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How to Grow Eggplant from Seed

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eggplant seedling

Eggplant seedling.

Photo credit: ka_su_ra, via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.

If you're looking for something a little different than the standard dark purple eggplant, your best option may be to start your own eggplant seedlings from seed. You have many more options open to you when you start from seed: tender Asian varieties, pretty little egg-shaped eggplants, and a range of colors, from white, to green, to purple, including some very pretty striped varieties.

When to Sow Eggplant Seeds

Eggplant must be started from seed indoors in most areas, eight to ten weeks before your last spring frost date.

If at all possible, it's best to start with organic eggplant seeds, to ensure that you are receiving untreated seeds from plants grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Here are some of my favorite sources for organic eggplant seeds.

Sowing Eggplant Seeds

You will need some basic equipment to successfully start seeds indoors, but it's well worth it when you consider how many plants you can start with very little money. You can use a bagged seed-starting mix, or make your own soil-less mix.

Sow eggplant seeds in cell packs or small pots, 1/4 inch deep. Water them well, cover loosely with a plastic bag or a plastic seedling flat cover to retain moisture, and place them in a warm spot -- on top of the refrigerator or on seedling heat mats would be perfect. Keep the soil moist. You should see condensation on the inside of your plastic bag or dome. If you don't, then it's time to water with a gentle mist to avoid dislodging the seeds. The seeds will germinate without additional heat, but it will take longer.

Generally, eggplant seeds germinate in 7 to 14 days. Once they've germinated, remove the plastic cover and place your pot or flat under lights or in a bright window.

Caring for Eggplant Seedlings

Continue to keep your eggplant seedlings moist as they grow for the next eight to ten weeks. Be vigilant for any signs of pests or diseases. Most seedling pests can be controlled organically with insecticidal soap. If you're concerned about damping off, try watering your eggplant seedlings regularly (about once per week) with a chamomile tea solution. When they have their first set of true leaves, it's time to start fertilizing. Start fertilizing with a very dilute (1/4 the recommended amount on the label) solution of fish emulsion or kelp. You can also fertilize your seedlings with vermicompost tea. Simply dilute your vermicompost tea until it is a very, very light brown, then water with it. Fertilize your seedlings with this dilute solution every week or so.

You may need to transplant your eggplant seedlings into larger containers before it's time to move them outside. Simply place them into pots that are an inch or two larger than the ones they're growing in. You can use potting soil, or the same mix you used when you started the seeds.

Once soil temperatures reach 60 degrees F, it's time to start hardening your eggplant seedlings off and get them planted in the garden

Starting eggplant from seed takes a bit of effort, but it is so rewarding to put together an eggplant Parmesan or a plate of grilled eggplant later in the summer, from plants that grew from seeds you sowed yourself.

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