes and friends, they are susceptible to the same suite of pests and problems. That said, diverse Yummy Yards, full of tasty treats and pretty plants, will attract a range of good bugs to your patch. These guys will make short work of loads of pest outbreaks. The other hot tips are a consistent watering regime, and crop rotation. Don’t plant these guys in a patch where tomatoes, chillis, eggplants or potatoes have been in the last two years… this lessens the possibility of disease. Also, Companion Planting and eggplants go hand in hand.

Now, if all this fails and you do have an issue, never fear, Sustainable Gardening Australia is here! Below is a list of common issues, their causes, and a couple of solutions for eggstra-odinary eggplants!

  • Flowers fall off before the fruit forms – Could be caused by loads of things, including too much or not enough water, not enough light, over fertilising (I tried to warn you), possums or thrips. Check flowers for thrips, and, if you find them, for what to do next!
  • Leaves wilting – Ummmm… did you water your plants? This generally happens when humans are overcome by laziness, or holidayitis! Especially common during summer school holidays! Also, check to see that the eggplants are not mulched right up to the stem… this can cause awful things to happen!
  • White powdery patches on upper surfaces of leaves – Ahhh, me old mate powdery mildew! Often caused by water hanging around on the leaves of plants. Try to water the soil, rather than the foliage. Remove affected leaves and put them in the bin, not the compost.
  • Holes in your leaves – Pretty sure it’s caterpillars.
  • Really ugly wet looking patches on the eggplant – It’s probably Blossom End Rot (if it’s at the bottom end) of the eggplant.
  • Plants falling over – did you read the ‘stake ya’ claim’ segment? And have you planted your eggplants in a wind tunnel? They don’t stand up to wind real well!

Now, one other issue that effects eggplants is fruit fly… these little devils love an eggplant grown in some of our warmer climes. I say warmer climates because the fruit fly maggots like to pupate (that means change from maggots to flies) in warm soil, and, like most southern gardeners, are not big fans of cold soil. This is great news for us in the cooler climes, but not so flash for those in warmer spots. So, my top tips for sustainable fruit fly control can be found here, but, before you head off, remember a great place to start is with garden hygiene. Remove any fallen or infested fruits; bag them up and ditch them in the bin… that’s an excellent discouragement for fruit fly larvae.

Hot Tip

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all about looks (goodness knows I am well aware of that), but when it comes to eggplants, there are some really “out there” looking varieties and cultivars available. We all know about the big old “Deep Purple” varieties, but this is just “Smoke on the Water” (end of corny 1970s music reference)! Eggplants come in pink, white, stripped, green, lavender and intriguing combinations of the above. So, head to your local SGA garden centre to see what’s available. Go on, put some crazy colour in your garden, your mates will be impressed!

Why not try some other varieties as well, like Lebanese eggplants (you know, the long, skinny ones). These are dead easy to grow, and go really well in pots or containers. Because they have fruit of a smaller size, they are quicker to harvest so are good for climate with shorter summers. Oh, and while you’re at the garden centre, why not have a look at the grafted eggplants now available. These are said to be more disease resistance, more vigorous, and have a higher fruit production… why not try one and see!

But wait… there’s more! I was always told that eggplants needed to be soaked in salty water, then “de-gorged” under weight and left to stand before being ready to use. What a massive pain in the neck that ends up being, as anyone who has done it can testify. Well, here’s the big scoop: it’s not true!! Only the bigger, purple coloured eggplants need this, particularly if you have let them go a bit wrinkly and past it! The cute little Lebanese and Thai eggplants, along with many more of the smaller varieties don’t need it, so here’s my hot tip: Grow the wee ones, and save yourself the effort!

Eat Me

Eggplants and Mushrooms Chinese Style

10 dried shitake mushrooms
1 ½ cups water
3 eggplants
½ Cup vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic
2 cm knob ginger
1/3 Cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp rice wine, saki or other cooking wine or sherry
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

Place shitake mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and cover with 1 ½ cups boiling water. Allow to soak while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Prepare rice and place it on to cook. (The absorption method is best)

Crush garlic and grate ginger.

