How to grow Aubergines

Did you know that aubergines are members of the solanum, or potato family (as are tomatoes. As a result you often hear that growing aubergines is as simple as growing tomatoes with some people making the claim that if you can grow tomatoes outside you will be able to grow aubergines without protection too. However in the UK this really is't true.

Aubergines require significantly warmer temperature than tomatoes to produce a decent crop, so if you intend growing them outside then you will need to provide a sheltered position as well as some protection for them to do well.

As well as needing higher temperatures to do well aubergines also need shelter from wind. Tomatoes will happily produce four to six trusses of fruit outside you must limit the number of fruits on an aubergine. This ensures that the plant will put its energy into a level of crop it can successfully ripen in the British Climate.

The original plant comes from the Indian subcontinent where it has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory, where it made its journey to Europe sometime around 1500ad. Written records of the plant can be found in ancient Chinese agricultural documents from 544ad. The many and varied Arabic as well as North African names for the plant complete with the lack of an ancient Greek or Roman name, suggest it was introduced to the Mediterranean area by the Arabs during the Middle Ages.And as a result it is this kind of Mediterranean climate the plant is most accustomed to and one which we need to recreate in the UK.

So how to grow them?

Aubergine seeds can be sown anytime from February to April, either in a greenhouse or poly-tunnel or inside on a windowsill.

Fill 9cm pots with a good quality seed compost and lightly firm the surface. You can place up to seven seeds on the surface of the soil in each pot.

Cover the seeds with a fine layer of vermiculite and put the pots in a heated propagator set at a temperature of around 21°C. Water the pots sparingly, avoid water logging but remember the compost should be kept moist.

The seed should germinate within 3 weeks, and once the leaves have fully formed they can be pricked out into individual 9cm pots.

Allow the plants to develop in their own pots, and once you can see the roots coming out of the bottom pot up to the next sized pot.

Cut the tip of the plant once it is about 35cm tall, this will encourage a bushier plant. As the plants develop tie into small canes.

Plant out into a sheltered spot in late may or into the greenhouse, and provide support. Feed the plants weekly with a high potash plant food (tomato food would be good).

Use a clean small paintbrush to fertilize the flowers and encourage fruiting. The plants can drop their flowers if temperatures fall, hence a greenhouse being ideal.

1 comment:

  1. You feature the most interesting plants! I've never even heard of this one- how can it be cooked or eaten?


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