Q. Will my eggplant plant continue to produce through the fall and winter?
|Thai purple eggplant|
A. They are warm season vegetables so they slow down considerably as temperatures drop.
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 6 to 8 inches in early August, cut at a crotch, fertilize and allow them to regrow.
Fertilize and keep soils moist to force them to regrow. The second crop will be ready to harvest in about six weeks after cutting them back. In Louisiana, eggplants are sometimes trellised and sheared late in the season for increased yield and quality.
The ideal temperatures for eggplant is 70 to 80 degrees F in the day and 65 to 70 F at night. Very few places, outside of a greenhouse, gives those types of temperatures consistently. Obviously, they do well in temperatures higher and lower than this. Fruit abortion can begin around 95 F even though the plant itself can handle heat.
As temperatures drop in the fall, eggplant still sets fruit but fruit set is not as reliable and fruit development is slower. Eggplant is generally more sensitive to cooler temperatures than its cousins, tomatoes and peppers.
Flowers consistently set fruit down to 60 F nighttime temperatures. 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 spoil. Harvest fruit when they are one third full size and shiny. Over mature fruit will be spongy, the seeds begin to harden and the fruit surface becomes dull rather than shiny.
Snap fruit off of the plant but they will keep longer if they are cut from the spiny stem. Mulching helps fruit to set and improves fruit quality.