How to Grow Eggplant at Home – The Top Secrets to Success

Love a good Ratatouille? Me too!

But eggplant can be expensive, right?

Luckily, the tricks to growing eggplant yourself aren’t that complicated.

This article will let you in on those tricks so you’ll be all set and know exactly how to grow eggplant at home, whether it’s from a seedling or from a seed.

Contents

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Optimum Growing Conditions for Eggplant

First up, let’s talk about what Eggplants need from you in order to do well.

eggplant growing in home garden

Temperature

Eggplants grow well in zones 9-12.

They love the sun, warmth, and a nice long growing season.

So if your summer temperatures regularly drop below 60˚F at night, they’d be better off in a greenhouse, or even inside if you’re willing to set up some grow lights.

They’re also going to struggle if they’re exposed to too much wind, so choose a sheltered spot.

Soil

Eggplants, like most veggies, love free-draining soil. They would do particularly well in a raised bed for this reason. But if you don’t use raised beds, just be sure to dig plenty of compost into your soil before planting. The healthier your soil, the more fruit you will be rewarded with.

Gardening Soil

If you’re interested in making your own compost, it’s surprisingly easy and a really satisfying way to utilize your food waste to grow more food!

Have a read of our guides to the best kitchen compost bins and the best compost tumblers before you get started. Set yourself up with one of each of these and you’ll be well on your way to feeding your garden with that delicious black gold.

Water

Lastly, eggplants like regular watering.

It’s best to give them a really good drink in the evening and avoid wetting their leaves. This makes using a soaker hose the best option if your garden is too big to water by hand.

Soaker hoses ensure that the water soaks into the ground where it is needed without spraying the foliage or surrounding areas. Wetting the leaves can make your plants more susceptible to fungal diseases, and watering surrounding areas can result in unnecessary weed growth.

You can even harness rainwater in barrels and set up your soaker hoses to utilize this water.

How to Grow Eggplant from Seed

Eggplant seedlings aren’t typically as easy to buy from garden stores as other vegetable varieties. For this reason, starting your own seedlings from seeds might be the way to go.

Growing eggplant from seed also means that you can choose a more interesting heirloom variety than you might otherwise find in your garden store. You might choose to avoid growing a hybrid so that saving the seeds becomes an option, and you can choose varieties that are best suited to your region’s climate.

So how do you grow eggplant from seed at home?

The two main tickets to success when growing eggplant from seed is planning and warmth.

Eggplant seeds can take a while to grow into transplantable seedlings  – think 6-8 weeks. So, you ideally want to be sowing your seeds inside, around 8 weeks before the last spring frost is projected for your region.

Eggplants are heat-loving plants. They need constant warmth in order to germinate and then grow happily. This means that you definitely want to be planted inside, and you may even want to utilize a heat mat to speed up germination time.

Other pointers:

Keep the seed raising mix moist but not too wet and make sure the seedlings have plenty of sun once they have germinated. A sunny window ledge is great, or grow lights might be necessary if it’s too early in the spring for enough natural light to make its way inside.

What to do at Transplant Time

Eggplant seedlings are ready to go in the ground when they are around 6 to 8 inches tall or have at least 3 sets of true leaves. (True leaves are the leaves that are characteristic to the eggplant, not the first pair of leaves which arrive – these are cotyledons.)

closeup kids hands planting in garden

However, you can’t just plant them straight away!

Why not?

Imagine how much of a shock it would be to go from the lovely, warm, indoor temperatures, to sudden coolness and wind outside?

So, how do you plant eggplant at home?

Seedlings need to be hardened off first.

This means, gradually letting them spend more time outside before you actually put them in the ground.

Start by leaving them outside during the day and bringing them in at night. Then leave them outside overnight as well for a few nights before you finally plant them. It sounds like a lot of work but it will save the plant from experiencing transplant shock.

Once you have planted your seedlings, make sure they are watered regularly and not left to dry out. Once they’re established, they’ll cope with the occasional missed drink. But while they’re getting settled in the ground, they will need a little more attention.

Last but not least, once your eggplant really gets going, it’s good practice to tie it to a stake for support and to prevent the fruit from touching the ground.

Troubleshooting

Do you have aphids?

Aphids are a gardener’s nightmare. They can be kept to a minimum by other insects like ladybugs, and sometimes nasturtiums and marigolds can help, but they can easily get out of control. If you have just a few plants, you can mash the aphids up with your fingers (it sounds gross but they’re so tiny you don’t really notice), and then this actually helps to deter more.

flower of eggplant

You can also try blasting them with a hose, spraying them with a diluted neem oil solution, or diluted dish soap and vegetable oil. These organic sprays work for almost all insect pests.

Plants stay small or do flowers drop off without producing fruit?

The weather may not be warm enough. Try protecting your plant with a cloche when the weather is bad or overnight if temperatures are going to be less than 60˚F.

Yellowing of leaves?

If there are no obvious insect pests, your soil may be lacking in the appropriate nutrients. Eggplants are heavy feeders but need a good balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Too much nitrogen and you’ll get lots of leaves but limited fruit. Fertilize with compost or an organic 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Check out this article for more eggplant troubleshooting.

Summary

I bet you thought you didn’t know how to grow eggplant at home or that it would be too complicated?

Are you happily surprised?  

It really does just come down to sun and warmth. So if you can get those 2 things right, you should be serving up some homegrown Ratatouille in no time!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Did I answer all of your questions on how to grow eggplant at home? Go ahead and let me know in the comments section below!

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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