Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sowing Eggplant


It has been a challenge to catch up on the huge backlog of sowing and planting after going away, but I am slowly making headway.  I am also behind on posting & will be trying to catch up on that over then next couple of weeks - getting back on track in the garden, of course, has to come first otherwise I would have nothing to write about!

I started some eggplant, another new addition to the garden this year, back in mid-March.  I wasn't a huge fan of eggplant growing up, but then again, I think the only way we ever ate it was fried in a parmigiana sort of dish.  I now consider it one of my favourite veg, especially when roasted & in curries.

I decided to grow only long, slender eggplant for two reasons.  Firstly, they appear to be easier to grow in short season areas like mine.  Secondly, and more importantly, this is the type that I use almost exclusively in the kitchen.  I find them to be less bitter, the skin is more tender (so I rarely peel them) and they have far fewer seeds than the traditional large, oval variety commonly seen in stores.

Ping Tung Long (66 days, Pinetree)

Photo Source:  Pinetree
 
This one looks exactly like the variety I normally purchase at the market.  I see Ping Tung mentioned all over the place & it appears to be one of the more popular of the Asian varieties.


Slim Jim (60 days, Pinetree)

Photo Source:  Pinetree
 
I’m fairly sure that I have only ever purchased Asian eggplant at the market, so it will be interesting to compare the Ping Tung with this slender Italian variety that is also super early.


Seed Starting

As with peppers and tomatoes, I decided to pre-germinated the seeds instead of sowing them directly.  I need 2 plants for each variety, so I started with 4 seeds each.

Slim Jim was super easy to start.  The seeds took only 4 days to germinate & I had 100% germination, with all of the seeds germinating on the same day (which makes it very convenient for sowing).   I sowed the seeds in 4” pots, 2 seeds per container...just in case.  I am using rather large pots as I have read that eggplant is very sensitive to transplanting.  My plan is to keep them in this pot until they are transplanted outdoors, with no potting up.  After 3 days on the heat mat, the Slim Jim seedlings started to poke their heads out of the soil.

Ping Tung was much more finicky.  One seed germinated after 6 days, but the next one took almost 14 days to sprout.  In fact, after 10 days, I started to get a bit nervous, so I started 4 more Ping Tung seeds.  Just like the first round, one of the seeds germinated after only 4 days, while the rest did nothing.  Even though I didn't need any more germinated seeds, I kept the other seeds going for a few more days, just to see if anything happened, and they did get a bit plumper, but none of them actually germinated.

One interesting thing to note is that there were colour variations in the Ping Tung seeds - some of the seeds were a medium yellowish colour, while others were darker.  Both seeds that germinated quickly were lighter in colour.  When I checked the Slim Jim packet, which gave me 100% germination, almost all of the seeds were a lighter yellow.

Colour variations on the eggplant seeds
 
Once the seedlings were well on their way and under the grow lights, as is usually the case with me, I was having an issue getting rid of the extras.

Eggplant Seedlings - From 1.5 to 3.5 weeks
 
So I had to literally force myself to go downstairs and do just that.

Thinned to One Seeding
Difficult to do but necessary
 
The remaining seedlings now have lots of leg room to grow.

Eggplant Seedlings - From 4 - 6 weeks

Till next time...

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

32 comments:

  1. I despise thinning--I feel like a "murderer". I know it's necessary, but it doesn't make it any easier.
    Worse yet is planting out time and I discover I have extra plants. Can't throw them away---so I end up "arranging" them on the outside of the compost pile. Always my best plants-LOL!
    Have a great week. Glad to see you're catching up.

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    1. I wish I had a nice compost area to place extra plants in! Last year I would often just tighten up the spacing on the other plants in an effort to squeeze them all in 'cause losing an inch or two isn't that much, right? ;)

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  2. Interesting post, Margaret. Just curious, if eggplant does not like to be transplanted, should you pre-sprout them? Myself, I've had no issues with up-potting eggplant in the past. In fact, the seeds I started in 6-packs on March 28 might soon need to be repotted (thank you heat mat!).

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    1. When I sprout seeds, I rarely let the roots get very long, so I'm not too worried about that. Most of the time, it's just barely visible as it emerges from the seed coat.

      Having never grown eggplant before, I'm can't really say whether the sensitivity to transplanting is valid or not. I also had read the same thing in the past about other plants, and have subsequently not had any issues. Hearing that you successfully start yours in cell packs and then repot makes me think that this may be the case here. Maybe all this talk about difficulty transplanting relates more to rough handling, etc.

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  3. very nice! mine are struggling in growing so not sure what's going on. Hope yours will take off nicely and will grow fast.

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    1. Thanks Jenny...They seem to be doing well, but it's still several weeks until they go outside and, as we all know, a lot can happen in that time. I hope that yours perk up and get growing for you!

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  4. Ping Tung is actually my favorite variety of eggplant AND I've had the most success with it in my garden. I've tried to grow those big dark purple varieties but they don't seem to do well in my garden. But Ping Tung thrived and produced a lot of fruit, which tasted good (and not bitter). This year, I'm only growing that variety and I have 3 or 4 seedlings growing. Good luck!

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    1. Well, it seems like I made a good choice then! I hope that my plants are as successful as yours have been...and I'm sure will be again this year. Now I know who to ask if I have Ping Tung eggplant issues ;)

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  5. I hated eggplant growing up. But even when I could eat it, I never really liked it all that much. I didn't hate it anymore. I tended to grow eggplants because they were so pretty. Then I gave most of them away.

