I have discovered the secret to growing eggplant. I am hesitant to share it with you since you too will have a bumper crop of those shiny purple, yummy tasting veggies. *The horrors.* For five years, I was an eggplant growing loser. I walked with shame. How can someone who grows everything fail at eggplant? Well, my shame has been banished, and I am going to let you in on my secret on how to successfully grow eggplant.
Are you ready?
So, I can whisper in your ear.
What is the number one thing that kills eggplant?
Okay, there are two.
Flea Beetles and Colorado potato beetles.
P.S. The latter likes your eggplant more than your potatoes. So if you want potatoes, plant eggplant far, far away from the potatoes. I learne this lesson the hard way last year.
Grow Eggplant and Prosper:
First. How to Plant Eggplant for Bug Checking:
Plant the eggplant so you can walk around them. You will have to lift up their leaves. I planted mine in the middle of my 8 foot by 4 foot bed. I surrounded them with smaller flower bearing plants so I could easily move around the plants.
How to Keep Flea Beetles from Destroying Your Eggplant:
Flea beetles love, love and I say LOVE small eggplant seedlings. (Kind of how you might feel about chocolate.)
So how to stop them from licking their chops— simple–yellow sticky traps. I tried making my own with yellow note cards and sticky goop. I have sprinklers for the garden and the yellow color washed right out of the note cards. Plus, the cards turned to mush.
However, you can buy sticky traps HERE or make your own using plastic school folders. Watch the video below. (If you buy them at a store, make sure they are weatherproof. Some traps are for indoor use only.)
When I plant my eggplant seedlings, I cover them with netting and make sure I anchor the netting with rocks so no bugs can crawl under. (I use tulle which is used for wedding veils.) Then, I put 2 sticky traps in the middle of every 2 plants when I plant the seedlings.
I mean it. You will regret it.
The flea beetles are attracted to the yellow and not your plants.
(Where were those sticky traps five years ago? Wasted eggplant years…)
When the plants bloom, I remove the cover to let the bees do their thing. By the time they are bigger, the flea beetles can’t really hurt them. Your leaves won’t look good but no one is giving out prizes for good looking eggplant leaves.
But at this point, do you know who will hurt them…
The Colorado Potato Beetle.
You should be monitoring for this bug right after you plant. Read on below to learn how to spot this striped creature of the wild abyss in which pesticides are no match for its vengeance. I know I have a penchant for being overly dramatic but this beetle is Death Vader in a striped suit.
How to Control the Colorado Beetle:
You can use row covers on your eggplants, but you will have to hand pollinate the blooms. (See HERE on how to hand pollinate.)
I tried hand pollinating one year and wasn’t that successful. And even if you have row covers, one or two beetles can still sneak in if you don’t secure the row covers extremely well.
Alternatively, you can hand pick the beetles and their larvae. Watch the video below to identify the bug and the larvae.
You might find this beetle on your tomato, eggplant, and potato plants. They emerge in my area (zone 6) in May. I found my first one eating my tomato plant.
Familiarize yourself with the beetle larvae. They are gray, slimy, and small at first.
I am obsessed about bugs. (You should read my slug article if you need a chuckle.)
Thanks to my trusty flashlight, the beetle seem to reveal themselves at night. That might be coincidence. I found a couple on my eggplants and dropped them in soapy water.
Monitor, Monitor, Monitor:
Every day, you want to flip over your leaves looking for the slimy larvae, red/orange egg mass and the beetles. Also, look at the stem since I found many beetles there. Finding the egg masses is the key to control. Simply knock the eggs into the water or crush them.
By September, I no longer found any more larvae.
I also found putting back the row cover at night helped; however, the day time leaf check is the best way to check for eggs.
What do you do with all the eggplants you will yield? Check back later this week and I will let you in on another secret–how to store eggplant without going crazy.
PS You don’t have to be a gardener to “harvest eggplants.” Your farmers’ market will have loads of them. Simply stock up for the winter.
Join the Conversation:
Are you an eggplant growing loser or winner?
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