Tag Archives: vegetable

Tomatillo Gardening

Tomatillo Gardening

Tomatillo Gardening  is a warm season vegetable that’s planted outdoors once all dangers of frost have passed in spring,

Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa), or Mexican husk tomato, are members of the nightshade family, grown for their small, green or purple fruits. The fruits closely resemble unripe tomatoes in their appearance with a leafy husk that wraps the outside, hence the name. Tomatillos originated in Mexico and are a staple of Mexican cuisine to this day. They are consumed raw or added to soups, sauces, salsa, and jam. It’s a perennial plant in southern climates, usually grown as an annual vegetable that grows up to 3.3 feet tall. Tomatillo thrives in warm climates and are very sensitive to frost.

Types & Varieties of Tomatillo

Tomatillo is an excellent source of fiber. It’s rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and niacin. Several different varieties exist, with some differences in the size and flavor of the fruit. Some types give green or yellow colored fruits while some are purple.

Common varieties of Tomatillo:

  • Cisineros It’s a very productive variety that matures in 85 days and produces large green fruits, up to 2.5 inches in diameter. They have a sweet, fruity flavor and work great in salsa and sauces.
  • Pineapple – It’s a unique variety that produces loads of small, yellow fruits, about an inch in diameter. The fruits are green to begin with but turn yellow as they reach maturity, in about 75 days from planting. It’s sweet, pineapple flavor is where its name comes from.
  • Amarylla – This is an heirloom variety with sweet yellow fruits that reach maturity as the husks split open. The firm, small fruits are perfect for jams, and salsa.
  • Toma Verde – Maturing in 60 to 70 days, it takes little time to grow, producing abundant, large green fruits. The fruits are very sweet, and work great in sauces and salsa.  

Each plant produces 1 to 2 pounds of fruit so plan around 1 to 2 plants per person, spacing them 3 to 4 feet apart in rows with a 3-foot spacing between rows.

Temperature and Timing for growing Tomatillo

Tomatillo is a warm season vegetable that’s planted outdoors once all dangers of frost have passed in spring, and the temperatures are consistently above 50°F. You may start the seeds earlier indoors, 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost and transplant the seedlings once the frost has passed and the soil is warm. The vegetable plant thrives when temperatures are between 70°F and 80°F.  

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Tomatillo requires a spot with full sun to thrive and produce abundant, healthy fruits. For best growth, it needs to get 8 or more hours of direct sunlight.

Well-drained, moderately fertile land is best for tomatillos, but since they’re hardy plants, they’ll also survive in low fertility.

How to Plant Tomatillo

Tomatillo gardening begins with planting the seeds indoors, 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost of spring. Staring the seeds indoors is especially important in regions where summers are shorter, since the plants will need at least two months to grow to maturity after being transplanted in the garden.

It’s important to know that you’ll need at least 2 tomatillo plants for pollination and fruit set. Since they are not self-fertilizing, individual plants will not be able to fertilize themselves. Plant the seeds in seedling trays filled with light potting soil and allow them to grow besides a sunny window before they’re ready to go in the garden.

Once the outdoor temperature stays consistently above 50°F, you can start hardening off the seedlings. Give plenty of time to adapt to the outdoor conditions before setting them in the prepared garden bed. Space them at least 3 to 4 feet apart since they have a bushy growth, with 18 to 24 inch spread.

Just like tomatoes, the seedlings are planted deeply since roots appear along the stems. Set some form of support, such as a trellis or a tomato cage to keep the plants off the ground. Mulch the soil with 2 to 3 inches of organic matter to keep weeds at bay and preserve soil moisture.

Offer about an inch of water each week. Since tomatillos are light feeders, they won’t need any fertilization if you planted them in organic soil amended with some compost to begin with.  

Harvest

Tomatillos take around 75 to 100 days to grow to maturity. Here’s how to harvest them.

  • Harvesting begins when the fruits fill out the husks and the papery husks start splitting open.
  • Sometimes, the husk won’t split open but will turn brown and leathery, this is also a sign that they’re ready to be picked.
  • Harvest them while they’re still firm. Don’t wait until the fruit turns pale yellow since they’ll be seedier and will lose their characteristic tanginess.
  • Remove the fruits by cutting the stem with sharp pruners. Avoid pulling the fruits as it may damage the plant.

