Eggplant growing tips

CULTURE: Sow in flats indoors in early April, or 8 weeks prior to planting out, 4 seeds/in.,1/4″ deep. If possible, maintain 80-90°F (27-32°C) soil temp. until emergence, and 70°F (21°C) thereafter. Seed will not germinate in cool soil. After true leaves form, thin to 2-3″ apart in flats or transplant into 2-3″ pots or plug trays. To harden plants reduce water and temperature to about 60°F (16°C) for about a week before planting out. Transplant outdoors in mid-June or whenever weather has thoroughly settled. Eggplants are tender, and cold weather may weaken them. Use row covers for a real boost in performance and insect control. Space transplants 18″ apart in rows 30-36″ apart, or 2 rows on poly mulch, 18-24″ between plants. It is important to be mindful of over-fertility. Too much nitrogen often results in large, bushy plants that produce only one small set of fruit.

STAKING: Eggplants may be pruned and staked like tomatoes to keep the fruits straight.

DISEASE: Practice lengthy crop rotation to avoid verticillium wilt.

INSECT PESTS: Fabric row covers are effective insect pest control. Control flea beetles on newly set transplants with pyrethrin or rotenone. Regularly check undersides of leaves and crush any orange egg masses of the Colorado potato beetles or control with Bt biological insecticide.

HARVEST: Clip fruit stem with shears. Pick fruits of desired size regularly to encourage further production.

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