We have had some great success with aubergines over the years. The first year we just grew the‘Aubergine Moneymaker’ variety. This is a standard aubergine you are used to seeing in the supermarkets. They did really well for us. We grew about 3-4 plants and got about 5 aubergines in total per plant. Not bad.
The second year, we decided to be more adventurous and try out some oriental aubergine varieties. We ended up growing them upside down in hanging baskets. It worked really well indeed and we got small aubergines galore, which we then ate fresh or pickled for the winter.
Here is some hopefully useful information on how to sow and grow different aubergine varieties:
Sowing aubergine seeds and raising aubergine seedling plants
- Sow 2-3 seeds in small biodegradable pots (4-5cm ⌀).
- Mist the pots with water and cover with a piece of cling film (this helps create a slightly humid environment, which encourages germination).
- Place the pots in a warm place (do pay attention to the seed packet instructions. The germination temperature really does make a difference and different seeds need different temperatures to germinate well. Careful planning and patience here does pay off.
- Aubergine seeds seem to take a little longer to germinate than for example tomato seeds.
- Once the seedlings have appeared and are a few cm tall, pinch out the weaker ones or put into separate little pots.
- Water the seedlings from the bottom, rather than from the top, to encourage deeper root growth. Don’t let them dry out completely. Especially aubergine plants like to be fed well. But still be careful not to waterlog them.
- Once the roots start coming through the bottom of the pot, re-pot into bigger pots (make sure you put chunks of polystyrene or pebbles at the bottom of the pot to facilitate good drainage – this is important to prevent root rot). If you used biodegradable pots initially, you can just put the entire little pot into the bigger pot and cover with new soil.
- Keep the plants growing inside until there is no risk of frost and night time temperatures aren’t too low (approx. mid May).
Growing aubergines upside down in hanging baskets
- First select the best aubergine variety to grow in hanging baskets. Such as for example ‘Aubergine Kermit’; ‘Aubergine Hansel’; ‘Aubergine Striped Toga’.
- Once you have grown your aubergine seedlings and there is no risk of frost outside, they are ready to transplant into hanging baskets: Cut a small hole in the lining of your hanging basket. The lining is usually made of coconut fibers so can be easily cut. Make sure you only cut a hole big enough to fit the top of the plant through.
- Once you have cut the hole you should insert your little baby aubergine plants upside down with the leaves hanging through the hole and the roots remaining in the hanging basket.
- To stop soil from falling out from the hole, we also put a little circle of pond plastic around the base of the stem, by the hole on the inside of the hanging basket.
- Now, fill your hanging baskets with soil mixed with vegetable plant fertilizer granules, as well as water retention granules. You can get water retention granules in garden centers. They take up water, swelling up to many times their size, helping keep your hanging baskets moist for longer. This will help to stop them drying out too quickly, which is the main difficulty with hanging baskets.
- Finally, make sure you water the hanging baskets well.
Some tips on watering hanging baskets:
- In previous years we have had problems with watering hanging baskets effectively. If you just pour water in the hanging baskets a lot of it just flows off down the sides or goes through the soil too quickly and just pours out of the bottom.
- This year, Alex decided to hang a plastic water bottle bottom above each hanging basket. He pierced holes in the bottom of the bottles. If you pour water in these, the water gets sprinkled slowly over the hanging baskets. The slow sprinkling of water ensures the water soaks into the soil slowly and evenly, without just gushing through the bottom quickly.
General aubergine growing tips:
Fertilization: We found that aubergines for sure don’t need much fertilizing. If you over fertilize, the flowers just end up dropping off the plant. Instead, just keep them well watered.
Pests: The first year we grew aubergines, we had some problems with red spider mites. They live on the under side of the plant leaves and if extensive, you can see distinctive fine spider webs on the plants too. The way you get rid of them is to spray the leaves with some water containing a few drops of detergent (dish washing soap). Keep spraying every day and you will keep the pest under control. One can also get special sprays from shops, but in the end they are just alkaline sprays. Therefore DIY soapy water is almost as good.