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Growing Eggplant in Michigan — an article on the Smart Living Network
August 9, 2011 at 1:18 PMComments: 4 Faves: 0

Growing Eggplant in Michigan

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I'll admit, it's been a challenge, but we finally have success with eggplant in Michigan!

First attempts at eggplant

My very first try at eggplant was two years ago. I planted it too early for my zone... wiped out by frost. Eggplant, I discovered cannot tolerate even the slightest bit of frost. Last year, I sprouted seeds in peat plugs and didn't plant them until well after the frost. The plants grew OK for a while, but didn't seem to thrive. By the end of the season, I had plucked two small, knobby fruits from the largest plant. The other plants were barren.

Third time is the charm!

This winter, I read up on eggplant a bit more and tried to piece together other gardener's successes and follies. I totally changed my gardening strategy. Things I did different:

  1. Instead of investing hours of my time in seeds for a potential repeat flop, I purchased robust seedlings from a local nursery (pronounced "not a box mart"). Honestly, I have to purchase the time from my life to garden, so everything I plant has to have a decent payback. I don't grow flowers or low-yielding varieties of plants.
  2. My eggplants are growing right next to our house. My regular garden sits away from our home a bit, and I felt that banking the eggplants tight to the house would create a micro-climate more suitable to the heat-loving eggplant. So far, I'm right...
  3. Eggplants are surrounded by landscape fabric for weed control. Last year, I discovered that the roots of my eggplant would be disrupted easily by pulling surrounding weeds. A few plants were lost this way, so it was determined that avoiding weeds in the first place would be a better choice. I must admit, I LOVE not weeding.
  4. Lots of compost. Grass clippings, par-composted banana peels, egg shells, even pulled weeds from other areas of the garden go under the fabric.

Despite all of my changes, I did have some challenges. A few weeks back, we had a night that dipped into the 50s. All the flowers fell off the eggplants and I was certain we'd have no harvest. This was my last attempt.

The damaged was reversed after a solid 10 days of 90+ weather. Flowers popped out again, and now we have fruit set. My first eggplant was harvested last weekend. Of course, I fried it up right away and enjoyed it with a touch of parmesian cheese and garlic.

Next year's eggplant...

Next year, I will plant again! We're looking for ways to reduce meat consumption in our family, and eggplant fits into that equation nicely. Here's my plan for next year:

  1. Grow from seed for a variety other than globe (black beauty)
  2. Grow next to the house for the micro-climate advantage
  3. Mulch heavy and use landscape fabric
  4. More par-digested compost. I will bury a bucket of compostables between plants next year.
  5. Plant earlier and use a cold frame. I have an old glass storm door calling to me.

If you've got any varieties of eggplant you really love, I'm open to suggestions. Maybe something a little hardier would be nice. Maybe something that give smaller but more numerous fruits.

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4 Comments

  • Last year was our first attempt at gardening and we definitely went all out - straight away starting a 20 by 50 foot garden space. We learned some since then - our spacing is much better this year. I can actually get between the rows to weed! We also planted a wider variety of vegetables and did a better job staking our tomatoes. However, despite putting up a fence to prevent deer, we did have a woodchuck come in a devastate a couple of our crops. Next year we'll definitely spray our crops to keep the animals from eating our hard work. We'll also plant more of each crop - we did a lot more direct sowing of our seeds this year and had fewer plants come up than I would have liked.

    Definitely learn a little more with each attempt. I'm hoping like you, the third time will be a charm! And though, we didn't try eggplants this year, I think we're going to have to next growing season! Your plants look beautiful! :)

  • Thanks Erin! Those plants make us very happy because they're right next to the walkway leading into our house. When I'm walking in from work, I can just grab ripe produce.

    I am proud of them too because we have not used any pesticides (not even soap!) or herbicides on them, and only have the smallest holes where some crazy bug got hungry.

    Lots of space in the garden is something I learned too. I started with a huge garden plot and was completely overgrown with weeds in no time. So I changed to boxes with nice big paths (smothered with straw and cardboard) between them. Since I don't till the soil anymore, it's important not to walk on and compress the earth where plants grow, so the path/box layout gives me lots of room for weeding/watering/harvesting.

  • Every time I plant a garden the chimp monks eat the seeds. Any suggestions?

  • I have a nice 'pet' blue racer snake that lives near my garden... pretty much keeps the chipmunks under control.

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