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    1. My eggplant dislike took a complete 180 once I had it in a Thai curry at a restaurant. I kept digging around, trying to find more pieces, as I was eating. So guess what ended up in my shopping cart the next time I went to the grocery store...

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  6. I found aubergine, as we know it in the UK, hard to get fruit from. It took three years of me growing plants before I managed to get one to produce, and that was growing it in the greenhouse, our climate really isn't best suited for the plants. It's funny how you mention the lighter coloured seeds germinated first, I've often wondered when sowing different coloured seeds if one would fare better than another.

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    1. I think that your climate may be more moderate than ours (at both ends), which may account for the difficulty you had. Our summers do tend to get very hot, which I think eggplant would love, so I'm hoping that I'm able to harvest at least a few fruits. If we have a normal summer this year, that is.

      I have noticed that about some seeds in the past, but never really paid much attention. This time, it stuck out because both times only 1 of the 4 seeds I was starting was a lighter colour and that one ended up being the quick germinator.

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  7. Growing eggplants is so a fun challenge and they're such pretty plants as well. Last time I grew 30 eggplants/aubergine which was way too many. Applegreen was the earliest variety I grew but it got wrinkly after only a couple days, Bangladeshi Long were the second earliest and the biggest plant topping out at 5 feet before I chopped it down in August. Both varieties were very prolific. Ping Tung was actually one of the later varieties for me.

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    1. Wow - 30 plants IS a lot! I haven't heard of either Applegreen or Bangladeshi Long, but they do sound promising for a short season area like mine. I have a feeling that, just like peppers, I'll likely expand my selection of eggplant next year...although I doubt I'll grow anywhere near the amount you do!

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  8. I love the Ping Tung Long, and other white-fleshed eggplant varieties, Count me as another one who transplants eggplant all the time without issues. I am always careful, and try and prick it out without damaging the roots, but it hasn't been more troublesome for me than any other veg. It can be tough to germinate though, and I always use a heating mat.

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    1. Well, it does sound as if transplanting is not an issue with eggplant. I think I'll change my notes and grow it in the same way as I do tomatoes & peppers, potting it up only once it is a few inches tall.

      This is what makes blogging and blogs in general so wonderful. Books and informational websites are a great starting point, but nothing really beats speaking with real people about their real experiences.

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  9. I tried growing eggplant a couple of years ago with moderate success. I'm not really a big fan, although I do enjoy the asian varieties (long, thin) more than Italian - thai spicy dishes are my favourite. I have several friends with eggplant allergies (not sure how common that is) so don't really cook much with it.

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    1. Most people I know are not huge eggplant fans. For me, it's all about preparation - I really didn't like the whole parmigiana business, so would usually avoid eggplant based on that. Once I had it in a dish that I really enjoyed, I was much more open to trying it in other things.

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  10. I'll add my confirmation that eggplant isn't all that fussy about being transplanted. I'm growing some Asian ones this year, I started plants from a packet of purple, green, and white "Fingers". I'm not sure how I'll be able to tell the plants apart until the set fruit, but I some of the plants have a purple tinge so that might be a hint. And I frow a Sicilian globe type that has the most tender white flesh, more tender than the Asian types. It's worth the long grow time and small production, it's so good.

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    1. I've never grown a mixed packet of seeds - there's something to be said for that element of mystery until the plant fruits. You have me intrigued with the Sicilian eggplant...I'll be keeping my eye out for that one on your posts.

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  11. We grow a compact variety called Jackpot which seems to do well for us in the greenhouse,

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    1. Another one to add to the list - thanks Sue!

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  12. I agree, I like the long Asian eggplants better than the big, round dark ones that give you too much eggplant all at once.

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    1. I'm so looking forward to growing them this year. I don't know anyone else that grows them, so it will be interesting to how well they do there.

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  13. Ping Tung is great because it produces fairly early for me, the flesh is tender and creamy, and it is fairly resistant to the flea beetles that are a plague around here. I had the same variation in germination time. Started with just one germinating and I figured that's all I get. A month later I now have a full six-pack of varying sizes. No problems with transplanting.

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    1. Since we live in similar climates, hopefully I'll have the same experience with Ping Tung as you do. My list of finicky veg when it comes to germination is definitely growing!

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  14. I'm with you, I prefer the long slim Asian eggplant over the globe shape variety, since Michelle mention the Sicilian globe, I'm intrigued and look forward to hear more about it.
    I don't have any problem in transplanting eggplant seedlings, they are slow starters, sometimes when I was about to give up they decided to pop out overnight.

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    1. It sounds like my Slim Jim eggplant seeds that germinated in only 4 days are the exception rather than the rule! I think I may start my eggplant quite a bit sooner next year - there always seems to be a bit of juggling with timing when you grow something for the first time.

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  15. I have only grown Aubergines / Eggplants once, and they were Ping Tung Long. I was surprised that they grew well here, and produced many fruits, even though grown outdoors, because people said that they needed a lot of warmth in order to set fruit. Beginner's Luck, maybe?

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    1. Well that is great to hear, especially if our summer turns out to be cooler than usual like last year. Hopefully your beginner's luck will rub off on me!

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  16. I'm growing ping tung and listada de gandia this year. I've only every grown fairytale before but I find eggplants so beautiful I wanted to try growing some and experimenting with more recipes (many from the baker creek seed catalogue from last year)

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    1. I'm not too familiar with different eggplant varieties so I had to look up Fairytale and Listada de gandia - they both look beautiful with the purple/white variegation. It will be interesting to hear what you think of the plants/fruits from the new varieties you are growing, especially compared to your past experience with the Fairytale variety, which looks to be very quick to mature.

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