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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eggplant Production in the Fall and Winter

Q. Will my eggplant plant continue to produce through the fall and winter?

A. They will produce all the way until later in the fall but produce fruit more slowly. 
Young or immature eggplant in juvenile or growth stage with no flowering. As it reaches maturity it will flower.
Although eggplants will keep growing and flowering, they are more productive if cut back and allowed to regrow during late summer. Cut plants to about 8 to 12 inches in early August, cutting them at a crotch and allowing them to regrow. When you do this it is like giving them a kick in the pants to grow. Their root system is oversized for their top (root to shoot ratio) and they will shift their growth to a more juvenile stage and put on more top growth. When the growth of the top of the plant begins to slow (more favorable root to shoot ratio) then will flower again. Pruning them now removes plant parts that are infested or have alot of damage.

This will mean you need to fertilize after pruning and keep the soil moist to force them to regrow. The second crop will be ready to harvest in about six weeks after cutting back. In some parts of the country eggplants are sometimes trellised and sheared for increased yield and quality later in the season.

The ideal temperatures for eggplant will be 70 to 80F during the day and night time temperatures between 65 to 70F. Very few locations will give those exact types of temperatures. Obviously they will do well in temperatures higher and lower than this. Fruit abortion begins at about 95F with some varieties even though the plant itself can handle heat.

As temperatures get lower than ideal in the fall, eggplant will still set fruit but fruit set is not as reliable and the development of fruit is slower. Eggplant is generally considered more sensitive to cooler temperatures than its cousins, tomatoes and peppers. Flowers will consistently set fruit down to 60 F night time temperatures.
Night time temperatures below 60 F will mean fewer fruit will be set as temperatures get lower. Eggplants begin to get chilling injury at temperatures below 50 F.

Staking may be necessary if plants get big and full of fruit. Fruit touching the ground will tend to spoil. Harvest fruit when they are one third full size. Over mature fruit will be spongy, the seeds begin to harden and the fruit surface becomes dull rather than shiny.

Fruit can be snapped off of the plant but they will keep longer if they are cut at the spiny stem. Leave the "cap" attached. Mulching plants will help to set fruit and improve fruit quality.

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