NC Cooperative Extension Resources

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Extension Horticultural Specialist
Department of Horticultural Science

Introduction

Eggplant is a warm-season plant that is very susceptible to frost. It requires a relatively long growing season to produce profitable yields. Growth is checked by cool weather. Proper cultural practices can yield a bushel per 10 plants or 500 bushels per acre.

Varieties

Variety

Days to Maturity

Description

Special Hibush

85 days

Fruits dark purple, long and tapering toward stem. Plants strong and upright, keeping fruit off the ground.

Florida Market 10

85 days

Similar to Special Hibush with resistance to Phomopsis blight.

Classic

76 days

Fruits glossy dark purple-black, long tapering to the stem, abundant yield especially in early season and continue to bear.

Midnite

77 days

Dark purple, deep oval fruit with good yields, tall plants with strong stems. TMV and Phomopsis blight tolerance.

Orient Express

58 days

Dark purple, long fruit, 2 weeks earlier than other varieties.

Epic 76 days Long tapered classic shape, good yields.

Specialty Varieties

Variety

Days to Maturity

Description

Little Fingers

68 days

Oriental type with smooth slender fruit 4 to 7 inches long.

Longtom

68 days

Oriental type, good yield of slender 4 to 7 inch long fruit.

Ichiban

66 days

Dark purple, very long (up to 12 inches) fruit with heavy set, Oriental type and only recommended for specialty markets.

Machiaw

65 days

Long, skinny pink-purple fruit, oriental type.

Casper 70 days Ivory-white color with fruit 6 inches long and 234 inches wide. Medium sized plant. Recommended for attention getter.

Tango

60 days

White fruit, slender (7 by 2 inches), strong plant.

Italian Pink Bicolor

85 days

Large (6 to 8 inches), bell-shaped fruit with creamy white base color and rose pink vertical stripes. Popular with European trade.

Growing Plants

Grow plants in a heated plastic or glass house about 8 weeks before field setting. Locate the plant bed in a warm spot facing south, and near a water supply. Use a well drained soil, high in organic matter. Soils that dry rapidly, pack, cake, or crust are not desirable.

Plant seed about 34-inch deep, putting about 2 seeds per inch in rows 4 to 6 inches apart. Keep soil damp but not wet. When early season harvest is desired, direct seed into peat pots or other containers. The resulting plant will have a larger root system which will insure better stands, earlier harvest and greater yields. Consult Commercial Transplant Production, AG-337 for more detailed information.

Seed

Four ounces of seed will produce enough plants for an acre. This will require at least 90 square feet of plant bed space. More space in the plant bed will result in better plants and earlier yields.

Soils

A well-drained, sandy loam or loam soil, fairly high in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is best.

Fertilizer

Have soil tested and follow recommendations on soil test report. Commercial growers use 400 to 600 lb of 10-20-20 fertilizer on average soils (not tested); gardeners use 2 lb of 10-10-10 per 100 feet of row. This may be applied in one of the following ways:

  • Broadcast half of the fertilizer before planting; put the remainder in the row before planting. The fertilizer in the row should be banded or mixed well in the row.
  • Place half of the fertilizer in the row, as described above, and sidedress with the remainder of the fertilizer about 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting.

Growers sidedress with 20 to 30 lb N/A when first fruits are set and then twice more at 2 to 3 week intervals. Gardeners sidedress with 3 oz of 10-10-10 per 100 feet of row when first fruits are set and then twice more at 2- to 3-week intervals. These side dressings may be applied in the middles and do not have to be "plowed in."

Planting

Transplant plants as soon as possible after danger of frost has passed. Use only strong healthy plants 6 to 8 inches tall.

Spacing

Space plants 2 to 212 feet apart in rows 312 to 4 feet apart (6,233 plants per acre are needed for 2 x 312 foot spacing).

Pest Management

Weeds -- Cultivation should be shallow and only often enough to keep grass and weeds out. Use a preemergence herbicide. Consult the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual for latest recommendation.

Insects -- Flea beetle, Colorado potato beetle and spider mites are the major insects that feed on eggplant. For specific control measures consult the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual or see your county extension agent.

Plastic Mulch

Eggplants are earlier and more productive when plastic mulch is used. For this system all fertilizer is placed in the bed prior to laying the plastic or drip irrigation is used and fertigation is practiced. Consult HIL-33D, Drip Irrigation Systems, for more information on fertigation. Beds are spaced 60 to 72 inches apart and 4 to 5 feet plastic is laid over a 36 to 42 inch wide bed. Two rows spaced 14 to 18 inches apart are planted on the bed. Plants are spaced 18 to 24 inches in a row and plants are alternated in adjacent rows. Plastic mulch will improve earliness and yield of eggplant. (Consult the Using Plastic Mulches and Drip Irrigation for Vegetable Production factsheet for more information.)

Two Crops from One Planting

In eastern North Carolina, plants can be cut back after the first crop (late July) and will form a second crop. Mow plants 6 to 8 inches above the soil line to leave 2 to 3 leaf axils. Then fertilize with 50 to 60 lbs N per acre and 80 to 120 lbs potash per acre to produce vigorous regrowth and stimulate flowering. Then 4 to 6 weeks after cutting, plants will produce a second crop until frost.

Harvesting

Use sharp knife or small pruning shears to harvest. Harvest at least once a week, preferably twice a week, and before flesh becomes tough and seeds begin to harden. The market usually prefers 22 to 24 fruits per bushel, which means fruits 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Fruits are usually sold in bushel baskets, crates or cardboard containers.

Cooling and Storage

Eggplant loses water and quality when field heat is not removed quickly. Forced air and/or room cooling works well for eggplant. They should be stored at 45 to 50°F to avoid chilling damage. Relative humidity should be at least 90%. They should not be stored for longer than 10 to 14 days, before retailing. Long term storage results in chilling injury, surface scald or bronzing and pitting. Disease will appear during retailing if eggplants are stored too long.

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Last modified: Dec. 16, 2014, 1:25 p.m.