Aubergines are delicious vegetables that are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. New cultivars are emerging rapidly, which are comparatively easier to grow than the others.
However, the process of cultivating any variety you choose would be almost the same as aubergines need plenty of sunshine and warmth to grow. There are loads of other specifications that you need to know when planning to plant aubergines at home.
The Solanum melongena plant, frequently known as eggplant, is a member of the nightshade family and has edible fruit. The worldwide cultivated edible fruit is Solanum melongena. The spongy, absorbent fruit is purple most often, though it may also be white or yellow.
So, are you looking for a step-by-step guideline on growing tasty aubergine plants? If yes, just scroll down and follow the tips shared below.
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Here are some recommended varieties of aubergine that are suitable for growing in the cold UK climate:
Bonica AGM (Our Favourite!)
The best among early varieties, French-bred bonica aubergines are suitable for growing in unheated glasshouses. The crop quality is premium as the glossy black skins look very attractive and the pulps inside taste equally brilliant. These aubergines are also known for their perfect size and shape they have. Once planted, these aubergines will continue to grow heavily throughout the season.
This variety of thornless eggplants is suitable for container growing only. The egg sized, dark purple skinned aubergines grow quicker than some other varieties. Kaberi aubergines are popular because of the excellent texture and quality of the fruits that weigh approximately 50-60 grams.
This variety with pure white flesh and skin is a little unusual. The shape of the Clara aubergines is oval and ribbed. The medium sized fruits grow early and store well. They are quite healthy as well as tasty. You can grow these plants either in a greenhouse or in a sheltered, sunny site.
It is an early cropping one among all the aubergine varieties. Moneymaker aubergines are suitable for growing outside as the plants are tolerant to lower temperatures. The matte purple fruits have a long size and they taste really well.
This variety is suitable for growing in containers. The garline aubergine plants produce plenty of egg-sized fruits that are very glossy and deep purple in colour. This heavy cropper variety is easy to grow and stores well.
Since aubergines need a warm climate to shoot up, they can be best cultivated in a greenhouse or an airing cupboard. The first step of growing them is sowing, which needs to be done early in the year.
Though the time for sowing might vary depending upon the cultivar, the best time to sow aubergine seeds is usually from February onwards. If you have a heated greenhouse, you can start early in January. If you plan to sow indoors and then transplant, you need to delay the sowing time up to March so that the plants can be moved out after the late frost.
If you have a warm location indoor setup such as a heated propagator, you need to keep the modules at 18–21°C temperature before sowing. Then, you can take each module to sow individually as that will help you to provide sufficient space for the plants. If you are sowing seeds in an aerated cupboard, you need to check the seedlings daily and remove them as soon as they appear. After that, you can keep the seedlings on a windowsill or in a suitable bright, warm place.
Growing aubergines in a suitable place is recommended and hence, it might happen that you do not have such a place to cultivate the veggie. Is there any alternative option in such a condition? Yes, young plants of aubergine are sold widely in garden centres and you can look for them in spring. One more option would be buying grafted plants as those can withstand the cold better and grow stronger.
Since aubergines need sun and warmth to the fullest, you need to ensure the same to get the best results. Mild areas in the UK or very warm summer are some exceptions when the plants can grow well outdoors. If growing outdoors, choose the sunniest, warmest spot that gets some shelter as well. You can look for a spot that’s against a sunny wall.
Two weeks before planting, you need to warm the soil surface by covering it with polythene or cloches. Also, make sure there is no danger of frost in the coming days. Then, place one plant 60cm apart from the other and make a row if growing multiple plants. Initially, you need to use 9cm pots and later, when the roots fill the pots entirely, you can transfer the plants to 23cm pots. Until the plants are acclimatised, make sure you cover the tender plants with horticultural fleece or a cloth.
Here are the most suitable times for transplanting aubergines:
If you are growing aubergines in a heated greenhouse, April is the best time.
If you are growing aubergines in an unheated greenhouse, early May is the best time.
If you are growing aubergines outdoors, late May or early June is the best time.
Aubergines are also known as egg plants and most varieties are compact plants that grow abundantly if given proper condition. However, you still need to maintain their growth in order to get plenty of vegetables in the growing season. Here are some maintenance tips that you can follow while growing eggplants:
Aubergine plants can grow very tall and heavy on the top and hence, staking might be required. As the plant reaches a standard size, you can also tie in the main stem for further support.
As you grow eggplants, you can encourage branching by pinching out the tip of the stem when the plants reach 30cm in height.
Feeding is necessary and hence, you can use a high potash fertiliser every two weeks once you notice that fruits are forming. Also, watering the plants on a daily basis is important.
To improve fruiting and protect the egg plant trees from spider mites, you need to mist the leaves with tepid water on a daily basis. We would recommend you to do it twice a day.
Once five or six fruits form, you need to discourage flowering. Hence, remove the new flowers with your hands. However, if your plant produces small, round fruits, this step is not required.
You can use seed compost while preparing the greenhouse bed or outdoor soil. Make sure you keep the compost moist as that will add better nourishment to the plants.
Not all insects are harmful and hence, you can encourage beneficial insects in your garden. These insects will kill the pesticides naturally and keep your plants healthy.
There is nothing happier than harvesting your own aubergines from your organic garden. Usually, aubergines can be harvested from August onwards when the fruits grow perfectly. You can take a sharp knife and cut the ripe fruits individually. A good crop can be harvested throughout the season
Common Problems & Remedies
Aubergines can be attacked by harmful insects or harsh weather. Hence, you need to take special care controlling these problems when they appear. Here are some common problems that aubergine plants face while growing as well as some easy remedies for controlling them.
Small white flies can damage your aubergine plant as they suck sap from the plants. Also, they release a sticky honeydew on the plants, which can be harmful. From the honeydew, sooty mould grows faster and makes the condition worse.
To control whiteflies in your greenhouse, you can use sticky traps. Another way of controlling them is by using biological control.
Glasshouse Red Spider
Also known as two-spotted mites, these insects can do a lot of harm to the aubergine plants in the greenhouse if left unnoticed. These pesky creatures can cover the leaves with webs and make them look pale and mottled. Such attacks can lead to the death of premature leaves.
You can easily spot the transparent webs created by glasshouse red spiders. They can be also seen on the webs. However, you can control their attacks by keeping your plants moisturized every day. Glasshouse red spiders prefer dry and hot conditions and hence misting is necessary. Another way to control them is by using biological control in your greenhouse.
The green coloured flies sit on the soft shoot tips and the leaves of aubergine plants and some other vegetable plants. Just like the whiteflies, they also suck sap and release honeydew on those parts, which ultimately encourages the formation of black sooty moulds.
The aphid colonies can be squashed with your finger and thumb but make sure you wear rubber gloves before touching them. You can also use biological control in your greenhouse to control aphids.