Cut eggplant into thick wedges. Toss eggplant in 2 Tb of the oil.

Heat a large saucepan or wok over high heat.

Add eggplant wedges and cook over high heat until golden and soft. Try not to stir the eggplant too much but turn it methodically with tongs so it browns on all sides.

Turn heat to low. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 1 minute.

Add remaining oil, soy sauce, wine, sugar and sesame oil.

Strain the mushrooms, but reserve all of the cooking water.

Add 1 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid to the saucepan.

Cut stems of shitake mushrooms and save to compost. Add mushroom caps to the saucepan.

Bring mixture to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.

This is best served with homegrown Asian greens such as bok choi or choi sum. Simply stirfry with garlic and any left over mushroom stock.

Intensive, high yield gardening uses growing space more efficiently than traditional methods. Instead of wasted room between rows of crops, the garden area is maximized — that way you can grow more vegetables in less space.

Even if you have plenty of room in your backyard, square foot gardening can require less work while still providing lots of healthy plants. Usually there is less weeding involved since plants are spaced closer together and every bit of garden space is cultivated throughout the entire growing season. However, because there is less room between crops, weeding will need to be done by hand or with smaller garden tools — there will not be enough room for machinery. Another drawback — to some people — is that because plants are always growing, they are not all ready to harvest at the same time.

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Raised Beds

A raised bed is simply when the level of the soil is higher than the surrounding ground. The Ohio State University Extension has listed several benefits of gardening in a raised bed. A few of these benefits are:

  • Higher yields
  • Improved soil conditions
  • Ease of working
  • Ease of pest control
  • Water conservation

A raised bed should be just wide enough that you can reach all the way across without climbing into it (or, if you can access both sides of the bed, you need to be able to reach half way across). See Building a Raised Bed Garden (PDF).

One of the reasons raised beds have such high yields is that the soil is mixed with amendments to create a light, fluffy growing medium to a depth of about 2-feet. This encourages great root growth.

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardens are both a wise use of space and aesthetically pleasing. They can help keep plants up off the ground and can be used to define landscaped areas, by creating interesting focal points and eye-pleasing boundaries (see our article Containers with Altitude). Plants grown on walls, trellises and fences can cool your home or garden and block views you don’t want to see.

Good support surfaces for a vertical garden include:

  • Openwork fences
  • Trellises
  • Hanging baskets
  • Arbors
  • Cages
  • Poles with string or nets

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Choosing the right plants for a vertical garden is important. While many plants can be trained to grow upwards, not every plant is suitable. Some of the best fruits and vegetables are as follows:

Tomatoes do better grown in a cage or other support system than when left on the ground. Not only do they use up less space, but they are less likely to become infected with a soil-borne disease. Learn more about tomato gardening here.

Cucumbers grow as vines and are a natural for vertical gardening.

Corn grows vertically, naturally, and can be used as a support for beans or other plants.

Peas, melons, and passion fruit take well to upwards growth. Even zucchinis, pumpkins and other squashes will grow vertically as long as their support system is strong enough.

Tips for a Successful Vertical Garden

  1. Make sure your vertically-grown plants are in a location where they won’t shade out sun-loving plants.
  2. Grow plants on the south side of the support structure for maximum sunlight.
  3. Don’t forget to water. Your vertical garden will dry out faster without plants laying on the soil to shade it.
  4. Soil should be deep and well-drained so plant roots can grow down into the soil, rather than growing outwards where they will compete with other plants.
  5. Heavy crops, such as melons, pumpkins and squash, may need additional support. Construct a “hammock” from strips of old pantyhose by tying it to either side of the crop you are supporting and place the vegetable/fruit inside.

Interplanting

Growing two or more plants in the same place at the same time is known as interplanting. This can be done by alternating rows within a bed, alternating plants within a row or mixing up plants throughout the bed.

