Despite what most supermarkets have to offer, aubergines, also known as eggplants, come in a great range of shapes, colours and sizes. They belong to the Solanaceae family, however, unlike their tomato, pepper and potato family members, growing aubergines in the UK can be quite challenging. Particularly in northern regions. Nonetheless, with proper care and cultivation, aubergines can be successfully grown either in a greenhouse or polytunnel.
So, in this guide, we’re covering the best tips for how to grow aubergines.
Sowing Aubergine Seeds
The first thing to note is that aubergines need a hot and extended growing season to produce their best fruits. First-time growers should start with smaller fruiting varieties, such as the Indian aubergine, which will provide a modestly sized but great quality crop.
Start sowing aubergine seeds from January in pots or modules for a longer growing season. Seeds will require a temperature between 21°c – 30°c to germinate, so keep them in a well-lit greenhouse or heated propagator. As seeds, start them off in roughly 3-4-inch pots, once they outgrow this, move the seedlings to 9-inch pots.
Alternatively, you can buy young aubergine plants at garden centres from March onwards. This is a great option because aubergines can be difficult to raise from seed. Once established, the best time to plant them into a greenhouse or polytunnel is between late May and June.
However, be sure to gradually harden off the plants before permanently planting them out.
Care and Cultivation
As mentioned, aubergines require hot weather to thrive. Therefore, these heat, sunshine and humidity loving plants rely heavily on summer weather conditions to develop.
We all know summer isn’t always guaranteed in the UK, however, there are a few things you can do to help your aubergines along the way:
All flowers, no fruits
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your aubergine plants are all flowers and no fruit then there’s a pollination issue.
While aubergines are technically self-pollinating plants, growing them in greenhouses or polytunnels may disrupt pollination due to the lack of environmental assistance such as wind.
Try leaving greenhouse and polytunnel doors or windows open to encourage airflow and access for bees.
You should really start feeding your plants 4 weeks after planting out. However, once fruits start emerging on aubergine plants, it’s a sign you should start giving them some extra nutrients. Especially when it comes to growing aubergines in containers.
Begin feeding plants weekly with a fertiliser specifically designed for tomatoes (aubergines grow amazingly in similar conditions to tomatoes) along with a rich liquid seaweed fertiliser. Seaweed fertilisers are great for container-grown aubergines because they minimise the build-up of salt traces that might otherwise limit a plant’s development.