They are a problematic veg to grow, tending towards being unreliable. Some years even a healthy looking plant won’t provide much food. But nevertheless they are a compact and bushy plant, so you can always pop one or two in to a pot or in the soil in your greenhouse or polytunnel. If it works, they are a delicious treat. Most of us are familiar with the beautiful, glossy black aubergine but you can also try growing pink, white and even orange fruits.
They require a reasonably fertile soil, good ventilation and a long growing season. You need to sow them as early as possible, certainly by mid March. Sow five seeds in a 9cm pot and place it on a warm sunny windowsill or on a heated propagator. They will need temperatures of about 18-20 degrees Celsius to germinate. About a week after the seedlings have appeared, prick them out and put each seedling in a 7cm pot. About a month later (when 5cm high) pot them on again in to 10cm pots.
Aubergines are a tropical plant, so they won’t do well outside in Ireland. Plant the aubergines out in to the polytunnel or greenhouse in May – only do so if the weather is mild and all risk of frost has passed. Allow 45cm between plants (though there are dwarf varieties available that can be planted 30cm apart). You could also try planting them in growbags or large pots (20cm). Water regularly – they like humidity. Don’t allow the plant to get taller than about 50cm – if this happens, pinch out the growing tip which will encourage the plant to become bushy. Fruit bearing branches may require a support stick.
Harvest the fruits when they are a good size and shiney.
Unfortunately aubergine plants are prone to a range of problems including whitefly/greenfly attacks, blossom end rot and grey mould. An occasional garlic spray will help and will make the plants more vigorous. Interplanting with marigolds will deter whitefly.