Growing Aubergines – Allotment Gardening

Growing Aubergines

aubergineThe Aubergine or Eggplant is not the easiest vegetable to grow but the effort is worth it to see the large dark fruits at the end.
There aren’t that many different varieties on the market and of the ones I’ve tried I couldn’t detect that much flavor difference. One distinct variety is called Easter Egg, a slight novelty as it grows to the size, colour and appearance of a large hens egg.

Sowing
Starting the seed off in late February/early March with a little extra warmth will produce a slightly larger earlier crop, but I’ve had perfectly acceptable crops at the end of the season by sowing in a cold greenhouse in the last few weeks of March even early April if the spring weather hasn’t been too great.

Sow the seeds in trays or pots of compost, lightly cover the seeds with sieved compost. Prick-out/transplant into small pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in good light.

Planting
To get the most from your plants Aubergines have to be grow in the greenhouse, in all but the warmest of areas. I’ve tried them many times outside both in pots and in the soil, but they have always been a bit of a disappointment even in the hottest of summers.
Large pots (10+ inch diameter) or buckets are ideal for growing in, grow bags work fine (two plants to a bag) but it is difficult to adequately support the plants in these.

General Care
As the flowers start to form, feed with a high potash fertilizer (tomato food). Give support to the branches by tying to stout canes positioned around the plant to help with the weight of the swelling fruit. Misting the plant will help keep down Red Spider mite and help the fruit to set.

Aubergines seem quit susceptible to Greenfly, White fly and Red Spider Mite, keep on the look out for these pests even at early stages of growth and treat as soon as spotted.

Harvesting
Cropping can start when the fruit is of a usable size (5-6 inches long) and the surface still has it’s shine, dull fruits are over ripe and can taste bitter.
Cut the Aubergine from the plant, rather than pulling or twisting as this can cause damage to the plant.
Take care when harvesting as the fruits have prickles at the top where it meets the stem.

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