How to get big aubergine yields
February 5, 2011 § 2 Comments
It can be challenging to get a really substantial crop from aubergines in the UK so we have put together an extended growing guide (the original can be read on our website here) to help.
Aubergine plants need regular care throughout their lifecycle to ensure plants receive no check to growth- the benefits of this early care will be seen in the harvest weight.
As aubergines need a long growing season, get an early start in March by raising young plants with heat and under glass outdoors, or on a sunny windowsill indoors. Seeds can be started as early as end January as long as sufficient heat and light can be provided. Aubergine seeds should be started no later than April/early May- better to buy plugs at this time in the season.
Aubergine seeds, along with tomato and chilli seeds love ‘bottom heat’ (i.e from a heated mat, propagator, hotbed or soil heating cables) and will germinate much more quickly and consistently with this provision.
Pot on transplants when they have healthy but not dense rootballs. You can keep potting them on every 3-4 weeks until they go into the ground.
Plant your aubergines into their final growing positions in late April or May- a bit earlier in a polytunnel/greenhouse. Its is not advisable to plant out too early as aubergines grow well in pots but are stunted by cold temperatures and harsh winds.
They should be at least 15-20cm tall when they go into the ground:
Aubergines plants are attractive and look good in flower beds and containers. They grow relatively slowly compared to tomatoes, cucurbits and tall herbs, and in addition they are short plants when mature (maximum 1m), so it is advisable to plant them in or near the front of the bed receiving full sun, and give them plenty of room. The more sun the better for aubergines.
Aubergine plants need as much heat and wind protection as possible and well-draining soil, a sandy loam type soil is ideal.
Container grown aubergines should be housed in pots which are a minimum 30cm wide and 45cm deep. A suitable compost blend for aubergines contains plenty of rich soil, soil aerators and slow release fertilisers.
Aubergines have a deep rooting profile and will benefit from the soil being worked at depth prior to planting. Plant spacing is at least 45cm (18”) for the mini aubergines and 90cm (36”) for large varieties. Leave at least 70cm (30”) between rows.
Loosely tie the plant stem to a central stake to guide growth upwards, if neccessary. Aubergine plants tend to bifurcate naturally but you can pinch out the top of the plant when it is about 30 cm (9”) tall to encourage it to bush out if it does not appear to be doing so by itself.
As the plant matures, avoid overwatering and feed consistently with a general purpose fertiliser until fruits set. As fruits begin to swell, switch to a feed which is higher in potash.
Watering regularly (little and often) is important during fruit maturation. Harvest each fruit as it matures (when still glossy and firm) by cutting the stem to ensure continued fruit set. If fruits lose their gloss they are too ripe and may not cook well- in this case it is best to keep it for seed.
Pinch off blossoms 4 weeks before the first expected frost so that the plant channels energy into ripening existing fruit instead of producing new ones.