Storing

If you plan on storing them, don’t remove the husk before refrigerating them. At room temperature, tomatillos will stay fresh for up to a week, while in the fridge, they can last for up to 3 weeks. Either place them loose or inside a paper bag. Don’t store them in plastic. You can also freeze whole or sliced tomatillos to save them for longer. Canning or preserving in the form of sauces or jam is another way to use your harvest through the rest of the year. 

Pests and Diseases

Pests

  • Aphids sometimes bother your tomatillos, sucking the sap from the plants. In small numbers, they aren’t too problematic but too many can cause stunted growth. You can hose them off with water or spray the plants with insecticidal soap.
  • Cucumber beetles, with yellow and black stripes on their back, live on the underside of the leaves, eating away the leaves and weakening the plants. Use floating row covers to protect newly planted seedlings. 
  • Potato beetles are orange-yellow, with three black lines on the back and are a common problem with tomatillo crops. If there are only a few of them, handpicking is enough to eliminate the pests. However, on a heavily infested crop, you may use chemical pesticides – but be careful when using pesticide while tomatillo gardening.

Diseases

  • Anthracnose is a fungal disease that attacks the fruits as it ripens. It begins as a small, sunken spot and grows into a large, black lesion. Eventually, the fruit will rot. The disease is often the result of very hot and humid conditions
  • Bacterial Leaf Spot damages the leaves and the fruits on the plant. It appears as translucent spots that grow bigger with a red center. The disease thrives in cooler climates.

Hopefully, this article will help you with your tomatillo gardening to grow the best tomatillos to feed your Mexican cravings – wish you a great gardening experience!

Brussels Sprouts Gardening

Brussels Sprouts Gardening

Brussels sprouts gardening is fun

Brussels sprouts, Brassica oleracea, are a unique type of cabbage belonging to the Brassicaceae family. Though the vegetable is native to the Mediterranean region like other cabbages, they’re named after Brussels, a city in Belgium, where they have been popular since the 13th century. Brussel sprouts are rich in nutrients, primarily antioxidants, fibers, and Vitamin K. Something you need to know about brussels sprouts gardening is they are an annual cool-weather crop that grows up to 2 to 3 feet in height, forming numerous miniature cabbage heads along thick stalks. They’re planted in late summers, taking about 80 days from transplant to reach maturity and be harvested in late fall or early winter. Brussel sprouts taste best when they’re harvested after being subject to light frost.

Types & Varieties of Brussels Sprout

Different Brussels sprout varieties exist, with subtle differences in the sizes and number of buds attached to the stalks and also their color and flavor. Several tiny buds are attached close to each other in some varieties, while others have bigger buds with some spacing between them. Colors range from pale green to reddish-purple. 

Common varieties of Brussels Sprouts:

  • CatskillIt’s an heirloom variety, introduced in 1941. It produces 2” round, deep green sprouts attached to long, strong stalks. It takes between 85 to 110 days to grow to maturity.
  • Dagan – The variety produces bright green sprouts that hold their shape well at harvesting. They grow tall stalks with medium to large sprouts, taking about 100 days to reach maturity.
  • Green Gems – These varieties grow to about 34-36” tall, packed with beautiful 1.5” sprouts. The mini cabbages have a golden interior and reach maturity in just over 85 days.
  • Churchill – It’s a fast-growing hybrid that produces flavorful, green sprouts in as little as 90 days. 

If you’re building a vegetable garden for self-sustenance, plan around 2 to 8 Brussels sprout plants per person, and since the individual plants are spaced at least 16” apart, plant around 8 to 10 feet per person.

Temperature and Timing for growing Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts are cool-season vegetables that grow best at temperatures between 45 and 75°F. In warmer climates, they’re planted in late summers for a winter harvest, while in cooler climates, they’re planted in early summers to be harvested in the fall. They can tolerate below-freezing temperatures for a couple of days. In fact, the flavor is enhanced when they’re subject to light frost.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Full sun, with exposure for at least 6 hours a day is best for Brussels sprouts gardening. They prefer growing in fertile, well-drained soil that’s amended with plenty of organic matter. Make sure the soil pH is between 6.5 to 7.

