How To Grow Aubergines
Great at soaking up flavours, aubergines are delicious in curries, lasagne and simply grilled on the barbecue. Although not the easiest vegetable to grow, they are definitely worth the effort! Here we show you how.
Most common Aubergine plant questions
Can I grow Aubergines outside?
For best results, grow Aubergines in a greenhouse or poly tunnel.
You can grow Aubergines outside, but to achieve truly full-sized fruit, the plants will need temperatures consistently above 20℃.
Aubergines come from India where the summers are far longer and hotter than our own. That’s why it is best to try and grow Aubergines in a greenhouse if possible, to trap in the heat and moisture.
When should I plant Aubergines?
If you are growing Aubergines inside in a greenhouse then you can plant them from late May to June.
You can plant from April-May if your greenhouse is heated. If you are planting Aubergines outside then you have to wait until June when it is consistently warm and if possible use a horticultural fleece initially to protect against chilling winds.
Where should I position my Aubergine plants?
Aubergine plants should ideally be grown in a greenhouse.
They can also be grown in a polytunnel or conservatory. If growing outdoors, they should be positioned in a sheltered spot such as next to a wall to prevent chilling winds.
How much sun do Aubergines need?
Aubergine plants need full sun.
Position them where they will get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day.
What kind of soil do Aubergine plants need?
Aubergines need fertile, well-draining soil.
It is always a good idea to work in a decent amount of organic matter such as compost into your garden soil until it has a crumbly texture.
If your soil is very sandy or clay heavy then you should use a mix of three parts quality compost and one part garden top soil.
Aubergines are particularly hungry plants so will do with an initial feed added to the soil such as chicken manure pellets to add a boost of nutrients.
How much space do Aubergine plants need?
If you are planting Aubergines in the ground, space them 60cm apart.
If you are growing your Aubergines in pots, they will need to be at least 22cm in diameter and have adequate drainage holes.
How to plant Aubergines
Make a hole slightly larger than the roots and place the plant in.
Fill in with soil and gently firm in with your fingers. Water the plant to help the soil settle around the roots.
If you are growing Aubergines in containers, fill the pot with quality garden compost and then dig a hole slightly larger than the roots and place the plant in. Fill in with soil and gently firm in with your fingers. Water the plant to help the soil settle around the roots.
How much water do Aubergines need?
Aubergines need to be regularly watered and the soil kept consistently moist.
On hot days this will require watering the plant every day.
If the moisture level in the soil fluctuates too much, this can cause the fruit to grow poorly and also taste bad too. If you are unsure, simply touch the soil, if it is dry to the touch then you need to give it some water.
Do Aubergine plants need feeding?
Aubergine plants would benefit from a high-potash feed every two weeks.
Feed your plants when the flowers start to bloom - a good feed would be something such as organic liquid tomato feed or chicken manure pellets.
Potash, or potassium, is one of the three main elements in fertilisers along with nitrogen and phosphorus. Potash stimulates growth in the fruits and vegetables and so typically gardeners apply it as the plant begins to develop them.
Do Aubergine plants need support?
Aubergine plants need to be supported to help them grow.
This prevents them breaking under the weight of the fruit. You can support them by tying them into a structure such as a stake or a trellis.
To do this, plant your support about an inch away from the base of the plant. Tie the stem in about every 20cm using a material such as string or nylon.
When tying a plant in, tie several loops around the plant first and then tie to the support to prevent the plant rubbing against the support, which will cause damage.
How to care for Aubergine plants
Aubergine plants will benefit from being misted every day.
Misting will help the fruit to set.
When the plant has grown to over 60cm tall, you can cut away the main growing tip to contain its growth.
You can also aid the pollination process, which will increase fruit production, by hand pollinating the flowers. To do this, you can use a small paintbrush and gently transfer pollen from one flower to another by brushing inside the middle of flowers, being sure to mix the yellow pollen together.
How to harvest Aubergine plants
Aubergines are ready to harvest from late July through to the beginning of October if it stays warm.
When your Aubergines have grown to a decent size, harvest them by cutting them from their stalks by using a sharp, sterilised knife.
Don’t try and pull the fruit from the plant as the plant is delicate and this could cause damage.
Common Aubergine plant problems
The most common Aubergine pest is the Flea Beetle.
These create small little holes in the leaves which, if left unchecked, can cause significant damage to the plant.
Other pests include Whitefly, Red Spider Mites, and Aphids. For more information on each pest and how to combat against them, read below.
Aubergines are part of the Nightshade plant family along with peppers and tomatoes. As such, they can suffer from Flea Beetles.
These tiny little black bugs swarm over the leaves, eating tiny little holes which, eventually, will cause significant damage to the plant and stunt growth.
To prevent flea beetles attacking your plant you can cover them in a horticultural fleece, especially while they are still young. When the plant blooms, however, you will have to remove the fleece to allow pollinating insects in to ripen the fruit.
You can also try planting them on a raised table or on your patio as the flea beetles will be deterred from having to travel so far.
If the problem has become significant, you may want to use a pesticide. Try and find a pesticide that is organic and has a limited impact on other wildlife. You can purchase specific pesticides for growing vegetables.
Red Spider Mites
Red Spider Mites are tiny (about 1mm) red arachnids that can become a common pest in greenhouses.
If left unchecked they can cover entire leaves in webs while sucking the sap from them, causing leaf drop and sometimes even the entire plant to die.
To prevent Red Spider Mites from infesting your aubergine plant you should keep the leaves moist. Do this by misting the leaves daily.
You can also use biological control against Red Spider Mites, such as predator mites including Phytoseiulus persimilis. These can be readily bought and are a good, natural way to control pests.
If the infestation is serious you can also use pesticides. It is better to use organic pesticides with short persistence–this will reduce damage to other organisms.
Aphids are small green bugs that cluster on the stems, particularly at the joints, and also the underside of leaves.
They cause leaves and fruit to discolour and become misshapen. Aphids also leave behind a sticky residue known as honeydew which can then promote the growth of a fungus known as sooty mould.
Like Whiteflies, ladybirds and hoverflies enjoy eating aphids so planting Marigolds nearby will help control the pest. Also, the same chemical sprays that work for Whitefly tends to also work against aphids. You can also use soapy water to try and wash the aphids off of the plant.
Whiteflies look like small white moths and are most commonly found on the underside of leaves.
If left unchecked they will feed on the leaves and turn them yellow.
Your best, natural defense against whitefly is to simply spray your plant down with some water, aiming it at the whiteflies to try and wash them off. Make sure you check the whole plant and get as much off as possible.
You can also plant companion plants such as Marigold near your aubergines. Marigolds will attract ladybirds and hoverflies which will come and actually eat the whiteflies.
If the problem persists you can buy a special bug spray that specifically targets these pests.