Aubergine

Aubergines are a warm weather plant that has, in the past, been rather tricky to grow successfully in the UK. But modern developments have created strains that are grown more comfortably in our climate. Nonetheless, aubergines are almost always grown under cover in a greenhouse or polytunnel or at very least with cloche protection in milder areas.

Growing aubergines:

Auberginesseeds have to be sown indoors in a propagator or heated space early in the year. They should be sown in January if they are going into a heated greenhouse and from February if your greenhouse or polytunnel is unheated. The seeds will germinate at a temperature of 18-21 degrees Celsius, so you must be sure that the spot you choose to sow them is warm enough.

Now many garden centres and plant nurseries will offer the plants ready to plant out, for those who do not find it easy to achieve the optimum growing conditions where they live. This is a much easier way to get a crop of aubergines although of course it is more expensive than growing from seed. Grafted plants have are vigorous and tend to be better suited to colder growing conditions.

Aubergines should be grown initially in containers that are around 9cm in diameter and then transferred to pots that are around 23cm across when the original containers are filled with roots. This should be done in April in a heated greenhouse, May if your space is unheated and perhaps as late as early June if you are going to try to grow them outside.

In some, milder areas of the UK you may have some success growing aubergines outside at a spacing of around 60cm between plants, though ideally you should still use cloches as the UK climate does not allow for optimum growing conditions, even in the far south of England. If you do decide to go down this route then choose a sheltered, protected, sunny site, warm the ground with covers before planting out and do so only when you are absolutely sure that all risk of frost has passed.

Wherever you are growing them, stake your aubergine plants and tie them in as they grow. When your plants reach about 30cm in height you should remove the main growing tip to encourage the plants to bush out. Water regularly and feed every couple of weeks with a good, high potassium liquid feed. Mist the foliage regularly to encourage the fruit to set.

One five or six fruits have set you should remove the remaining flowers to allow what you have to grow. Harvest once the fruits have reached around 15cm in length and while the skin still has a shine to it.

Why grow aubergines in the garden?

Aubergines can be a bit of a challenge but can be a good addition to a kitchen garden for those who like to cook with a variety of different ingredients. They are delicious in a number of recipes.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Solanum melongena