How to Plant Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprout gardening begins by planting the seeds ½ to ¼ inch deep in pots or seedling trays 12 to 14 weeks before autumn’s first frost. Plant 2 to 3 seeds in each module and maintain moisture in the soil. The seeds will sprout in 7 to 12 days. After the seedlings appear, remove the weaker ones, keeping the strongest ones to develop further. Once the seedlings are 4 weeks old, they are ready to be transplanted into the garden.

When it’s time to transplant them in the garden, harden off the plants by setting out the seedling tray in a shady spot outdoors, bringing them back inside for the night. Increase the sun exposure gradually until they’re ready to be planted in the garden bed in about a week.

brussels sprouts get sweeter after a few light frosts

Set the transplants 16 to 18″ apart in rows that are spaced 30 inches apart. Remember to firm the soil around the seedlings, so they’re well-anchored to the ground as they develop into mature plants.

Brussels like their soil evenly moist. Offer about 1 inch of water each week, watering at the base of the plant. Overwatering can result in stunted growth and root rot, so be careful in providing just the right level of moisture. 

Fertilize the soil once before setting the transplants and a second time at mid-season. For fertilizing the sprouts, you can either side-dress the plants with aged compost or use a balanced organic fertilizer, such as 5-5-5.

Stake the plants since they’ll become top-heavy as the buds start developing. If there isn’t a stake for support, the plants will lean over or fall.

Harvest

Once your Brussels sprout gardening goes successfully, there will be loads of sprouts to harvest at the end of the season. Here’s how you harvest sprouts:

  • As the crop approaches harvest, the leaves near the buds start turning yellow. It takes about 3 to 4 months for the buds to come to harvest from the time of transplanting. Once the buds are about 1.5 inches in diameter and still firm, it’s time to harvest them.
  • Near the end of the growing season, remove the lower leaves to allow more room for the development of the buds.
  • The lower buds mature first; puck them before they turn yellow. Yellow buds are bitter. Harvest the upper bulbs as they develop. If you want all the sprouts to come to harvest at the same time, pinch out the growing tip.
  • If a drastic temperature drop or rise is predicted in the coming days as the plant approaches harvest, you can harvest the entire stalk. The stalk is also edible once the tough outer layer is removed. 

Storing

When stored unwashed in a plastic bag, Brussels sprouts will stay fresh in the fridge for over 3 to 4 weeks. Remove the loose, yellow outer leaves from the buds before storing them. Blanched sprouts can be frozen and used for up to 4 months.

Pests and Diseases

Pests

  • Aphids are a common problem with Brussels sprouts. These insects collect on the stems and weaken the plants by sucking the sap from them. You can hose them off with water.
  • Cabbage loopers and cabbage worms also attack Brussels sprouts. You can either handpick and kill them or spray the plants with Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Cutworms often come out at night to feed on the plants. Place cutworm collars around the plants at the beginning of the growing season to protect the young plants.

Diseases

  • Brussels is susceptible to cabbage yellows. This is a fungal disease that begins at the lower buds, turning them yellow and then progressing to the higher buds. Plant resistant varieties and apply compost tea regularly to prevent the disease.
  • Clubroot is another fungal disease that affects Brussels sprouts. They result in the swelling of roots and weakening and wilting of the plants. Maintaining a neutral soil pH and an adequate supply of calcium and magnesium can help control the disease.

Follow this guide, and you’ll hopefully grow lots of crunchy, flavorful Brussels sprouts to grace your dishes.

Radish gardening

Radish Gardening

Radish gardening is simple. They are among the fastest growing vegetables in the garden. These roots have a spicy, peppery flavor and the greens are super nutritious and delicious. Planting can be as easy as dropping seeds among slower growing vegetables like carrots or broccoli or cabbage – the radishes germinate and identify the row before the slower growing plants emerge.

