How to grow... Aubergine
Rocket Growing Guides
Aubergines taste so much better when they’re homegrown, and they are good lookers too, with their deep purple skins shining away in the greenhouse.
They really need sunshine and warmth, and rarely do well when grown outdoors. A polytunnel or greenhouse is perfect. If you do have to grow them outdoors, use a cloche or make a mini poly-tunnel for them, making sure you plant them in a sheltered spot out of the wind.
It’s important to keep the soil consistently moist to prevent blossom end rot (see below) and cracking on the skin.
- Growing Tips
- Common Problems
- Chef's Corner
Grow in a greenhouse
Aubergines are best grown in good fertile soil, with a healthy dose of sunshine, ideally in a greenhouse, conservatory or polytunnel.
Perfect for pots, grow bags & beds
Medium pots (approx 30cm deep) and grow bags (3 to a bag) are ideal, or grow them in raised beds with plenty of compost.
How far apart?
About 50cm between plants.
Give them support
When you plant your aubergines, pop in a bamboo cane for support and tie the plant on loosely at the stem.
Pinch out growing tips
Once the plant reaches 40cm height, pinch out the growing tips (this literally means to pinch off the very top part of the plant with your fingers). This will prevent it from growing further upwards and instead it will create a more compact, bushy plant.
Pinch off excess flowers
When it flowers, it’s a good idea to pinch off flowers to just leave 5 or 6 – this gives the fruits a better chance of growing to a good size.
Water & feed regularly
Keep aubergines well watered so that the soil remains consistently moist. Once the flowers & fruits start to develop, give them a good feed fortnightly – try our liquid feed.
When to harvest
Pick your aubergines when they’ve reached their full size, usually in late summer/early autumn. The skin should be shiny and they should give a little when squeezed. Cut them off carefully at the stem using a knife or secateurs.
Aphids include greenfly, blackfly, whitefly and they can appear in clusters on the stems of plants. You will be able to see the tiny bugs, and you may notice yellowing leaves, distorted growth and a general stickiness as they secrete their honeydew.
- Plant lots of marigolds and tagetes in and around plants that suffer from aphids (tomatoes and broad beans etc) – this helps to attract ladybirds and lacewings which in turn eat the aphids and keep populations down for you.
- Place sticky, yellow things in amongst crops. A vaseline covered yellow bucket balancing upside down on a bamboo cane will work wonders…the aphids are attracted to it and will land on the bucket and get stuck there.
- Make a garlic spray – peel some garlic cloves, slice them and boil them in water for 10 mins. Let the water cool before removing the garlic pieces. Add a little organic soap to the garlic water and spray it on vulnerable plants.
- Give any aphid-ridden plants a good strong water spray with the garden hose to wash them off. Do this once or twice a day until the plant is aphid free.
Blossom End Rot
Caused by a calcium deficiency (that is usually due to a lack of water), blossom end rot can affect aubergine fruits – they will start to rot at the bottom.
- Keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
- In hot weather, be sure to give plants a deep watering so that the water penetrates down into the soil rather than staying at surface level where it will quickly evaporate again.
- Add a mulch around the base of plants
- One affected fruit doesn’t mean the whole crop will be ruined – just make sure you change the way you water the plants as soon as you spot it as the younger, undeveloped fruits still have a chance.
Red Spider Mite
These tiny mites are practically invisible to us humans, so the first thing you may notice are the mottled leaves. Prevention is definitely better than a cure – try to keep the greenhouse/polytunnel from becoming too dry as this provides a good environment for red spider mites. A little moisture in the atmosphere will help to keep them at bay. Also mist leaves (i.e lightly spray them with water) on a daily basis to prevent red spider mite.
Pale or mottled leaves are an indication of red spider mite (see above). Other discolouration of leaves, particularly yellow, indicate a nutrient deficiency – keep plants well watered, use a liquid feed fortnightly and they should bounce back.
You should harvest aubergines as you want to eat them – they will store in the fridge for a few days, but are much better cooked fresh.
Ways to cook
Aubergines are really versatile, they are great for the BBQ, delicious in tomato sauces and cooked down in a veggie lasagne, and you can make some really tasty dips with them too.