Q How do I sow aubergines?
A Sow the seeds in March, placing one seed 6mm deep into 9cm pots of Best Buy compost for seeds. Keep them moist and at a constant temperature of 20°C. Seedlings should germinate within 8-21 days.
Prick the seedling out when proper leaves appear. As the seedlings get larger, gradually reduce the temperature to 14°C minimum at night and pot them on into larger pots (2L).
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Caption: Sow aubergine seeds in March
Q How should I care for aubergines?
A Plant each young plant into its final pot before the roots outgrow their container. Use a 6L pot filled with a Best Buy compost for container plants.
Keep plants under cover in a greenhouse or polytunnel for the best results.
Pinch off the lead shoot when it reaches 30cm and pinch the side-shoot tips off when the flowers on each one begin to set fruit.
Stake and tie-in the plants as necessary. Remove the first flower that forms to encourage further flowers.
Keep the compost moist, especially during warm periods. Feed fortnightly with a liquid fertiliser, such as tomato feed, after the first flowers form.
Caption: Pot up aubergines in a large pot
Q How do I encourage fruit on aubergines?
A Although aubergines are self-pollinating, you may need to intervene to boost the pollination of your plants when they’re kept inside. You can do this by tapping the plant’s supporting cane gently to release pollen in the flowers, by using a small, soft paintbrush to transfer pollen around and between flowers, or by increasing disturbance from breezes and pollinating insects by opening the
You could also move your aubergines to a warm sunny position outside. Aubergines are very sensitive to frost, though, so if fruits are still developing in September, move outdoor plants back under cover at night.
Pick fruits regularly while they are still firm and shiny.
Caption: Pick aubergines while they're firm and shiny
Q Which pests and diseases can affect aubergines?
A Aubergines are a magnet for greenhouse pests, particularly red spider mite. To avoid this, maintain a humid atmosphere in your greenhouse by damping the floor regularly.
Inspect the undersides of the leaves for the characteristic flecking left by red spider mite and look for pale, mottled leaves and fine webbing. If they do appear, use a biological control agent, such as phytoseiulus or amblyseius. These predatory mites will feed on the pest and deal with the problem for you.
Aubergines also suffer from blossom end rot, which causes large circular blotches at the bottom of the fruit. Water them regularly through the hottest period to prevent this from happening.
Caption: Use biological control to beat red spider mite