The crunchy spring variety includes:

Cherry Bomb – maturity in 22 days

Crimson Giant – maturity in 30 days

Burpee White – maturity in 25 days

French Breakfast – maturity in 26 days

Early Scarlet Globe – maturity in 26 days

Organic Sparkler – maturity in 26 days

Where to Plant

Choose a site that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Spring radishes are not a finicky root vegetable. They do like full sun when the weather is cool yet will handle some shade when it’s warmer.

Because they are quick to sprout, simply sow them in any empty spaces in a bed.

Planting

Radish gardening - do not plant the seeds too deep

Since radishes like it cool and they grow fast, they are not candidates for starting in flats and transplanting. As soon as the garden’s soil is workable in the spring, you can plant a first sowing. Plant additional rows through early May for your spring crop. Autumn planting can begin again August 1 through September 1 for harvests into October and November.

Till the soil to a depth of at least eight inches, then make furrows about six inches apart and plant the seeds at a depth of about 1/2 inch and cover loosely with soil or peat moss (anything that will not clump up and make it difficult for the seeds to sprout). Allow about one inch between seeds in the row then thin to 2 inches as they mature.

Do not cultivate too deeply or you may damage the roots. Use a hand tool or a hoe and cultivate just deeply enough to cut the weeds off below the surface.

Sunlight and Soil Requirements

As previously stated, choose a site that gets at least six hours of sun a day. For the best radishes, plant them in a friable soil when the weather is cool and provide constant moisture. Any well-drained, slightly acidic to neutral soil with pH 6 to 7 will do for radishes. An overly rich soil will encourage lush foliage at the expense of crisp, tasty roots. If the soil is too dry, radishes may bolt and become pithy and too pungent to eat. If too wet, the roots will split and rot.

Succession Planting

Make small weekly sowings, trying different varieties to obtain a wide mix of radishes. Because most spring varieties mature in less than a month, succession plantings ensure a steady supply of radishes. When warm weather (65 degrees or higher) arrives, stop sowing as radishes will not tolerate heat and will rapidly go to seed. However, in late summer, you can start planting again for an Autumn harvest.  

Harvesting

Although radishes are easy to grow, when radish gardening knowing to harvest is the key to perfect radishes with crisp roots and mild flavor instead of hot as fire and as pithy as corks. Garden radishes are usually ready for harvest three to five weeks after planting. You can pull them any time they reach a usable size. They will get fibrous and develop a strong taste if left in the ground too long. Remove greens and wash roots well.

Problems

The worst invader of the radish patch is the root maggot. Luckily, this pest is easily avoided with a proper crop rotation. Never plant radishes in a bed that contained a cole crop in the last three years. If you incorporate some wood ashes in the soil, the maggots shouldn’t present a problem.

Flea beetles make tiny holes in the leaves, slugs and snails chew grooves in perfect roots, and a sudden deluge can cause radishes to split and start rotting.

Cabbage Gardening

Cabbage Gardening

Cabbage, made up of several types of Brassica, is a leafy green, red, Cabbage gardening Burpee earlianaor white colored biennial plant grown as an annual for its dense multi-layered leaved heads. The leaves are commonly smooth in texture, but crinkle-leafed savoy cabbages are also grown (my favorites). They weigh generally from 1 to 5 lbs. however there are varieties that grow much larger for. Cabbage heads are picked during the first year of the plant’s life cycle. Plants intended for seed are grown into a second year.

Cabbage contain the following vitamins and minerals:

Thiamine (B1); Riboflavin (B2); Niacin (B3); B5; Vitamin B6; Folate; Vitamin C and Vitamin K

Calcium; Iron; Magnesium; Manganese; Phosphorus; Potassium; Sodium and Zinc

Cabbage History

It is descended from the wild cabbage and belongs to the brassicas, meaning it is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Cabbage was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BC. Savoy cabbage was developed around the 16th century AD. World production of cabbage and other brassicas for 2017 was 71 million tons, with China accounting for 47% of the world total.

