Aubergine is a tender plant from the tropics which is best suited to production in a greenhouse in the Irish climate. F1 hybrid black or purple varieties are most commonly grown but these egg shaped fruits are also available in yellow or white.
In the greenhouse these plants perform well if grown in conjunction with tomatoes. Use them grilled with parmesan cheese or include them in a ratatouille mix.
- As for tomatoes but maintain temperatures in the range from 21 to 25oC.
- Where a small number of plants are required, purchasing plants from the garden centre or garden shop is an option.
- Select healthy plants that are not wilting and are free of disease. Check around the plant and the underside of the leaves for signs of pests.
- Plant out into growbags or soil, after roots have filled the pot, the first flower buds appear and any frost is finished.
- Remove the pot and plant deep enough to support the plant allowing the soil or compost to cover a few inches of the stem above original compost level.
- A bushy easy to manage plant will be achieved by pinching out the growing tip when the plants are about 20cm high.
- Even though these plants will not produce very tall growth, support the plants on a string as you would for tomatoes or tie-in to a strong cane.
• A second pinch may be useful when the new growth reaches 40cm.
- This type of plant will produce many small fruits unless fruits are thinned to 1 or 2 per stem.
Watering and feeding
- Water plants well every day, include a high potash liquid fertiliser (mix according to manufacturer’s directions) once per week to top up available nutrient levels.
- Aubergines benefit from high levels of potash, which encourages good fruit formation and enhances flavour but because the plants are slower growing than tomatoes they will require less overall feed. Apply weaker feed solutions or feed less often.
- Irregular watering can lead to blossom end rot.
- This crop has a tendency to attract a lot of aphids and whitefly. If growing aubergines inspect regularly for aphids (greenfly) and treat when populations are low as populations will grow quickly.
- Fruits are ready when they develop their full colour but harvest before this colour starts to fade and the flesh becomes pithy.
- Cut cleanly from the plant using a sharp knife or secateurs leaving about 2cm of the stalk on the fruit.
- Fruit will last for up to 2 weeks in the chilling cabinet of the refrigerator.