By: Laura Miller
If you’re looking to harvest larger yields of eggplant,fertilizer may help. Plants use energy from the sun and nutrients from the soilfor growth and food production. Some garden vegetables, like peas and beans,need fewer added nutrients. Others, like eggplants,are considered heavy feeders.
Eggplants grow best in a compost-rich, fertile soil underfull sun. Feeding eggplants during their growing and fruiting stages improvesthe overall health of the plant. Healthy plants produce larger fruit in greaterquantities. In addition, when growing some varieties of eggplant, fertilizermay reduce bitterness caused by plant stress.
Many gardeners begin the growing season by incorporatingcompost and fertilizer into the garden soil prior to planting. This gives youngeggplants a boost of nutrients for a healthy start. Havinggarden soil tested takes the guesswork out of how much and what type offertilizer to use.
Soil testing provides an NPK analysis, which tells gardenershow much nitrogen,phosphorusand potassiumis needed to balance and amend their garden soil. Plants use nitrogen for greengrowth and the construction of chlorophyll. Phosphorus benefits the formationof new roots and is used in flower, fruit and seed production. Potassiumcontributes to stem strength, disease resistance and growth.
Periodic eggplant feeding during the growing season alsohelps these heavy feeders with setting and producing fruit. A balancedfertilizer (10-10-10) is often recommended for eggplant. Feeding too muchnitrogen at this point can result in large, leafy plants that fail to producefruit.
Fertilizers can be chemically manufactured or come fromnatural sources such as plant matter, animal manures or minerals found in rock.Some gardeners prefer bagged fertilizers since the NPKrating is listed on the label. Aged manures, leaves, grass clippings andcompost from one’s own backyard or from neighboring properties can be obtainedfor free, but lack a guaranteed NPK analysis. This material can be worked intosoil or used as a mulch.
Powdered, pelleted or granular fertilizers can be applied asa sidedressing between rows or to soil at the base of the eggplant. Fertilizerapplied in this manner should be worked into the dirt to prevent heavyprecipitation from splashing fertilizer onto the plant.
Since plants can absorb nutrients through their leaves,foliar feeding eggplants is an alternative method for fertilizing. Eggplantsthat are underperforming are the best candidates. Use a commercial liquidfertilizer designed for foliarfeeding or make your own from diluted manuretea. Apply this liquid as a fine spray, early in the morning when ambienttemperatures are cool.
Finally, when in doubt about how to fertilize eggplants,gardeners can’t go wrong when choosing a quality tomatofertilizer. Like tomatoes, eggplants are also members of the nightshadefamily and have similar nutritional needs. Of course, feeding eggplants cancreate a problem – it can make you the envy of all your eggplant lovingfriends!
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Read more about Eggplants
Eggplant is a crop found across the globe, and in many varieties. The plant itself can grow up to six feet tall, and may need to be supported. Pinching the terminal buds (top-most growing tips) will cultivate a bushier form. Eggplant leaves are large and coarse, and the stem is often spiny. Botanically, the fruit is considered a berry and contains many small, soft seeds. The seeds are edible but can be bitter.
Eggplant cultivars produce fruits in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Depending on your preferences you can grow eggplants that are large or small, round, pear-shaped, or elongated, purple, lavender, black, yellow, white, maroon, or even striped! Despite the kaleidoscope of forms, the flavors are similar and can be used interchangeably in most recipes.
Varieties that will thrive in Florida include 'Black Beauty', 'Dancer', 'Dusky', 'Long', 'Ichiban', and 'Cloud Nine'. Thai and Japanese varieties do well in Florida, too. Dwarf varieties are available and tend to be very compact some can be grown in containers.