Types of Cabbage

Green

Early Golden Acre; a northern favorite that is ideal for smaller gardens. Round and compact, their heads average 2-3 pounds of sweet flavor – Ferry Morse

Early Jersey Wakefield; favorite with a distinctly sweet flavor – Burpee

Red

Salad Delight; an early maturing red cabbage with a 3 lb. head – Burpee

Red Express; very nice color and early maturity, compact habit 2 – 4 lb. heads – High Mowing Seeds

Savoy

Perfection Savoy; heirloom green savoy – Hudson Valley Seed Co

Purple Savoy; Produces small, 1-3 pound heads, a bit later than other varieties – Hudson Valley Seed Co

Cabbage has been selectively bred for head weight and characteristics such as frost hardiness, fast growth and storage ability. The appearance of the cabbage head has been given importance in selective breeding, with varieties being chosen for shape, color, firmness and other physical characteristics.

Commercial breeding objectives are now focused on increasing resistance to various insects and diseases and improving the nutritional content of cabbage. Unfortunately, this means in too many cases GMO. In my opinion it is better to put up with pests and disease management than to grow anything GMO, I may be wrong but allowing scientists and others to create something that may very well be a plant-based-Frankenstein is unsettling.

Where to Plant

Cabbage plants can handle full sun to light shade, so at least 5 to 6 hours of sun. Since cabbage plants are not setting flowers or fruit, they do not need a full day of sun. Cabbage gardening in warmer climates will require some shade during hot months, so the plants do not dry out. If you can, rotate where you plant. Try to avoid planting where cabbage as well as other brassicas have been planted for at least 2 years.

When to Plant

There are cabbage seedlings available at every garden center in spring, but for the best variety you will need to start yours from seed. You can start seeds indoors, about 6 to 10 weeks before your last expected frost date. Cabbages can handle a little frost, so you can transplant seedlings outdoors close to your last frost date as long as the soil is able to be worked and if a hard frost is expected you can cover the plants. Just make sure that any plants started and grown under lights are given the time to acclimate to the sun before being planted into the garden.



How to Plant

Space plants about 2 feet apart in rows with approximately the same spacing. Later plantings can be direct sown in the garden for fall harvest.

Plant Care

Plants perform best when grown in well-drained soil. Different varieties prefer different soil types, ranging from lighter sand to heavier clay, but all prefer fertile ground with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. For optimal growth when cabbage gardening, there must be adequate levels of nitrogen in the soil, sufficient phosphorus and potassium. Temperatures between 39 and 75 °F prompt the best growth, and extended periods of higher or lower temperatures may result in plants “going nowhere”.

Cabbage likes even moisture to produce good heads. Mulch with compost, finely ground leaves, or finely ground bark to keep the soil cool and moist and to keep down weeds. Water regularly, applying 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week (including rain).

Fertilize plants with a 10-10-10 fertilizer after they begin to develop new leaves and when they start forming heads.

Pests

Cabbage worms and cabbage loopers are the main pest threats. They will munch holes throughout the leaves. Their coloring allows Cabbage gardeningthem to blend in with the cabbage, but they can be handpicked easily if you can see them. If you see small white moths around your plants, try and kill them. Check under cabbage leaves for small white (extremely small) nodes – these are the cabbage moth eggs. Crush them!! If you see wasps flying around your cabbages – leave them be, they are hunting the cabbage moth larvae.

Slugs will also attack your cabbages as will cutworms. Spread diatomaceous earth around the plants base. The diatomaceous earth will kill the insects but will not harm the plant and to top that, it is organic.

Root-knot nematodes and cabbage maggots attack the plant below soil level and produce stunted and wilted plants with yellow leaves. Predatory nematodes are a good organic solution to these pests.

Rabbits can also become a problem. If you have rabbits around, fence or net your cabbage beds.

Diseases

One of the most common bacterial diseases to affect cabbage is black rot which causes lesions that start at the leaf margins and wilting of plants.

Clubroot, caused by the Plasmodiophora brassicae, results in swollen, club-like roots. If you have soil PH below 6.0 consider raising it with lime to 6.8 – 7.0, by doing so you may avoid the issues with clubroot.

Downy mildew produces pale leaves with white, brownish or olive mildew on the lower leaf surfaces.

