This delicious nightshade is a close relative of the tomato and potato, but has its own unique characteristics.
A classic eggplant is deep purple and pear-shaped, but when you grow your own, you can try a cornucopia of other colors and shapes, from elongated lavender and white 'Fairy Tale' to snow white 'Snowy' to round violet-blushed 'Rosa Bianca'. But to succeed with eggplants, you'll need to supply them with steadily warm growing conditions for at least three months. Eggplants growing in cold soil or exposed to chilly weather will sulk and are more prone to insect and disease problems.
Planting: Give eggplants a head start on the growing season by starting them indoors, 6 to 9 weeks before the average last frost. Soak seeds overnight to encourage germination; sow them ¼ inch deep in a loose, fine medium, such as vermiculite. Use bottom heat to maintain a soil temperature of 80° to 90°F for the 8 to 10 days required for sprouting. Transplant seedlings to individual pots once they reach 3 inches. When outside nighttime air temperatures are above 50°F, gradually expose them to the outdoors to harden them off. Keep transplanting your seedlings into larger pots as you wait for both outdoor air and soil to warm up to at least 70°F.
Try growing eggplants in raised beds, which heat up quickly in spring. Plants given plenty of room are healthier and more productive, so space them 2½ to 3 feet apart in all directions. Water well, pour 1 to 2 cups of compost tea around each plant, and firm the soil gently. Learn how to make compost tea.
Eggplants are also good for container growing, with one plant per 5-gallon pot.