How to grow amazing aubergines

Aubergines, like tomatoes are members of the potato family (Solanum). To ensure a good crop, aubergines must be sown early (February to March) and kept in a warm, sheltered spot. Although they can be grown outside in milder areas of the country, the best results come from growing plants on a windowsill indoors or in a greenhouse.

Step 1

Fill pots with seed compost and lightly firm the surface. Spacing them evenly, place up to seven seeds on the surface of the compost and cover the seeds with a fine layer of vermiculite. Place pots in a propagator, they should be kept in a temperature of around 21°. Water sparingly, but keep the compost moist.

Seeds should germinate after 2-3 weeks. Keep plants warm and avoid letting the compost dry out. Once the seed leaves have fully expanded, prick out individual seedlings into 7cm diameter pots. To avoid crushing the stem, handle the seeds by the leaf only. Feed with a general liquid feed - such as seaweed - once a week.

Step 2

Once the roots emerge from the bottom of the pot, transplant the aubergine into a slightly larger 9cm or 10cm diameter pot. Repeating this process until the plant is in a 30cm pot, using multi-purpose compost.

Step 3

To encourage branching once the plant is 30-40cm tall, remove the main tip. Tie stems to canes. Encourage flowering by feeding weekly with a high potash tomato fertiliser.

Step 4

To encourage the fruit to set tap the flowers to release the pollen or spray lightly with tepid water. If plants are growing indoors, open windows to encourage bumblebees to pollinate the flowers.

Step 5

Ensure you pick fruits when they are still shiny as dull fruits suggest that the seeds have started to develop and the fruit may be past its best.

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