Growing aubergines

by Kate Bradbury

This year ... I decided to pit three grafted aubergine plants against three plants grown in the conventional manner (from seed, on their own roots) to see which would 'win'.

Aubergines growing on grafted aubergine plantThis year I conducted a little experiment: I decided to pit three grafted aubergine plants against three plants grown in the conventional manner (from seed, on their own roots) to see which would 'win'.

Grafted aubergines have been used commercially for a while, but they're relatively new to the amateur veg grower. I don't really understand the science beyond my basic grasp of grafting, but a grafted aubergine is simply an aubergine plant grafted onto some sort of turbo rootstock, which makes it super strong and healthy. Sellers of grafted veg plants (including tomatoes, peppers, melons and aubergines) promise higher yields over a longer period than plants grown on their own roots. They claim the plants are healthier, more robust and resistant to pests and diseases, and (most importantly) much quicker to crop.

This is where they become exciting: aubergines are normally quite tricky to grow. They're best raised in a warm greenhouse, and if you sow seed later than March, you’re in danger of losing the crop. This is because they need a long season to flower and produce fruit, so if you sow them late, by the time they flower the season has started to change and it's just not warm or light enough for them to do well. They also need a good summer - low temperatures lead to flower drop, resulting in no crop at all. This is a particular problem for growers in the north, where spring takes longer to kick in and autumn is then only around the corner.

I've only grown aubergines once before, and that was in a greenhouse in Manchester in the hot summer of 2006. They did rather well. This time I'm in London and we’ve had pretty good weather, but I don’t have a greenhouse and my garden only gets sun for two hours a day.

My grafted plants 'won' the contest about four weeks ago, when I put my first homegrown aubergine of the year on a pizza and ate it in front of the non-grafted plants, which had only just come into flower. I've already harvested two aubergines, and another grafted plant has three fruits growing on it. Of the three seed-sown aubergine plants, only one has a flower. The season has already started to shift, so I doubt I'll see it bear fruit.

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Gardeners' World Web User 23/08/2010 at 10:02

I had a bumper crop last year outside on my allotment.These plants are from seed (Bonica from Dobies).They were covered in the beginning, they were mulched by organic home madecompost and later fed by organic tomato fertilizer.Everybody commented how many I had

Gardeners' World Web User 28/08/2010 at 18:19

I've had 1 small aubergine in my greenhouse from a grafted plant - so far.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/09/2010 at 13:10

This is the first time I've tried to grow them. I've got lots of flowers on plants that havn't grown very tall, all planted within the specified timeframe on the packet and in a greenhouse watered every day - one has been trying to fruit for about 4 weeks now and is about the size of a golf ball but one which started to fruit only last week has overtaken it. Having never grown aubergines before I had no idea how high they were meant to grow and when the aubegines would come. Having watched Gardners World a couple of weeks ago and seen how tall and fruitful they were on there, I realise something has gone a little wrong with mine. Fingers crossed!

Gardeners' World Web User 14/09/2010 at 15:41

Update: I harvested one, tennis-ball sized aubergine from a seed-sown plant. The grafted plants have gone over now. I expect that will be it for outdoor-grown aubergines this year. Happy Talker did you feed the plants? They're quite hungry feeders and benefit from a weekly high-potash feed such as comfrey or standard tomato feed.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/10/2010 at 18:04

Hi I start my aub at the same time as my toms on the dining room window sill I plant out into a field frame which I ventilate for pollination and water and feed as my toms water daily feed once a week i only remove the frames after derby day ( epsom derby) the trouble is if you get a wet sept and no sun they do not grow well I got about 20 aub from six plants picked the last three today I would like to have been able to recover them but they were too tall. My 70 year old italian allotment neighbor grows them in large pots which he places in full sun and moves into his green house if it is too wet! He makes me look like a beginner but he is called Giovanni Baptist I think god is giving him an advantage or maybe it is that he was bought up on a farm in Italy he is the most delightful and generouse neighbor . ps please forgive thr spelling as I am slightly dislexic

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