Parent Plant Grown Hydroponically Outdoors in Zone 7
HOW TO GROW EGGPLANT
IN A HYDROPONIC / AEROPONIC GROWING SYSTEM
(LIKE THE TOWER GARDEN)
Eggplant is a nutritious fruit used in Italian, Asian, and Indian dishes. If you haven’t ever cooked with eggplant, it is commonly used as a substitute for meat in dishes like eggplant lasagna and eggplant parmesan.
There are many varieties of eggplant in shades of white, lime green, orange, light purple, and dark purple as well as found growing in various shapes and sizes. Eggplant has a texture similar to squash, but with some sponge-like qualities. It is like soybean in that it can take on the seasonings into it’s taste profile and the texture adds interest to the dish. Eggplants are a nutrient-dense food — they contain a fair amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber while also having only a few calories. (More on the nutritional profile of eggplant can be found below.)
Eggplant Quick Reference Grow Chart:
For growing hydroponic or aeroponic such as in a Tower Garden
|DAYS TO MATURITY:|
# DAYS = 74
Calculate Harvest Date
|OUTDOOR | ZONES|
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Warm (nightly temps steadily 65ºF and warmer)
Start indoors in rock wool up to 10 weeks prior to last frost date. Transplant into hydroponic system when approx. 2-inches tall
Hydroponic, Zone 7
|SEEDS PER ROCKWOOL:|
Plant 2 seeds per 2″ rock wool cube. (Thin down to strongest plant when seedling is 2-3″ in height.)
7 – 14
|Germination temperature: |
60º F to 95º F
Germinates best between
80º F and 90º F
Wait to transplant outdoors until nightly temps have reached a steady 65ºF.
|EC: 2.5-3.5||pH: 5.5-6.5|
Tower Garden Mineral Blend
2″-3″ Transplant PPM:
500 – 800 PPM
Adult Plant PPM:
1750 – 2450 PPM
|PLACEMENT ON TOWER GARDEN VERTICAL GARDEN GROWING SYSTEM:|
• Lower level
• Plant will need support for branches — this Support Cage works great!
|OUTDOOR LIGHT |
Make sure eggplant gets
at least 6-hours of
unobstructed sun per day—
the more sun the better.
If growing indoors,
lights need to support
|INDOOR LIGHT CONDITIONS: |
If growing indoors, lights need to support flowering plants. The most important wave
lengths in the red spectrum are from 640 to 680 nm. These red wave lengths encourage stem growth, flowering and fruit production, and chlorophyll production.
|POLLINATING FLOWERS |
FOR GREATER FRUIT-SET:
This plant is Self-pollinated (autogamous). For greater fruit production or if growing
indoors, you will want to hand-pollinate each flower. To do so, gently pollinate each bud center pistil with pollen and stamen area using a soft dry paintbrush to the center of each open flower.
Harvest when eggplant are about 8″ long and 1½” in diameter.
White with medium texture. Great for stir fries and to use as a meat substitute for vegetarian diets.
|SEED HARVESTING / SAVING:|
If eggplant skin turns a pale yellow, it has gone too far for eating purposes as it may be bitter. You can collect seed from it at this stage.
|ISOLATION DISTANCE: 300–1,600 feet |
EXPECTED SEED LIFE:
Hydroponic / Aeroponic Planting Instructions:
Start eggplant seeds indoors up to 10 weeks before the first frost date. Plant the seeds 1⁄4 inch deep in rock wool and cover lightly with vermiculite. Be sure to label your seeds appropriately to aid you in growing your plant. These are the labels we use and this (see picture below) is how we label our seedlings noting the plant kind, variety, start date, harvest date, pH, and ideal PPM range:
This type of labeling on seedling starts helps us when we are out in the garden and need a quick reference on how old the plant is (ie: when the plant was started) and when we should be expecting to see a harvest. This is an especially good practice to get into doing if you have more than one Tower Garden or growing system. You will be surprised at how much you’ll forget as the season progresses!
Tip: Optional, but helpful…Pre-soak your seeds in aloe vera gel (from an actual aloe vera leaf) overnight. The next morning, gently rinse coated seeds in a fine-mesh colander and place between a wetted paper towel in a Tupperware/Rubbermaid-type of container that has a lid closure. Keep seeds at around 75ºF and watch for a root to break through the seed coat within 7 -14 days. Once you see a root emerge, gently transfer the germinated seed into a wet rock wool cube hole (about a 1/4″ deep) and gently cover with a few pieces of fine vermiculite to maintain moisture and allow the germinated seed to continue to grow into the wetted rock wool.
