Aubergine seeds are best sown in modules indoors in heated propagators at around 21 degrees in January. From February until March, as long as it’s warm enough for a few hours a day, they will germinate near a radiator on a sunny windowsill if you haven’t got a propagator. Use good, free-draining seed-sowing compost in small pots or module trays, as overwatering and damping off can easily happen. They can be potted on into larger pots when the true leaves are showing.
Transplant your seedlings into their final growing position around May, when the risk of frost has passed. Make sure to keep the area weed-free and add plenty of organic matter before planting. Aubergines will benefit from being grown undercover in a polytunnel or greenhouse, but can be hardened off and grown outdoors in a well-sheltered, south-facing spot. You can also put a cloche/fleece over them until they get established and the weather warms up.
Aubergines need a long growing season and are sensitive to cold temperatures. They like lots of sunshine, and regular, consistent watering once established. Pinch out growing tips when around 30 cm tall to encourage side shoots for more fruits and use a cane as support; watch out for the sneaky spines. Once flowers appear, feed with high potassium feed. After late summer, remove any new flowers as they will not set fruit. Plants are insect-pollinated, so ensure you open up the greenhouse or tunnel to let them in.
Red spider mites, whitefly, and aphids are common pests. Use biological controls such as ladybugs or neem oil to address these, as well as companion planting marigolds. Diseases like damping off, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew can affect aubergines. Ensure proper spacing for good air circulation, and avoid overwatering. A poor harvest can be due to a few factors: not enough warmth, water, or nutrients, or inadequate pollination. If you do not have enough pollinators, you can hand-pollinate with a brush.
Fruits can be harvested from August onwards. Look for firm, glossy skin; once it loses its shine and turns dull, it can be bitter with tough skin and hard seeds.
Aubergines are at the heart of many Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian dishes, such as Baba Ganoush, Aubergine Parmigiana, Brinjal Baji, Thai green curry, to name a few. Roasted in slices with a miso, honey, and ground cumin glaze is a current favourite.
Aubergines can cross-pollinate, they should be isolated or kept at least 15 m away from other aubergines. Fruit should be left to ripen for as long as possible; looking dull, and with all glossiness faded. Cut in quarters, tear/rub apart the flesh in lukewarm water to release the seed. The good seeds sink; pour away the floating fleshy material and bad seeds, leaving the good seeds at the bottom. Rinse and repeat until you have clean water and seeds; pour into a sieve, then spread and dry out the seeds thoroughly before storing.
Aubergine – Black Beauty (Organic)£2.10 Add to basket
Aubergine – Black Beauty (Organic)
The classic open-pollinated aubergine, heavy crops of striking black-skinned fruit on vigorous plants. Black Beauty is as good as its hybrid sister varieties! In the right conditions (light, greenhouse/polytunnel) they fruit abundantly and the plants grow tall and strong. The aubergines themselves are all shapes, sizes and shades of purple which prove popular at markets or in the kitchen! They fruit early to mid season with aubergines from July – September. This is our favourite variety to grow, and most importantly the fruit tastes fab!
(Approximate seed count – 18)£2.10
Aubergine – Cesky Rany (Organic)£2.10 Add to basket
Aubergine – Cesky Rany (Organic)
Robust plants producing early violet fruits that have aromatic light green flesh.
This old variety originates in Czechia with “rany” literally translating to “early”. It is robust, productive and can deal with colder conditions than other aubergines. In the warmer and drier areas of the country it will even do well when grown outdoors.
The fruits are really pretty with their oval, drop like shapes and colours ranging between dark and light violet. Occasionally the green part at the top, the calyx, leaves patterns on the skin of the fruits which got us very excited about growing them.
(Approximate seed count – 15)£2.10