Thanks for taking the time to read our article on how to grow aubergines for beginners in the UK. For many years these were not a popular choice for a vegetable in the UK.
Thanks to the many cooking shows on TV, and the easier opportunity to travel, many people have now started to enjoy the taste of the aubergine plant. It is known better in Europe as the "eggplant."
If you want to grow this outdoors, then it will be a bit of a gamble. It is much easier to grow successfully in a greenhouse. In the South of the UK there is a much better chance of the aubergine growing than in the colder Northern areas.
These are prickly shrub plants, that do have very pretty flowers and the plant does bear the aubergine, which are sometimes round in shape, but are more likely to be an oval shape.
As well as requiring a lot of sunshine, they also need protection from the wind, regular watering and regular feeding. They can be quite intensive to look after and that explains why very few gardeners grow these outdoors.
Varieties for beginners to grow
There are a lots of variations on this vegetable but we have included the main varieties below:
- Long Purple - This remains the most popular and a firm favourite with most UK gardeners.
- Black Prince - This is a hybrid aubergine that crops earlier than most and does deliver a high yield.
- Easter Egg - This one is about the size of a hen's egg so quite small and does not have as much taste as the purple varieties.
- Black Enorma - This is the largest aubergine of the all if you like to grow big vegetables
The aubergine vegetable is grown from seed, and germination of these seeds takes about 2-3 weeks. They need to be grown in a sunny sheltered spot, and ideally under some type of glass to get the very best results.
Germination time of seeds
14 - 21 days
Life expectancy of seed
Yield per Plant
4 - 5 lbs of aubergines
Time between sowing and picking
Ease of Growing
Difficult - especially of grown outdoors and they need protection and regular looking after
- Seed Sowing Time (Outdoors) - Late March
- Seed Sowing Time (Greenhouse) - Mid February to March
- Planting Time (Greenhouse) - late April to May
- Picking Time - Late July to mid October
Best Soil & Planting Tips
Good drainage is vitally important. Aubergines also need fertile soil in a sunny and sheltered location. Before planting you should add a good quality general purpose fertilizer. (low nitrogen)
If you have a greenhouse then you should plant the seeds in 9" peat pots filled with compost or in grow bags (3 seeds to a bag) Raise these seedlings under glass at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius).
Remove any weak shoots and only plant outdoors once they have been hardened and there is zero risk of frost.
If growing outdoors then cover the soil with cloches 2-3 weeks before planting.
Maintaining the Plant
Once the plant gets to about 12" high you should remove the growing point and also this is the best time to stake the stems to help support the plants.
The plants should be water misted regularly to help reduce the risk of red spiders.
Once 5 fruits have formed then remove any remaining flowers and any lateral shoots.
They also need to be watered regularly, but don't drench them with water. You can also use tomato feed as and when you are watering these, as it helps the fruit growth.
Aubergine Pests and Problems
Red Spider Mites
Red spiders will attack these plants and you can notice that as they create a pale mottling on the tops of the leaves. The spider mites are usually hiding on the back of the leaves and they are quite small.
Spray any affected plants with liquid Derris.
Greenfly will always be about a garden and they also attack the aubergine plants. Spray with something like Crop Saver to get rid of them.
Whitefly are a well known greenhouse problem and can also be really hard to control. Spray with something like Crop Saver to get rid of them. You may need to repeat this several times as these whitefly can be hard to get rid of.
Harvesting & Use
This is a popular ingredient in to European dishes:
- Moussaka - A Greek mince lamb stew
- Ratatouille - A French Vegetable stew
They can also be served as a stuffed aubergine and then they are usually stuffed with mince beef. However the simplest method is to cut them into thin slices, season them, dip them in flour and fry off in the pan.
Hopefully we have given you enough information to be able to grow aubergines in the UK. As a beginner we would recommend avoiding these unless you live in the sunny South.