— Erin Castillo, Gardening Coach
Water seeds after planting in rock wool and place under an artificial light source such as a grow light indoors (do not rely on sunlight through a window as glass window panes are rated to limit beneficial solar rays and in order to protect your home’s interior and will make your seedlings “leggy” —elongated, stretched out and weak).
Provide a light air flow using a fan set to “low” to support proper germination conditions. Keep rock wool moist to the touch, but do not allow rock wool to sit in water. As seedlings grow one inch high, lightly brush the tops with your hand to strengthen.
Keep in your indoor nursery until seedlings are about 2-3″ tall. Transplant the seedlings into your hydroponic growing system when water temperatures are 60ºF degrees and temps are above 65ºF at night. Start with a seedling PPM range on nutrients and increase to maximum adult PPM as plant grows into a mature plant. When you see buds form, be sure to hit optimal PPM levels.
Place the Eggplant in the bottom portion of the Tower Garden and be sure to offer it something to lean on such as a Tower Garden Support Cage.
How to grow hydroponically / Aeroponically:
Though Eggplants are fairly simple to grow, they are heavy feeders. We keep our Eggplant pH around 6.0 and PPM around 2000. Check water levels during the summer every 2 days and be sure to add nutrients when you top off with water. Eggplants are heavy feeders and slurp up the water and nutritions like tomatoes. Remember to check the pH of your water with a pH meter an hour after adding nutrients and adjust as needed. Calibrate your pH meter twice a month (every two weeks) and keep tip of pH sensor moist at all times.
The stems of eggplants grow out about 3′-4′ and leaves can be larger than the size of your hand, so we recommend offering some kind of support (if growing in a Tower Garden, something like this).
When you begin to see buds/flowers, we encourage hand pollinating each flower for fruit set to occur. The picture above shows how the eggplant forms (at various stages) after pollination. The fruit will range in size. Know that earlier fruiting will be longer (10-12″) and later fruit set may be shorter as the plant ages. If you harvest the fruit while still small, you can eat fresh without cooking. We find however, that the mature fruit is excellent cooked along with meat or as a meat substitute. The texture of this is fantastic and kid-approved in our home.
How to Harvest your Hydroponically-grown Eggplant
Eggplant is typically ready 70 days from the time you started your seed. Remember, harvesting eggplant frequently encourages more growth. The fruit bruises easily, so be gentle while harvesting. Use pruners cleaned with rubbing alcohol or a sharp clean knife to cut the fruit from the plant, but be sure to keep a short piece of stem on the fruit until you are ready to cook.
How to Enjoy:
As many of you know, we have 5 children ages 8-19, so we have quite the range of taste-buds to satisfy. I really like the texture of this eggplant because I can cut it up to be the same size of of my chicken and mix it in and it stretches my meat (which means less money spent on meat) and it when I cook my meat, I toss in the eggplant at the end of the browning process to take on the flavors and brown up before adding it into a stir fry with quinoa or rice OR I’ve even put this mix into spaghetti (yum!)
Why Eat Eggplant?
Eggplants are a nutrient-dense food, meaning they contain a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber in few calories. One cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant contains the following nutrients (1). Keep in mind that cooking method will alter the following:
- Calories: 20
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
- Folate: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 3% of the RDI
Eggplants also contain trace amounts of niacin, magnesium and copper as well as are high in antioxidants. In particular, an anthocyanin in eggplants called nasunin is especially beneficial. Nasunin in particular works to eliminate the build-up of plaque in blood vessels thereby keeping your heart and the cardiovascular system healthy. In fact, multiple test-tube studies have confirmed that it’s effective at protecting cells against damage from harmful free radicals (2, 3).
To Sum Up: Eggplant provides a good amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals in few calories.
Seed Source Matters
Remember, growing seeds that come from a parent plant grown in similar conditions will make for a stronger and more nutritious-dense plant. Seeds that come from eggplant grown in soil will most certainly grow in a hydroponic system, but if you see wilting or any struggling of the plant to thrive, it could be because it has not yet adapted from soil to hydroponics / aeroponics conditions or it’s parent plant was grown in conditions very different from your growing zone. Whenever you are able, we recommend that you always aim to select and grow seeds that come from a hydroponically-grown eggplant and grown as close to your growing zone as possible for maximum nutrition and successful growing of these plants. Is that info not available? Use a different seed supplier. Here at Grow Your Health Gardening, we grow our own seed stock for this very reason. Strong plants = healthy plants = healthy you.