Aubergine Sowing and Growing Guide
Aubergine Growing Guide
Aubergines are slower to grow than tomatoes and the crop timing is similar to peppers. Sowings can be made from late February until early April. All aubergines will benefit from growing in a greenhouse and outdoor culture is not advisable unless a very warm, sheltered location can be found.
A kitchen windowsill or a heated propagator is perfect for germination. You can use either a seed tray (with or without grids), or a few small pots – filled with a seedling specific compost. Make sure you moisten the compost before planting your seeds. Plant your seeds evenly apart from each other and sprinkle with a dusting of compost on top. Cover the seeds with a plastic bag if they are on a windowsill – this will keep the conditions warm and moist. If your seeds are in a heated propagator this won’t be necessary.
Aubergines need to be kept very warm in the germination period. A temperature between 18-20 degrees Celsius is optimum. It can take 10-14 days before seedling emergence is observed.
Prepare to transplant your seedlings after about 2-3 weeks. Your seedlings should have 1 true leaf on them before you consider moving over to pots. 9cm pots are great for aubergine seedlings, and they can stay in these for up to 6 weeks. Your aubergines will need to be kept inside on either a windowsill, in a conservatory or moved into a greenhouse/cold frame. Plants should not be moved outside into a non-heated greenhouse/cold frame before the end of April. Aubergines have no frost tolerance and will not survive in a non-heated greenhouse or a cold frame if there were a cold snap.
Once your aubergines start to outgrow the smaller 9cm pots, you can move them into their final pot/grow bag/soil bed. To have a good chance of success in the UK climate, plants should be kept in a greenhouse/polytunnel where they can be supported with bamboo cans or strings to carry each stem as they develop. Multiple stems will be produced on each plant and these can be reduced to three per plant by pruning to allow better air circulation around the leaves and help reduce fungal infections. Flowers will start to form after about 8-10 weeks and these require shaking gently or active insect activity in the greenhouse to ensure fertilization. Fruit will form a week or so later. Auberine fruits are relatively slow to develop but first harvest can start to take place around 14-16 weeks after sowing.
Aubergines should be harvested when the fruit colour is fully developed i.e. purple, white or green, when the skins are still glossy. Don’t allow fruits to over-ripen on the plants as seeds will develop further in the fruit and bitterness can develop in some varieties. It is best to cook aubergines when they are fresh from the plant but can be stored for a few days in a refrigerator.