Growing aubergines in your garden
When we had an organic market garden we were growing aubergines for our vegetable round and restaurants we used to sell to. We always grew them in our plastic poly-tunnels.
In the UK if you want to start growing aubergines they really need to be grown in a greenhouse or tunnel, though they can be grown outside if your garden is very sheltered and warm.
Growing aubergines is very much like growing tomatoes, peppers or chillies they need warmth to grow well. Warmth which depending on where you are is usually supplied by the greenhouse, tunnel or very warm garden.
One thing the aubergine really does not like cold weather, and they certainly won’t tolerate frost. If the aubergine plants are exposed to prolonged cold, this will stunt this growth and their flowers will fall off, and the plant can even die.
You sow aubergine seeds in February when growing inside. Sow them in March if you want to grow them outside.
Sow the seeds in a tray with individual compartments or some small pots, fill with a good multi-purpose compost and sow one or two seeds in each pot. The seeds need warmth to germinate so either put them in a warm windowsill and cover with a plastic bag or even better would be to have a propagator. If it’s too cold they seeds won’t germinate.
The seeds take around 14 to 21 days to germinate. Allow the plants to grow to about 4 to 5” before planting out.
Some gardeners plant aubergines in grow bags and that is a good way to grow them. In grow bags you can plant 3 plants to a bag.
But, you can also plant them into the soil. This is how we always grown them. Aubergines like good soil that is rich in organic matter and make sure it drains well. It will also help to mulch around the plants so that the soil retains the right moisture for the plant, mulching also stops weeds.
Plant them around 12 to 18” apart – they aubergine plants can grow pretty big in soil. You can also plant them in a big 12 to 14” pot filled with garden soil or compost, or even a mixture of both.
Growing Aubergines – Looking after the crop
You’ll need to start feeding the aubergine plants when it starts to produce fruits. Just give it some general purpose fertilizer, chicken pellets or a liquid feed. Aubergine plants are pretty thirsty so you need to water regularly, but don’t make the soil sodden wet as this can kill the plant.
It’s advisable to pinch out the top of the aubergine plant when it is between 12 to 18”, this will encourage the plant to bush out.
You might also need to stake to plant to give it some support. Once you have three or four fruits set you can remove the additional side-shoots as they develop. This will make the plants concentrate on the fruits it has and should give you bigger fruits.
The fruit is ready to be picked when it’s around 4 to 6” – you can either cut the fruit off with a knife or a pair of secateurs.
Growing Aubergines – Pests and diseases
Aubergines are a pretty trouble free plant to grow, though sometimes you might get an attack of aphids or red spider mite.
Aphids – green fly and whitefly – these can be a real nuisance you can either spray the plants with soapy water – put a squirt of fairy liquid into a spray bottle fill with water and shake – use this to spray the aphids. Or buy a spray from you local garden centre.
Red spider mite – If you see a pale mottling on the leaves of the plants check the underside of the leaf as you probably have red spider mite. Spray the plants with long lasting Liquid Derris. It will help if you can mist the plants with water on a regular basis.
Irregular watering may cause blossom end rot.
I hope this article has encouraged you to start growing aubergines - happy gardening.