Eggplants come in various shapes and colors, from round to oblong and deep purple to white. They are also called different names worldwide; Americans and English-speaking Canadians call it eggplant, and others in the southern states and the United Kingdom call it Guinea Squash or Aubergine.
But no matter what you call it, eggplants are very nutritious, are high in antioxidants, promote blood sugar control, and can help you lose weight. Fortunately, this highly beneficial vegetable can be grown in pots with simple procedures. And since some varieties are perennial when treated right, they can serve you all year round.
Steps to Grow Eggplants in a Pot
Growing eggplants can be easy if you know the right way to go about it. Here are the steps to take when growing eggplants in a pot:
Step One: Choose the Right Variety
The first step is choosing a variety of eggplant to grow in your pot. The best eggplants to plant are mini varieties, with several such varieties to choose from. A popular one to consider is the Patio Baby, which is known to be compact and has a fruit size no longer than 3 inches, making it perfect for pots.
The Hansel and Gretel types are also considered compact but have fruits of about 4 inches long, with the Gretel producing beautiful white eggplants. Lastly, the Fairy Tale is smaller than Hansel and Gretel but produces beautiful eggplants striped in purple and white. You can choose any variety but do proper research before planting any specie.
Step Two: Pre-Planting Preparation
Once you have decided on what variety to plant, you will want to prepare for planting the vegetable. You need to purchase gardening trays or small pots for the eggplant seeds; one small pot will be for every two seeds you are to plant. The trays and small pots make it easy to transfer your seedlings at the right time.
In addition, you’ll also need a larger pot, with at least a 5-gallon capacity, for the mature eggplant. You should give a space of approximately 1 foot between seeds for effective growth.
Opt for a clay pot, which retains heat as eggplants love to heat. Clay pots are also heavier, which makes it possible to support the weight of your mature eggplant. Ensure the pots have large drainage holes to balance out the soil’s moisture level and help minimize the damage to your plant roots.
Another thing to invest in is a support system for your eggplants; a teepee stake or a tomato cage to support your eggplants’ upward growth is also adequate.
Step Three: Choose the Best Potting Soil
You should mix your growing media with two parts potting soil, and one part sand, as this provides the nutrients, your plants need while also controlling the moisture level. Before putting your soil into your pot, be sure your pots are thoroughly cleaned, especially if you have used them before.
Cleaning your pots will also prevent your soil from having insect eggs and bacteria that are harmful and cause damage to the eggplants in them. Mix a timed-release, pelleted fertilizer with your soil using the instructions on the label.
You should start with a balanced nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio and reapply the fertilizer after 10 to 12 weeks.
Step Four: Plant at the Right Season
Eggplants do very well in the sun, so you want to plant them in a sunny location that receives the direct full light of the sun. It’s often best to plant as soon as April when the climate is relatively warm. Most eggplants need 60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, so it’s best to start them indoors first. Your small pots or trays are to be loosely filled with soil but not compressed.
After filling your small pots with soil, poke holes in the center of each pot that is ½-inch in diameter and place two seeds in each hole. Planting two seeds improve the chances of at least one of your seeds sprouting, and more than two would rob the seeds of the nutrients they need to form roots.
Step Five: Nurture Your Eggplant Seedlings
Now that you have put in your seeds, you should lightly cover them with additional potting soil and be careful to avoid packing the soil on the seeds. After planting your seeds, find a warm, sunny windowsill where it can receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day to help spur the growth of the seeds.
Water your seeds and keep your soil moist to the touch always. If you use trays without drainage holes, avoid creating puddles on top of your soil, but allow the soil to dry out.
Once your seedlings sprout two leaves, it is time to thin them out by snipping out the weaker seedlings down to soil level while keeping the stronger of the two. Do not pull out the weaker seedling, as this may harm the roots of the stronger seedling.
Step Six: Transplanting Preparation for the Eggplant Seedlings
Transplant your eggplants once the plant has reached at least ½- foot in height, and do this only if the outdoors is sufficiently warmed up since eggplants do well outdoors when they have access to enough sunlight and pollination.
Set up your staking system in your permanent pot by positioning the stake upright while keeping the stake’s feet on the bottom. Pack the soil around the stake, holding it firmly in place.
You should leave one inch of space between the rim of your pot and the top of the soil and then dig a hole that is as deep and as wide as the pot your seedlings contain in the center of your permanent pot.
Step Seven: Plant the Young Seedlings
Now that the hole has been formed ensure the soil in your permanent pot is moist and compact before transplanting the stronger seedling into the hole. Carefully insert the seedling into your new pot and keep the seedling as upright as possible.
Fill in any space around the seedling with soil but do not press down, as this can cause damage to the root system. The soil will keep it firmly in place. After this, water your soil thoroughly, but be careful not to form puddles on top of the soil.
Step Eight: Water and Fertilize the Plant Regularly
Eggplants need lots of water to grow; adequate moisture enables the young seedlings to grow roots deep into the soil. You want to give them a thorough soaking once a day rather than several small waterings.
During the dry weather, you may have to water your plant multiple times a day but ensure you feel the soil with the tips of your fingers to check for moisture regularly. Remember, daily watering can help increase the number of eggplants you grow.
When fertilizing, use a water-soluble fertilizer and water your eggplant before adding it to the soil. Ensure you follow the directions on the label to get the right amount and to put the fertilizer in the soil; dig beneath the surface of the soil ½- inch into the scratch in the fertilizer, and do not disturb the eggplant’s roots.
Step Nine: Monitor Your Plant Growth
Monitor your soil and eggplant growth. Your soil pH should be between 5.8 and 6.5, for your eggplant needs to be met. A pH meter will help give you an accurate reading of your soil. Monitor your eggplant as they grow so you can loosely tie them to the stake to climb up. Watch out for pests, as they can attack your eggplants. You can use an organic pesticide to counterattack.
Step Ten: Harvest Your Eggplant
Harvest is what everyone looks forward to when planting. Your eggplant has glossy skin and is usually the size of a large orange when it is ready to be harvested. The time to harvest depends on the variety you plant, but your eggplants should be ready within two to three months after you first plant them. Use pruning shears when snipping the eggplant from its vine, leaving the vegetable with a short stem.
Eggplants are delicious fruits easily grown that have several health benefits. Many people who lack the space for a large garden often find that eggplants adapt quite easily to pots and produce plenty of fruit when treated in the right conditions. Since they are also perennial plants, they can serve you for a long time. Follow the steps outlined in this article to plant and nurture your eggplant.