How to grow aubergines

Aubergines, also known as eggplants, are becoming a more popular fruit to grow in UK gardens and they make a great ingredient in healthy dishes and sauces.

They’re not an easy crop to grow, needing plenty of sunshine and warm conditions, but following these steps will give you a top-quality harvest.

Aubergines can be grown from seed or young potted plants and make a feature in your garden in beds or containers.

When to sow aubergine seeds

Aubergine seeds need to be planted in a heated greenhouse in January, or in an unheated greenhouse using a propagator from late February. Greenhouse-grown plants have a much better chance of success.

How to sow aubergine seeds

  • Sow in cell or seed trays, keeping temperatures above 20°C (68°F).
  • When seedlings reach 2inches (5cm) transfer (prick out) to a 3.5inch (9cm) pot with good quality compost.
  • When large enough, pot into 8inch (20cm) containers or grow bags inside the conservatory.
  • Alternatively, maturing plants can be planted in beds in warmer parts of the UK once the last frosts have gone.
  • Choose sunny spots and you may need to use a cloche, or container, at first to keep the plant warm.

How to care for aubergine plants

Water well, especially in warm weather, and apply a potassium-rich liquid fertiliser once the fruits begin to swell.

Large-fruiting types should be limited to about five fruits, so remove any flowers that appear after this to ensure the health of the plant.

Once plants reach 10inches (25cm), ‘pinch out’ the growing tip. This means removing the top of the main stem to encourage more sideways (lateral) growth in the plant.

When to harvest aubergine plants

It can be difficult to pin down harvest times, but generally plants from seeds can be picked about 20 weeks after sowing.

  • Make sure fruits are plump and often they will have a shine.

When to plant aubergine plants

Young aubergine plants will be sent to you around May, ready for direct planting into warm soil in beds or containers so you can continue their growth.

  • Warm the soil with cloches or fleece for two weeks before the plants go in.
  • Grow plants in a sunny and wind-sheltered area.
  • Use a stake or cane once the plants become tall and need support.