How to grow aubergines

Do it:

Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Feb, Sep, Oct

Takes just:

15 minutes

Like tomatoes, aubergines are members of the solanum, or potato family. Aubergines must be sown early (February to March) and kept in a warm, sheltered spot to ensure a good crop. Although they can be grown outside in milder areas of the country, the best results come from growing plants on a windowsill indoors or in a greenhouse. Large fruited varieties such as 'Black Beauty' should yield three to six aubergines per plant. Smaller fruited varieties like 'Fairy Tale' will produce at least 10 aubergines per plant.

You will need

  • Aubergine seeds
  • Multi-purpose compost
  • Seed compost
  • Selection of pots of different sizes
  • Vermiculite

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Fill pots with seed compost and lightly firm the surface. Place up to seven seeds on the surface of the soil, spacing them evenly.

Cover the seeds with a fine layer of vermiculite. Place pots in a heated propagator set at a temperature of around 21°. Water sparingly, but keep the compost moist.

Seeds should germinate within 2-3 weeks. Keep plants warm and avoid letting the compost dry out.

Once the seed leaves have fully expanded, prick out individual seedlings into 7cm diameter pots. Handle the seeds by the leaf to avoid crushing the stem. Feed with a general liquid feed - such as seaweed - once a week.

When the roots emerge from the bottom of the pot, transplant the aubergine into a slightly larger pot, such as a 9cm or 10cm diameter pot. Repeat the process until the plant is in a 30cm pot. Use multi-purpose compost.

Remove the main tip of the aubergine plant once it is 30-40cm tall, to encourage branching. Tie stems to canes. Encourage flowering by feeding weekly with a high potash tomato fertiliser.

Encourage fruit to set by tapping the flowers to release the pollen or spraying lightly with tepid water. If plants are growing indoors, open windows to encourage bumblebees to pollinate the flowers.

Pick fruits when they are still shiny - dull fruits suggest seeds have started to develop and the fruit is past its best.

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Grow plants in individual pots rather than growing bags.

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