Eggplants are warm loving plants. Sow seeds indoors around 4/1 into good seed starting mix (we recommend Vermont Compost’s Fort Light). Ideal temperature for germination is 80-90° (use heating mat). Days to germination: 10-14. Once leaves appear, grow plants at 72°. Be sure seedlings have adequate light (a windowsill will not do for eggplants) and keep plants from becoming pot-bound because this will permanently stunt plants. If seedlings are getting too big for their pot but the weather is still too cold outside, transplant them into bigger pots. Plant seedlings outside late May into fertile garden soil with lots of compost or decomposed manure. If your soil pH is greater than 7 (which is typical of clay soils in Southeast Michigan) add sulfur to acidify soil. Space plants 1 ½ - 2 ft. apart. If plants begin to flower when plants are less than 1 ft. tall, hand remove early flowers for 2 weeks until plants are bigger. Stake plants if they begin to fall over.
Clip individual eggplants when full size but before they become hard when squeezed. Over-ripe eggplants will turn bitter.
Eggplant is a bit difficult to save seed from in zone 5b because they need extended heat to ripen their seeds fully. Eggplants are primarily self-pollinating but insects will cause significant cross pollination. To keep variety pure, isolate by ½ mile or cover plants with low tunnels (using thin row cover fabric) to exclude pollinators. Always save seeds from the best plants. Allow eggplants to turn yellow/orange/tan and become hard – leave them on the plants until just before frost.