After the unsuccessful experience of growing eggplant through seedlings, these years I prefer to sow the seeds of this vegetable directly in the ground, and not in a greenhouse, but in an open bed.
The advantage is that seedlings of giant eggplant are poorly tolerated by transplanting, always experience stress and have a long recovery time. Plants grown immediately in a permanent place are healthier and hardier than sown seedlings and start giving harvest much later than sown seedlings.
Of course, the choice of species plays a big role.
SELECTION OF SEEDING LOCATIONS FOR EGGPLANTS
The success of any good harvest is to provide the plant with those conditions for growth and fruiting in which it feels good. That is, as close as possible to the conditions in which it would grow in the wild.
Of course, although I live in the south, I can’t make Indian climate for eggplant in my neighborhood (or even in the open field). But I can still “cheat” the eggplant a bit.
First of all, eggplants do not like ventilation. So, in the open ground, they need something to enclose them. See what you think?
Maybe you’ll build him a fence (I’m not talking about a greenhouse) in a temporary way. It might just be some sort of wind-blocking screen.
To do this, you could also use some features of the neighborhood landscape. For example, my vegetable garden has a square shape and is located on a hill. On the right side there are fruit trees, and perpendicular to them I sowed corn.
It grows rapidly and forms a living wall on the other side. Therefore, the upper right corner of my vegetable garden is an ideal place to grow eggplant: well heated (on a raised stand) and protected from wind and rain.
Eggplant must be included in the crop rotation table, in which it should be ranked after treating the land with manure. Planting after lettuce and radishes is allowed, but in no case should eggplant be planted after other monocots: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers.
Eggplants are very fond of fertile soil rich in humus. And it does not like to grow in the same place year after year. Therefore, eggplants can return to their original place only after five years.
PREPARE THE SOIL FOR SOWING EGGPLANT
Eggplant seeds already germinate at temperatures above 55-57°F (13-14°C), and their optimal temperature for growth and development is 68-77°F (20-25°C).
Eggplants do not like too high temperatures and they may start to drop flowers at temperatures above 96°F (36°C). When sowing eggplant seeds in the open ground, it is essential to have conditions that bring the soil temperature to 64-68°F (18-20°C) at spade depth.
But I sowed the seeds in late April or early May when the ground was still generally cold.
To “trick” the eggplants, I cover the growing area with black material (or even with film) in advance, and the spring sun quickly heats the soil under the eggplants to the desired temperature.
The roots of eggplant grow very fast, so it is important to provide the eggplant with nutrients.
I am making a plot under the eggplant (in already warm soil), making a little humus, ash, organic fertilizer – I embed it in the soil and flatten the bed. Eggplants very much like warm, soft soil, neutral or slightly acidic.
Before sowing the seeds, at the bottom of the glass bottle, I make a well (instead of a bottle, you can use something else) about 0.4-0.6inch (1-1.5 cm) deep: I press the bottle to the ground and use it like a bulldozer for the potatoes. It is important to compact the soil and to make sure that the seeds do not fall anywhere.
I richly sprinkled the holes with warm water and poured 1-1.5 cups of water into each hole. In one hole, I put a few seeds: 3-4, because they will not all germinate.
The seeds are dry and I don’t soak them. I cover them with a little wet soil and a screw cap from half a plastic bottle. It should be inserted deep into the ground so that it goes into the ground a few centimeters.
In this way, a small temporary greenhouse for eggplants is established. Moisture will not evaporate from there and the air and ground temperature is a few degrees higher than the surrounding temperature. It is best to use colorless bottle halves.
In order to provide the plants with sufficient light, it is not advisable to grow too many plants. Don’t save space! It is best to plant 2-3 plants, but at long intervals for a great harvest later.
I don’t have very large plants spaced about 20inch (50cm) apart from each other. However, eggplants are planted in staggered order with no less than 31inch (80cm) distance from adjacent beds. As a result, my eggplants in the open ground received plenty of light.
MANAGEMENT OF OPEN FIELD CULTIVATION OF EGGPLANT SEEDLINGS
Soon you can see that the eggplants in the jars have sprouted. But I didn’t pick them yet – until the warm weather during the day and night, and the threat of night frosts was over.
Typically, I have these bottles “growing” in the garden for about a month, maybe more. It all depends on the weather. On a sunny day, the sprouts should be aired out.
Then I start slowly unscrewing the lids. It is not necessary to remove them immediately. In the bottle formed its own microclimate, and the plants got used to it.
After a while, I remove the cap for a day and put it back on at night. So, when the eggplants already had 2-3 main leaves, I finally took the bottle off. Now they continue to grow in my reality in the open space.
After the bottle was removed, I modified my eggplants. Where there were several sprouts in the same hole, I used scissors to cut off the extra ones.
I leave the most beautiful and healthy ones. I dip them accurately from time to time and rake the soil onto the stems. I did this several times during the season.
Eggplants, like bell peppers, really like to drink water. Be sure to water them with plenty of warm water, especially during flowering. Otherwise, they may drop their flowers.
If daily watering is not possible, you can reduce the frequency of watering, but water more often and be sure to mulch.
It is important to feed the eggplants throughout the season. Every 10 days I bring them one or quite a lot of mineral fertilizer, or ash, or watering to infuse the weeds.
Generally speaking, this is the end of the care of the open ground eggplant. When the plant already has 5-6 fruits, the top fruits can be cut or pinched off so they have time to ripen until the end of the season.
Ripe fruits should be harvested as they ripen and it is best to use a fruit cutting machine to do this so as not to injure the whole plant.