This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Solanum Melongena, Linn.). Solan-dcese. Guinea Squash. Aubergine of the French. Strong perennial herb or sub-shrub, grown as a vegetable-garden annual for its large fruits, which are eaten cooked; requires a long warm season.
The eggplant is native of the tropics, probably from the East Indies, but its native land is not known. It is cultivated to a greater or less extent throughout the entire tropical regions. The first reports of its use as a vegetable come from India, hence the above assumption. In the United States it is cultivated as a vegetable as far north as New York, but it usually grows to greater perfection in the southern states. It is much grown in Florida. The demands for it in the early months of the year have not been fully supplied. Its cultivation demands a specialist as much as either celery or tobacco, while the specialization must be in a different direction from that of either one of these. Nearly all of the fruit that grows to proper size is edible, and there is no special demand for particular flavors. Eggplants are forced under glass to a limited extent for home use. They require the temperature of a tomato house, and great care must be taken to keep off red-spider and mites. In order to insure large fruits, practise artificial pollination. Non-pollinated fruits will grow for a time, but always remain small (Fig. 1379). Soil. - Eggplant will grow on almost any land in the South, but it develops to greater perfection on a rich, deep, loamy soil free from debris.
In the clay districts this is not easily secured, but there are often small fields that are sufficiently dry and yet contain enough sand to make eggplant-growing profitable. No matter whether clay land, loam or sandy land be employed for raising this crop, it will be necesssary to plow deeply and thoroughly. The land should be drier than that required by cabbage or beets. In fact it will stand a greater drought than the ordinary vegetables. On the other hand, one should not attempt to grow a crop on land that is composed of large particles, such lands as are ordinarily called "thirsty" in the vegetable-growing sections of Florida.
Fig. 1378. Rotate corolla of eggplant; stamens connivent.
On the coastal plains of the South Atlantic and Gulf States, barn manure is of doubtful value for fertilizing eggplant. When it is advisable to use this material, it is preferable to compost it and use it in the form of well-rotted stable manure. A cheaper and at the same time preferable way of securing the humus necessary in the loamy sands is to grow leguminous plants that are not subject to root-knot. Such plants will give much more humus and at a cheaper price than can be obtained by the use of stable manure. On the loamy sands, the fertilizer should not be applied until after the plants have been set out and have started. A small quantity is then applied by hand or by drill. On very poor land, as much as 200 to 500 pounds of a good home-mixed fertilizer should be used. In the course of two to four weeks, the eggplants will have shown the effect of the fertilizer and by this time will be making a considerable growth. A second application may then be made of as much more, or twice as much as was used the first time. Later in the season, when the plants are beginning to make bloom buds or setting the fruit well, an after-dressing of nitrate of soda could be applied if the plants show need of further fertilizing, using it at the rate of 100 to 300 pounds to the acre.
This can be applied very readily by hand or by the use of a fertilizer drill. The hand method is more economical of fertilizer but more costly in applying. On the heavy clay lands less potash will be needed and in those places in which a stiff clay is employed for gardening purposes, the potash may be reduced to 4 or 5 per cent, or even eliminated. Ammonia and phosphoric acid are needed on nearly all the soils.