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Aubergines are the ideal Mediterranean crop, reminiscent of holidays in the sun - think moussaka, ratatouille or Lebanese Baba Ganoush, the delicious dip. It's a shame more people don’t grow them from seed, as they are little different from tomatoes.
Aubergines will crop well in a cold greenhouse or even on a sheltered sunny patio in a large pot if you live in a mild area or in a hot summer. The key to success is sunshine and warmth - if you can’t guarantee these outside, grow them under glass. Older varieties could be more temperamental but the newer, compact strains fruit with much less effort and in colours ranging from almost black to purple to cream and lilac. Also, home-grown varieties tend to lack the bitterness shop-bought aubergines often have.
They are also the perfect ornamental crop, especially small-fruiting outdoor types like Pot Black F1 and Jewel F1 mix. The smaller fruits not only look great but have a better chance of ripening if summer’s a bad one. Read more
How to grow Aubergines
Seeds germinate best if you use a heated propagator, sowing indoors from January-April at a temperature of 18-20°C /68-71°F. When the seedlings emerge, reduce temperature to 15°C /60°F. Ensure a good light source, such as a grow lamp to prevent the seedlings from getting leggy. If you don’t have one, delay sowing until March when there are equal hours of light and dark - the extra light and warmth in spring means seedlings will soon catch up.
One thing that's important to remember when growing aubergines is that they are slow growing at first, so don’t despair if young plants don't seem to be making much progress. Once the seedlings have 2-4 leaves, transplant into individual 9cm pots. Rootgrow Mycorrhizal Fungi will give the young plants a good start, encouraging root growth. Move to 23cm pots in May in an unheated greenhouse or move outside in early June after hardening off.
Plants need staking and tying in as they grow. When plants are 30cm/1ft high, pinch out the main growing tip. Water regularly and feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser every two weeks once the first fruit has set. Mist the foliage daily to help the fruit set. In large fruiting varieties, remove remaining flowers when five or six fruits have set. Cultivars producing small fruit can produce more.
Did You Know?
Aubergines, known as eggplants in the USA, belong to the nightshade family. Botanically, it is a berry, although culinarily, it's a vegetable. Show less