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Australian Grow Guide: Eggplants

Eggplants should be grown in a sunny position in the garden so that they can lap up all that lovely sunshine. 

This is my second year of growing eggplants in my garden and I can tell you that they’re actually very easy to grow but you need to be patient as you wait for the fruit to develop.

If you weren’t aware, eggplants are in the same family as tomatoes and potatoes so they appreciate similar conditions.

However, eggplants like the heat and will only grow successfully during the summer months in the southern parts of the country.

When to plant eggplants in Australia

In most parts of Australia, primarily warm, cool, and cold areas, you want to plant eggplant seedlings between October and December.

Planting Eggplant 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

I planted my seedlings this year on Christmas eve because we had a reasonably cold spring here in Victoria and they’re beginning to flower just 2 months later. 

In temperate areas, you can plant out your seedlings as early as late September as long as there is no danger of frost. 

If you want to start your eggplants from seed, you’ll need to start these indoors or in a greenhouse in all but warm climates. The seeds need warm soil to germinate and grow.

How to plant eggplants 

Did I mention that eggplants like the heat? This means that they should be grown in a sunny position in the garden so that they can lap up all that lovely sunshine. 

Planting Eggplant | Fruit & Vegetables

Like tomatoes, eggplants prefer nice, rich, fertile soil. Therefore, you want to add lots of compost and manure to your garden bed before planting them. 

The bed that my current eggplants are growing in has been fortified with horse manure and topped with compost. The bed was then left bare over the winter. This allowed the manure to break down and enrich the soil.

It’s important to note that eggplants prefer free-draining soil and don’t really like heavy clay soils either. It’s also a good idea to add a layer of mulch such as straw or something similar to the top of the soil after planting. 

If you’re planting more than one, space them around 50 cm apart as they do like to grow quite large.

Planting Eggplant 2 | Fruit & Vegetables

How to care for eggplants

The only care that eggplants need is a good dose of water on days when there’s no rain. They really don’t like to dry out so make sure you give them a good daily soaking throughout summer.

If you’ve done what I did and enriched the soil with compost and manure, then there should be enough nutrients available to the plants for excellent growth. However, you can supplement this by giving the plants some organic fertiliser, just as you see the flower buds start to appear.

Once your plants start producing fruits, you might need to give them some support as the plants can become a bit top-heavy. You can just use some sturdy wooden or bamboo stakes loosely tied to the stem to keep your plants upright.

Eggplants with support | Fruit & Vegetables

How long do eggplants take to grow?

As mentioned, you need to be patient. Eggplants can take up to 14 weeks before there will be some fruits ready to harvest. This will vary with the variety you’re growing and the weather.

Harvesting Eggplants 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

We’ve had a couple of cold spells during the past couple of months, so this has set my plants back a little and I don’t think I’ll have harvestable fruit for at least another 2 or 3 weeks. That means I’ve had to wait nearly 3 months to harvest my eggplants. 

When to harvest eggplants

Eggplants are ready to harvest once the fruits have reached a usable size and the skin is nice and glossy. The fruits should be firm.

Harvesting Eggplants 2 | Fruit & Vegetables

If you leave them too long, they can overripen and develop wrinkly skin. This also affects their flavour.

How to harvest eggplants

To harvest your eggplants, just use a sharp pair of secateurs and cut the stem of each fruit from the plant. This avoids damage to the plant itself.

Harvesting Eggplants | Fruit & Vegetables

Eggplant pests and diseases

I must admit that my eggplants have been totally pest and disease free so I haven’t come across any challenges at all. However, some gardeners do have trouble with powdery mildew. As this only affects the leaves, it’s not too much of a problem except it can be unsightly.

The best way to deal with this is to just remove the affected leaves and throw them in the rubbish bin. It’s also important to try and water at the soil level and avoid getting the leaves wet whenever possible. 

Eggplant companion plants

There are numerous plants that will grow well with eggplants because they like similar conditions and some are even good at repelling pests. Here are just a few:

  • Tomatoes
  • Capsicum
  • Chillies
  • Marigolds
  • Oregano
  • Borage
  • Nasturtiums

I also have cucumbers planted in the same bed and this seems to work well mainly because cucumbers are even more thirsty plants and appreciate a good daily soaking.

How to grow eggplants in pots

Growing eggplants in pots couldn’t be easier as long as you remember a couple of vital things.

Eggplants in pot | Fruit & Vegetables

Firstly, the soil in pots dries out very quickly and eggplants don’t like to dry out. Therefore, you need to keep your pots well-watered right throughout the growing season.

Secondly, eggplants need a relatively large pot that can accommodate their growth and their root system. So, choose a pot that’s at least 30 cm in diameter or larger and about as deep.

Use a premium quality potting mix and give your plants regular feeds of liquid fertiliser once the flowers appear.

FAQ

Are eggplant easy to grow?

Eggplants are very easy to grow as long as you give them plenty of sunshine and water and a lovely rich soil that is free-draining.

Do eggplants grow back every year?

Eggplants do not like the cold weather and are grown as annuals in cooler regions around the country. However, in tropical and subtropical areas they can be grown as perennials.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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