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When interplanting flowers and herbs in the vegetable garden make sure to grow plants with similar requirements near each other. Consider the following factors for each plant:

  • length of the plant’s growth period
  • growth pattern (tall, short, below or above ground)
  • possible negative effects on other plants (such as the allelopathic effects of sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes on nearby plants)
  • preferred season
  • preferred light
  • nutrient and moisture requirements

Spacing

In a raised bed or interplanted garden, plants are grown more closely together than in a traditional row garden. When growing vegetables, herbs or fruits, stagger your rows so that a plant in one row is between two plants in the other row. This creates an almost continuous leaf cover that shades out weeds and reduces the amount of area that needs to be mulched.

The following chart from the Arizona Cooperative Extension indicates how closely seeds or seedlings can be planted.

Vegetable Inches Vegetable Inches
Asparagus 15 to 18 Lettuce, head 10 to 12
Beans, lima 4 to 6 Lettuce, leaf 4 to 6
Beans, pole 6 to 12 Melons 18 to 24
Beans, bush 4 to 6 Mustard 6 to 9
Beets 2 to 4 Okra 12 to 18
Broccoli 12 to 18 Onion 2 to 4
Brussels sprouts 15 to 18 Peas 2 to 4
Cabbage 15 to 18 Peppers 12 to 15
Cabbage, Chinese 10 to 12 Potatoes 10 to 12
Carrots 2 to 3 Pumpkins 24 to 36
Cauliflower 15 to 18 Radishes 2 to 3
Cucumber 12 to 18 Rutabaga 4 to 6
Chard, Swiss 6 to 9 Southern pea 3 to 4
Collards 12 to 15 Spinach 4 to 6
Endive 15 to 18 Squash, summer 18 to 24
Eggplant 18 to 24 Squash, winter 24 to 36
Kale 15 to 18 Sweet corn 15 to 18
Kohlrabi 6 to 9 Tomatoes 18 to 24
Leeks 3 to 6 Turnip 4 to 6

To determine spacing for interplanting, add the inches for the two crops to be planted together, and divide the sum by 2. For example, if radishes are planted next to beans, add 2 inches + 4 inches = 6 inches, then divide 6 inches by 2 inches = 3 inches. The radishes should be planted 3 inches from the beans.

Tip: Be careful not to sow seeds too closely together or your crops may be at a higher risk of plant disease (often caused by poor air circulation). Always refer to the seed packet for appropriate spacing.

Succession and Relay Planting

Once a crop has reached its full production, it is time to plant more. Cool-season crops (peas, lettuce, broccoli) are followed by warm-season crops (peppers, tomatoes, beans), and if you live in a mild climate, these may be followed by more cool season plants, or even a fall/winter crop. Read our article on successive planting in the home garden to learn more.

Relaying is overlapping planting of one type of crop. For example, spinach may be planted at 2-3 week intervals to ensure a steady harvest. Or you can plant early, mid and late season crops all at the same time (see Planting Crops for a Second Harvest).

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If seeds are started indoors, there is always something ready to go into the garden as space opens up. Don’t forget to add compost or an organic fertilizer to get the soil ready for the next crop of plants.

Planning & Design

Start early when planning an organic garden. In January or February, while snow still covers the ground, it is time to get out some graph paper and seed catalogs and get to work.

1.) Pull out last year’s garden journal to see what did and didn’t work in your garden. What? You didn’t keep notes? Learn The Nuts and Bolts of a Gardening Notebook here.

2.) Grab a pencil and paper and draw your garden plot(s). Using graph paper helps determine how much space you have to work with more precisely.

3.) Choose what plants you wish to grow. For each plant consider:

– Nutrient needs
– Shade tolerance
– Above and below ground growth patterns
– Preferred growing season

4.) Determine which plants can be grown together or successively. Read our article about companion planting here.

5.) Add the plants to your chart after determining how closely together they can be grown.

6.) Order your seeds. You can start some plants indoors so they are ready to go or directly seed into the soil.

Other Resources:

Grow Your Garden “Up”
Vertical Gardening: Containers with Altitude

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