Like many gardening rookies, eggplant was one of the first vegetables that I had really set my mind on. I researched extensively about this plant and I thought I already knew everything I needed to know about growing eggplants. It was around December when I began to plant a couple of seeds of the variety called “Warhawk”. By the end of March, my heart was filled with excitement as the plants showed their first set of flower blooms.
However, I noticed that the flowers would just fall off after a few days. This was by then around mid-April, the height of summer in Manila when the temperature reached 38 degrees celsius at peak times. I had no clue at all what was happening to my plants. I tried all the techniques that I gathered from various gardening sites, but to no avail.
By the end of May, things had started to improve. It had started to rain in the afternoon as the hot summer had ended. With a sigh of great relief, I began to see the flowers finally turning into nice tiny purple eggplants. SInce then, I started to harvest the eggplants straight from the garden. As they are grown organically in containers, these eggplants are smaller in size than the ones sold commercially.
I also planted the local variety called “bulinggit”. They are not as prolific as the regular hybrid variety though and they require regular feeding of rich, organic fertilizer.
Sharing a few lessons from this experience
Always choose a large container (at least 24 inches in diameter, and depth). Some varieties may require bigger containers. This was my rookie mistake, as I had to keep transferring the plants into larger containers.
When they get too stressed from heat or cold, the flowers will just fall off. Know when is the best time to start planting the eggplant seeds, which varies according to the climate zone. For tropical zones, start planting during summer. By the time summer ends, the plants are old enough to produce.
These plants need a lot of sunlight, and so choose a location where they could be exposed to at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.
To keep them productive, fertilize twice a month. Eggplants need a continuous supply of soil nutrients at the roots, especially during the fruit-bearing stage. I use compost material to condition the soil once a month. Alternatively, used coffee grounds are also useful, together with ground banana peels.
Water them deeply at least twice a week, or when the soil feels dry. In tropical climate countries like the Philippines, it can get extremely hot during summer, so daily watering might be necessary. Eggplants though are very sturdy, and they can withstand even extremely warm conditions.
Lastly, prune away excess leaves and branches. Leave only 3 or 4 healthy main branches to allow the plants to focus on the flowers and fruits, instead of just leaves. Use stakes to support the branches, especially when they are already in blooming stage.
Eggplants are a perennial plant which means they can last for more than 1 year. After each batch of harvest, they tend to produce less. If this happens, trim away all leaves and branches except only for 2-3 healthy ones. Apply a generous amount of compost to the soil to re-condition and energize the plant, In a few weeks, new leaves and stems will appear, ready for the next round of harvest.
For more practical gardening tips, visit http://www.urbangardeningmom.com to learn more.