Harvesting

For cabbage that head’s up check for “ripeness” by squeezing it. A head that looks solid and ready may still be flimsy and loose leafed on the inside. When it feels firm, cut the head from the base of the plant. I do let cabbages ready to harvest stay in the garden if I am backed up on work but ff a head cracks, cut it right away. When cabbage gardening is done and cabbages are harvested, remove the remainder of the plant. cabbage gardening lends itself to double cropping with other plants. After you clean up the bed try planting turnips, beets or spinach for extra crop. Heads will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Cucumber Gardening Information

Cucumber:

Cucumbers have always been a staple in my gardens. They are relatively easy to grow, if handled right are big producers and cucumbers are able to be eaten fresh, added to recipes and they store well as pickles.

This year I planted 10 feet of cucumbers. I chose 1 type to plant. It was a “slicing” cucumber. I chose Burpee’s Straight Eight. The Advertising for these cucumbers states:

A cucumber superstar, this classic has excellent flavor and is widely adapted.
This heirloom, All-America Selections winner is a cuke for all burpee_straight_eight_Cucumberseasons. Pick when 8″ long for top flavor. For perfect cukes, grow them on a fence or our space-saving Trellis Netting. Sow seeds 6″ apart in rows, or plant 5 or 6 seeds in groups (hills) 4 to 5′ apart.
Sun: Full Sun
Height: 6-8 inches
Spread: 36 inches
Days to Maturity: 58 days
Sowing Method: Direct Sow
Fruit Size: 6-8 inches

I planted 10 feet of straight eights – 4 mounds of 2 plants each. I found the Burpee straight eight to be a very good cucumber. Fantastic taste and prolific. One issue we had with them is if we let them go a week extra, we would need to scrape out the seeds since they started to take over the cucumber.

We started the cucumbers in mid-May in the green house in large seed pots filled with starter soil. They were not planted until the second week of June when the plants already had 3 sets of leaves. I set up a plastic wide-mesh fence so the plants could climb. As far as fertilizer, we used miracle grow 10-10-10 – 3 times during the season. We had no issues with pests and in-fact honey bees were common the entire summer around the “cukes”, something that made me happy since for the last five or so years seeing honey bees in any quantity has become very rare. I try not to use chemicals and in late September we lost all the cucumbers to powdery-mildew. So, word to the wise – beware.

We ended up picking 32lbs. over the season. Almost all eaten or given to the “kids” In accordance with my garden book written by James Underwood Crockett – that is a decent average for the amount I planted.

Some Cucumber Info:

Description

Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned garden cucumbers are familiar vegetables in the produce sections of most groceries, cucumbers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. You’ll find white, yellow, and even orange-colored cucumbers, and they may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape. Their skins can be smooth and thin, or thick and rough. In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables.
All cucumbers belong to the botanical plant family called Curcubitaceae. This broad family of plants includes melons and squashes.

Burpee_CucumbersWhile there are literally hundreds of different varieties of cucumbers, virtually all can be divided into two basic types: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated for consumption in fresh form. Pickling cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated not for consumption in fresh form, but for processing into pickles.

Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers are fairly easy to grow if you take care of a few things:
1. They like a fairly neutral soil.
2. They are heavy feeders so when planting make sure to add either: compost, well rotted manure, some grass clippings or anything that will help provide nourishment for the plants.
3. They need water so make sure to provide plenty and if you keep the water off the leaves all the better to avoid powdery-mildew.
4. You can double crop cucumbers. Start the second sowing in late June in pots. By late July pick all cucumbers from 1st crop, pull out plants, add some 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 fertilizer and plant the young plants. This should give you a good crop by Mid-August and depending on your average frost dates, you should have cucumbers “till-the end”.

History

Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both temperate and tropical environments, and generally require temperatures between 60-90°F. For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world. In evolutionary terms, the first cucumbers were likely to have originated in Western Asia (and perhaps more specifically in India) or parts of the Middle East. It was not until the time of the European colonists that cucumbers finally appeared in North America in the 1500’s.

