How To Grow Eggplants In Pots and Containers
Eggplants are well-suited for growing in pots and containers as long as there is enough room to accommodate the plant's root system. By growing eggplants in pots and containers, the gardener can offer the plants almost ideal soil, moisture level, and very often temperature and lighting conditions.
Also, by growing eggplants in the pots, the harvesting season can be prolonged significantly.
Published: December 28, 2022.
Growing Eggplants in Containers and Pots
Eggplants like warmth and should be protected from the late frost by sowing the seeds indoors some 4-8 weeks before planting them in pots and containers placed outside.
If the pots and containers are placed on the carts with wheels, they can be placed indoors and eggplant seeds can be sown directly.
Depending on the variety, eggplants require some 18-24 inches between the plants in the row. Thus, it is highly recommended to have an 18-inch or larger pot for a single plant of a larger variety or a 15-16 inch pot for a single plant of a more compact variety.
Rectangular containers can be used to plant more plants; for example, 16-18 inches wide and 35-40 inches long containers can be used for two larger eggplant varieties. This, of course, depends on the size of the garden, the number of required plants, the number of varieties, etc.
Eggplants like moist soil, which is slightly acidic with a pH of around 6.0 - 6.5, but they will also tolerate soil between 5.5 and 7.0 pH.
Pots and containers must have enough drainage holes to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Since eggplants like the sun, they must be placed in full sun positions with at least 6-8 hours of direct sun.
The pots should be filled with good potting soil and mixed with organic fertilizers like worm castings, organic compost, aged manure, and similar.
Since eggplants are heavy feeders, balanced NPK 10-10-10 fertilizer can be added every few weeks but in low quantities to prevent root burns.
Eggplant seeds can be sown in smaller grow containers - place a single seed every half an inch, cover them with a thin layer of soil, and water gently. After the seedlings start to grow, remove excess plants, leaving only the strongest ones.
When it is time to transplant seedlings, plant them in containers, water them carefully and cover them with some fine netting or even nylon, creating a small greenhouse that will protect young plants from pests (especially flee beetles) and lower temperature.
If You don't plan to cover the small plants, add some support in the form of grow cages or stakes - when the support is added later, it may damage the roots.
When plants start to develop first flowers, remove the cover and let the pollinators do their work.
Note: if You want to grow really large and strong plants with plenty of fruits later, remove the first flowers. Personally, I do it rarely on plants grown in pots and containers.
During vigorous growth, especially during very warm days, eggplants should be watered every 2-3 days, depending on the size of the plant and the actual size of the container.
During summer, one has to water the plants daily.
When watering the plants, water the soil directly, avoiding getting leaves and fruits getting wet. If possible, use a dripping system that will keep the moisture level as constant as possible.
Soil should be rich in nutrients and organic matter but not too rich, especially not in nitrogen which can cause plants to grow extra large but weak and susceptible to pests and diseases.
Soil should be mixed with organic fertilizers prior to planting, with some balanced NPK 10-10-10 or similar added every 4-6 weeks in small quantities. If available, balanced NPK fertilizer with a gradual release of nutrients should be used - apply it prior to planting and when fruits start to form.
Of course, before applying, read the instructions for every fertilizer that You use, not just for eggplants.
Organic mulch can prevent water evaporation, helps fight weeds, and as the mulch decomposes, it also feeds the plants and keeps the soil slightly acidic.
Eggplants are pruned to allow plenty of air around the plants - remove anything that looks sick, dead, or dying. Also, remove the suckers.
Unlike tomatoes, which are grown by letting only one main stem, eggplants are grown by letting 2-3 main stalks develop fully.
When the eggplants develop shiny, glossy color, it is time to harvest them. By sowing different varieties at different times, eggplant harvest season can be rather long.
Also, when the colder days arrive, pots and containers on carts with wheels can be moved indoors, prolonging the harvesting season even more, especially if some grow lights are used, and the flowers are pollinated by hand.
Eggplants are best enjoyed fresh, although there are many ways of storing them for winter; for example, eggplants pickled with peppers and cucumbers are often used as a salad for various stews and similar meals.
Personally, I like baked eggplants, preferably barbecued with some garlic and olive oil, with minimum salt added.