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My eggplant issues resolved

Phil Dudman

Phil Dudman

January 15, 2012

One of the most important crops in my summer garden is eggplant, but I must admit, I’ve had some serious failures in the past… as we all do as gardeners…
but hey, that’s how we learn.

I live in the northern rivers region of NSW, a high rainfall area with heavy soils. The rain in summer is often torrential, which can spell disaster for eggplant bushes. They’re very prone to root rot, and simply fall over in monsoonal conditions if the drainage is not good. So this year, I have tried to elevate the rootball as high as I can.

Eggplants growing out of their raised pots

To start with, I created individual planting mounds for each plant, and on top of that, I placed 250mm plastic pots with the bases cut out, filled them with compost-enriched soil and planted my seedlings into that. So far so good… but one of the other benefits is that the pots make watering and fertilising the bushes far more efficient because it directs the moisture and nutrients straight to the roots, with very little soil runoff… so the bushes are looking strong and healthy and loaded with fruit.

Leaf-eating ladybeetles can defoliate plants


Another major issue I’ve had in the past is leaf-eating lady beetles. Now these aren’t the warm and fuzzy creatures that do good in the garden… eating aphids and such… they’re another type. These deceiving little creatures devour the leaves, leaving the plants with no means to photosynthesize, so they are denied the energy they need to flourish. Look out for them; they’re the common orange ladybeetles with black spots. And it’s not only the adults… their babies are just as hungry. The ‘pupa’ as they’re called look nothing like the adults. These are small yellow furry things. The only good thing about them is that they squash easily between the thumb and forefinger… the adults do too, but they make a bit of a crunching sound, which can be unsettling if you’re doing it just before breakfast. And that’s just what I’ve been doing this summer with great diligence. Every day when I water the veggie patch, I get in and check the plants thoroughly removing every mother and child I see. Sounds nasty, but if you let them take over, they will and your plants will suffer.

One other thing I’ve been watching out for is fungal disease. Whenever a leaf looks pale and spotty, off it comes… into a plastic bag and into the rubbish… never in the compost. That alone seems to slow down the spread of leaf diseases, which can be devastatingly cruel in our humid subtropical climate.

So there you go, sometimes in gardening, you’ve got to experience the pain before the gain, but that just makes the harvest even sweeter… and this year, we’re enjoying an absolute bounty of eggplant.

I prefer the long, finger-like eggplants

I prefer to grow the long black finger-like fruit – they’re so productive, and just so easy to prepare when cooking. I don’t let them stay on the bush too long – as soon as they look the size, off they come with a sharp pair of secateurs. They’re less bitter when young, and don’t need to be salted like older fruit. If you’re not ready to eat them, just put them in the fridge where they’ll stay fresh for a week or more.

So what do I do when I’ve got too many eggplant… well, they turn up in everything…, pasta sauces, lasagna, moussaka, ratatouille, spicy pickles, baba ghanoush, chargrilled and tossed into salads … you name it. Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly generous… I’ll give them away… but don’t hold your breath.

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11 years ago

Hi Phil,
A big fan of eggplants ( I love the European name aubergine!) I grew them successfully about three years ago when they were probably under watered. Yet I got a great crop of big plump fruit.

I planted the smaller variety last year and despite lots of rain and care, I only harvested about six. Is that normal?

Bought a big eggplant at the market last week and have prepared it in my fave way; ie soaked in vinegar for about an hour, then rolled in flour, breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, then fried in oil. Bueno!.

I always think of hot Mediterranean Italian vistas when I see them.

11 years ago

I keep a jar containing water ,detergent, and a little oil on the deck near the veg garden all the leaf-eating ladybirds I come across go into it. Saves the crunch and the yellow mess on my fingers. Gardeners definitely need a cruel streak.