Eggplant Gardening

Eggplant Gardening

What is an Eggplant:

Eggplant is a vegetable belonging to the nightshade plant family as are tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. The fruit grows in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the stalks and branches of plants that can grow several feet in height (in the tropics the plants can reach 7’ tall). Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.

The skin of typical eggplant is glossy and deep purple in color and looks pear-shaped/egg shaped and can weigh a pound or more, this is the characteristic from which its name is derived. The fruit can also be long like cucumbers or plum shaped and come in a variety of colors including lavender, jade green, orange, and white.

1 cup of eggplant has the trace nutrition values of the following:
Potassium; Sugar; Protein
Vitamin C; Iron; Vitamin B-6; Magnesium

Eggplant History

It is believed that eggplants grew wild in India and were first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C. Eggplant was introduced to Africa before the Middle Ages and then into Italy, the country Eggplant is a vegetable belonging to the nightshade plant familywith which it has long been associated, in the 14th century. It subsequently spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and, centuries later, was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers. Today, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China and Japan are the leading growers of eggplant.

Types of Eggplants

There are multiple varieties of eggplant. Some may be sweeter, look different and have different maturity dates among other attributes. I am a believer in open pollinated heirloom plants. Here are a few varieties that I have grown and recommend:

Long PLong Purple Organic eggplanturple Organic, Italian type with dark purple coloring – Days to Maturity 70-80 days; Fruit Size 8-10 inches; Ferry Morse

 

BlaBlack Beauty Organic eggplantck Beauty Organic, HEIRLOOM, (my favorite) a large-fruited black eggplant – Days to Maturity 74 days; Fruit Size 4-6 inches; Park Seeds

 

TuTurkish Orange eggplantrkish Orange, A heirloom producing abundant red-orange fruit – Days to Maturity 65-85 days; Fruit Size 3 inches; Burpee Seeds

 

CaspeCasper Eggplantr Eggplant, A heirloom eggplant having solid, snow white colored skin – Days to Maturity 70 days; Fruit Size 5-6 inches, Trade Winds Fruit

 

There are many varieties to choose from. You can easily find an eggplant that fits all your requirements. In addition to heirloom, most of the reputable seed companies have developed and sell hybrid plant seeds. They have fantastic attributes, can be disease resistant etc. The issue with hybrids is that seeds from the fruit will not grow true to the parent so if you like a hybrid plant’s fruit you will need to buy new seeds every year. The only advice I would give is stay away from anything GMO.

Where to Plant

Eggplants thrive in “full sun” so select a location in the garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunshine. The soil should be well-drained. The soil should also have neutral to slightly acidic PH. If you have a meter, the PH should be about 5.5 and 6.5. To reduce disease and pest problems choose a spot where nightshade family members (eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes or peppers) have not been grown for at least two years.

When to Plant

Start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before your area’s last expected spring frost. Sow the seeds about ¼ inch to ½ inch deep. If you use small containers as seed starters, you may need to replant your seedlings into 4” or larger pots as they grow to keep the plants from becoming root bound. Eggplant seeds germinate best at temperatures above 75° Fahrenheit. The easiest way to ensure good germination is to start the seeds in a warm room. Bottom heat pads work well and will maintain a steady temperature for the plants, they are however expensive and the heat they generate will not be able to maintain required air temperature. You should see seedlings popping out in about 7 -12 days. Use full spectrum lights set for 12-14 hours of light once the seedlings emerge.

Use seed starting soil from a reputable garden store. Using garden soil is less expensive but may introduce disease and bugs to the seedlings too soon. I use a mix of 80% seed starter soil to 20% worm castings. Additionally, if you reuse seed pots from year-to-year (like I do) make sure to remove old soil and clean the pots with either a weak solution of ammonia water or wash with hot water and soap to kill bacteria and other nasties that may be hanging around.

When daytime temperatures are above 65° Fahrenheit, move plants outdoors, but bring them indoors if nighttime temperatures are expected to drop below 55 degrees. Remember that seedlings started under artificial light can be burned and die if put in direct sunlight until the plants are “hardened off”. Make sure to follow the instructions in our article Starting Gardens using Seeds to avoid burning the seedlings leaves and killing the plant.

