There may be one plant I all the time appear to place within the backyard however don’t use fairly often — eggplant. Yearly, I put out a few crops pondering I’m going to discover a recipe I like and use them. Then yearly I find yourself giving most of them away.
Why do I continue to grow one thing I don’t eat? I can’t resist the way in which they give the impression of being within the backyard. I often develop a spread referred to as black magnificence — these eggplants produce huge, purple flowers adopted by giant, deep-purple fruits. Who can resist rising one thing like that?
Eggplant seedlings ought to be began in late March. However if you want to develop a few of these stunning (and edible) crops, they’re available at native nurseries or different locations that promote crops.
Eggplants are a part of the night-shade group of crops which additionally contains tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. They like heat climate, so the center of Might is an effective time to place them out in Mid-Missouri. It’s essential to rotate the place you plant eggplant and different members of the night-shade household to assist forestall and keep away from soil-borne pests and ailments. Wait no less than two years between plantings of the nightshade household.
There are a number of “varieties” of eggplants to select from. Globe eggplants (like I discussed above) are conventional giant purple or white oval fruits. They produce finest in hotter climates. Small-fruited eggplants are extra compact and are good for small areas or containers. Japanese eggplants have lengthy, slender fruits that mature shortly — a sensible choice for an earlier harvest. I’m making an attempt the Japanese kind this yr.
Eggplants want a lot of solar. Be sure that the realm you plant them in will get six to seven hours of full solar per day. Eggplants do finest when given loads of room to develop — area them about 2-3 ft aside. Like most backyard crops, they are going to want about 11/2 inches of rain per week, so be able to water them throughout our sizzling, dry spells. The crucial interval for moisture is throughout fruit set and fruit improvement. Mulching will help to supply uniform moisture, preserve water and scale back weeds.
Apply a balanced fertilizer twice throughout the rising season. Aspect-dress when the primary fruits are concerning the measurement of 1 / 4, utilizing 3 ounces of calcium nitrate per 10 ft of row. Aspect-dress once more in about two to 3 weeks. Most varieties will want a stake or cage for help, particularly the varieties that produce bigger fruits.
Flea beetles, which chew many tiny holes in leaves, are an eggplant’s worst pest. To keep away from this drawback, cowl out of doors crops with floating row cowl or mud the foliage with diatomaceous earth or kaolin clay (re-apply it after rain). Curiously, when eggplants are grown in containers which are no less than a foot-and-a-half off the bottom, the flea beetles don’t appear to seek out them as simply.
Don’t wait too lengthy to reap. Eggplant tastes finest when harvested younger, and the plant’s vitality will go into producing new fruit in the event you choose them whereas younger. Examine in your eggplants each two to 3 days as soon as harvest begins. Fruits are ripe when their pores and skin first fails to rebound to fingernail strain. Harvesting takes some finesse — fruits can style bitter if picked when beneath ripe or overripe.
The pores and skin of the fruit ought to look shiny and have a uniform colour. When you minimize the eggplant open, the seeds ought to be delicate however shaped. If the pores and skin appears to be like pale and the seeds inside are darkish and onerous, the fruit will style bitter. Japanese eggplant could also be prepared to reap when the scale of a finger or sizzling canine.
Reduce the fruit off with a pointy knife or backyard shears (the stem is hard) near the stem above the inexperienced cap on the highest, leaving about an inch of it connected. That cap will be prickly, so gloves are useful.
I hope you’ll strive some eggplants in your backyard this summer time, for the sweetness if nothing else.
Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening fanatic and a participant within the MU Extension’s Callaway County Grasp Gardener program. Gardening questions will be despatched to [email protected]