An excellent plan is to make several shifts. The plants may first be set in flats, the seedlings spaced 2 inches apart each way. Later they may be set in 3-inch pots, and finally transferred to 5 or 6-inch pots. When planted in the field there will be no check in growth and the fruits will ripen considerably earlier than if the plants are kept in flats or beds until planting time. More or less hardening before planting in the field is an advantage. About 120 to 160 days are required to produce a crop of eggplant.
Manure may be applied heavily for an early crop, like lettuce or radishes, to be followed by eggplants. While this vegetable will stand considerable drouth, there should be no lack of soil moisture if large fruits are desired. Early plowing and frequent harrowing are essential to secure proper conditions for planting.
Early growth and strong foliage are important. To accomplish these ends nitrogen must be supplied in quickly available forms. The organic sources are also important to meet the later demands of the plants. Before transplanting, the soil should receive not less than half a ton of a high-grade mixture, and just as soon as the plants are established a top-dressing of nitrate. The latter application should be repeated once or twice if necessary, to encourage vigorous growth. Thoroughly decayed stable manure can often be used to good advantage. Some growers apply it in the hill before setting the plants, but this is unnecessary in warm, rich soils.
Eggplants should never be set in the field until the ground is thoroughly warm. Many growers plant 3×4 feet apart, others 4×4 and some 2×3 feet. The vigor of the variety, climatic adaptability and the fertility of the soil are the main factors to consider when deciding upon distances. Four by 4 feet is not too much space when all conditions are advantageous.
The cultivation of the crop is a simple matter. Moisture conservation is important.
As the market demands rather large fruits, eggplants are not usually picked until full grown.
They stand shipment well, but should be handled with care so there will be no bruising. Wrapping in attractive paper containing the name and the address of the grower is an effective means of advertising. The paper gives some protection to the fruits during transportation. The yields are much heavier in the warmer sections where the summers are long. With fairly advantageous conditions two or three specimens to the plant will give a satisfactory return. The development of additional specimens is sometimes prevented by removing the flower buds or blossoms. Such restriction possesses the greatest value where both soil and climate are unfriendly to this extremely tender vegetable. Eggplants are shipped in barrels, hampers and crates. There should be careful grading in order that the largest profits may be realized.
This vegetable has a number of enemies which become sometimes serious. Potato beetles are very fond of the plants. It is "often necessary to protect the plants from flea beetles, cut worms and aphides. There are various forms of fungous diseases which may be controlled by spraying with bordeaux mixture.