How to Plant

In the Northeast, early June is the time to plant warm weather vegetables. The daytime temperatures are usually above 65° Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures are no less than 55°. Plant the seedlings in the soil a little deeper than they were in the pots. Make sure to cover the young roots. You can cut a section from an old soda bottle and use as a collar to keep out cutworms. Plants should be roughly 2’ to 3’ from each other in rows 2 ½’ apart. You should use stakes or other supports as the plants grow. I use inexpensive tomato cages and place them as I put the young plants in the garden. I cover the tomato cage with deer netting until the plants are about 14” tall and strong enough fend for themselves. The netting will not deter pollinators from getting in but keeps out most other pests.

Plant Care

Eggplants require consistent watering to grow properly and be healthy. Including rain, plants need 1 to 2 inches of water per week after they start producing fruit.

Every 3 to 4 weeks sprinkle a quarter cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer around each plant.

Prune the plants whenever there are withered or damaged leaves.
As the plants grow tall, numerous side shoots will form along the plant’s main stem. These side shoots will bear flowers and fruits later in the season. Using tomato cages will support this type of growth.

In long-season regions, eggplants can be topped back by half their size in midsummer to stimulate the growth of new fruit-bearing branches.

Eggplants will benefit with proper cover (I used shredded paper) to maintain soil moisture and it avoid (slow down) soil born disease.

Pests

Flea beetles frequently chew small holes in eggplant leaves which seriously weakens young plants. Try using ground cover to protect the plants. Diatomaceous earth contains no toxic poisons and works on contact. Dust lightly and evenly over vegetable crops wherever pest insects are found. Parasitic nematodes will attack the immature stages developing in the soil.

Colorado potato beetle larvae eat eggplant leaves. Try using ladybugs, spined soldier bugs and lacewing, to feed on eggs and the young larval stages. Parasitic nematodes will attack the immature stages developing in the soil. Diatomaceous earth contains no toxic poisons and works on contact. Dust lightly and evenly over vegetable crops wherever pest insects are found.

Aphids – A hard spray of water can be used to remove aphids from plants. Wash off with water occasionally as needed early in the day. Check for evidence of natural enemies such as gray-brown or bloated parasitized aphids and the presence of larvae of lady beetles and lacewings. Diatomaceous earth contains no toxic poisons and works on contact. Dust lightly and evenly over vegetable crops wherever pest insects are found.

Cutworms – Use collars around transplants if cutworms are a problem.

Diseases

Verticillium wilt kills more eggplants than any other disease. Ensure good drainage and warm soil to discourage this soilborne fungus, which causes plants to wilt and eventually collapse, often with yellowing between the leaf veins.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus – Young growth is malformed and leaves are mottled with yellow. To prevent it, wash hands after handling tobacco before touching plants. Control aphids, which spread the disease.

Harvesting

Begin harvesting eggplant when the fruits reach full size and pressing firmly produces a thumbprint that bounces back quickly. UDo not cut eggplant before you store it as it deteriorates quicklynder-ripe eggplants are too hard to take a thumbprint, and overripe ones are so soft that a thumbprint leaves a permanent bruise. Eggplant skins should be tender and glossy. Use pruning shears to harvest eggplants to avoid the spikes on the stem.
A six foot row of eggplants should yield 12 and as much as 30 fruit.

Saving Eggplant Seeds

Heirloom eggplants are open pollinating, so saving seeds is easy. Choose over-ripe fruit from strong plants (take seeds from as least 2 different plant). To remove the ripe seeds, cut off the bottom end of the fruit and pick out the seeds. Dry the seeds at room temperature for about two weeks. Under good storage conditions, eggplant seeds will remain viable for five years.

Storing

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, and their color should be clean looking. They should be free of discoloration, scars, and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

Although they look hardy, eggplants are perishable, and care should be taken in their storage. Do not cut eggplant before you store it as it deteriorates quickly once its skin has been cut or bruised. Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for several weeks at best. If you have too much eggplant you can slice up the fruit, egg, bread and fry. My wife will do that to end of season excess fruit. We have stored them in the freezer for over six months – good winter eating.