Fruit and Vegetables

Eggplant cultivation

Eggplant cultivation


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Eggplant cultivation


Eggplant is one of the most popular vegetables on Italian tables, and is used to prepare many dishes, from the first to the side dishes. With a little care, you can also grow aubergines in your own garden. These vegetables have now become a constant on Italian tables throughout the year, given the imports from the hottest foreign countries; with a little care and the right precautions it is, however, possible, during the summer season, to cultivate this type of vegetable even in your own vegetable garden, obtaining excellent results. If the climate in which they are grown is mild and the soil is correct, these plants can bear fruit until the first cold weather arrives.
Eggplants belong to the family of solanaceae, its botanical name is, in fact, solanum melogena and is a plant of Indian origin, where there are findings that confirm its use as a food since the fourth century. In Europe, on the other hand, aubergines arrived in the Middle Ages at the hands of the Arabs.

Eggplant



Aubergine plants usually have a height that reaches 80 cm with characteristic leaves of rather large dimensions and characterized by a hairy surface on the upper page. It has rather large hermaphroditic flowers, ie male and female at the same time; the edible part is represented by the fruits that can take on different colors, ranging from violet to white and can have a round or elongated shape, depending on the variety cultivated. Speaking of the biological cycle of aubergines, this lasts approximately 180 days, which include the period of the vegetative phase, the one that begins with the transplantation of the seedling until the moment when the first flowers and the production phase appear. The aubergine plants have a climbing behavior, for this reason, to allow the best growth, it is good to prepare some special tutors to support them.

Sowing



For grow eggplant successfully, it is possible to sprout the flowers in a seedbed, or to plant the seedlings bought in a nursery. It is not advisable to place the seeds directly in the open field.
To achieve successful cultivation, it is necessary to keep in mind the needs of the aubergine, which needs a warm climate, with temperatures that never fall below thirteen degrees (even at night).
The soil must be prepared a few months before sowing or planting, so that it has time to absorb the nutrients. Then proceed with a rather deep digging (about thirty centimeters). During this operation, the soil must be fertilized with manure or another organic fertilizer. Arrived at the time of sowing, it is advisable to weed the soil prepared previously, to eliminate all the weeds that may have grown in the meantime.
If the seeds are used, it is advisable to put them in the seedbed in March, once the frost period has ended. Towards the end of April it is possible to transplant the seedlings sprouted in the open field, taking care to arrange them at about fifteen centimeters from each other (the distance between the rows must be at least forty centimeters).

Aubergine seedlings



The eggplant is a climbing plant, which can even reach a height of one meter: for this reason it is advisable to bury the special wooden supports next to the plants (rods or sticks are also suitable). In the first weeks after planting, the eggplant plants require plenty of water: it is necessary to water them at least three times a week, wetting only the soil. Subsequently, it is possible to thin out the irrigations until watering the aubergines only when the soil is dry, without any trace of humidity. During the life cycle, the eggplants do not need fertilizer, if the soil was well prepared before being planted: what they need are periodic hoeing interventions (in order to eliminate weeds that take away nutrients from the plants ), the tamping (which consists in compacting the soil around the plant, as it remains uncovered) and pruning: the latter is very important, since the leaves and dry twigs remove nutrients from the plant. It is therefore necessary to remove them by hand (without using scissors or knives).
Topping is fundamental, which must be carried out one month after the plants are buried. This is an intervention that accelerates the development of vegetables, making them even larger. It must be done by removing the shoots at the apex of the plant: in this way, the nutrients will be used by the plant only to develop the vegetable.

Eggplant collection


The harvest of these vegetables is carried out between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn: it is essential to collect the aubergines at the best time, because if you wait too long, they will be unappetising. At the time of ripening, the eggplants in fact produce many seeds, hardening the pulp too much, which is therefore not suitable for consumption.
Speaking of consumption, the aubergine is a vegetable that must be eaten only cooked, after having been stored in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry room.
To understand when is the best time to harvest the aubergines you have to observe the peel; when it starts to become opaque, that is the right time to collect them. At this point the aubergines have a compact and firm consistency, with a thin skin and few seeds. When the consistency of the pulp becomes too spongy, the aubergine is too advanced and will also have a structure rich in seeds, which is not very pleasant in culinary preparations.

Eggplant in a jar


Eggplant cultivation is also possible in pots: news that is particularly welcome for those who do not have a vegetable garden or a garden at their disposal. In this case, care must be taken to use large and deep vessels or containers: these plants have many roots, and need space to develop them. We recommend the use of terracotta vases (material that allows the oxygenation of the soil and roots) about fifty centimeters deep, with an equally large diameter. The pot must have a drainage system on the bottom (stones or balls of expanded clay are fine too) and must be filled with soil for crops, mixed with manure. After a few months you can proceed with the planting of the seedlings born in the meantime in the seedbed, following the same rules as for planting in the open field. The vase must be placed in a warm area: even in this case, we must not forget the supports, which must be buried next to the plants.

The diseases



The biggest enemies of the eggplant are insects: in particular, the red spider mites, aphids and bedbugs. To combat these "intruders" it is necessary to have special products available for sale in all the stores specializing in garden items. The attention that must be paid to not creating water stagnations is fundamental, to avoid the formation of mold. In the event that you see a state of suffering of the plant caused by mold or fungus, it is advisable to temporarily suspend the irrigations, in order to let the soil dry. In the presence of a high rate of humidity or an excess of water it is possible that pathologies such as white disease, gray mold or eggplant blight may occur, but also alternariosis, a type of fungus that attacks adult plants, hitting them the fruits and leaves.

Planting eggplant



To obtain a good harvest it is necessary to know when it is better to proceed with the planting of this type of plant, to avoid that it may suffer due to inadequate outdoor temperatures. To obtain the seedlings, as mentioned above, it is advisable to proceed with seeding in seedbeds, so as to be able to keep the shoots in a protected place until the next planting. The advice is to sow around the month of February in areas where the climate is warmer, but to wait at least in March in the areas with colder temperatures. Naturally the seeds must be stored in a protected and heated environment to prevent them from undergoing thermal stresses that block their development. It is also necessary to pay close attention to the phase of transplanting the seedlings, both those germinated from seeds and those purchased in nurseries, as it is essential that they are not subjected to trauma or too low temperatures, a factor that can completely stop their growth and dry the plant. According to those who follow the lunar calendar to start cultivation, to obtain healthy and luxuriant eggplant plants, their sowing should take place during the period of the waxing moon.
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