growing eggplant in your garden 1

Growing Eggplant in Your Garden

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is closely related to potatoes and tomatoes. It is most commonly recognized as a large blackish-...

Pesto Dinner Rolls

Pesto Dinner Rolls

Basil is one of my very favorite things to grow. It's easy, add a burst of flavor to your foods, and let's not forget pesto! We make a lot of pest...

tips for starting seeds indoors

5 Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors

When it comes to plants, they all have the same basic needs: sun, food and water. When starting seeds indoors you have to create an optimum enviro...

GrowVeg Garden Planner

GrowVeg.Com Garden Planner

This post contains affiliate links, for more information see my disclosure page. The last frost date will be here before you know it. Here in Wes...

Recipes

Pesto Dinner Rolls

Pesto Dinner Rolls

Basil is one of my very favorite things to grow. It's easy, add a burst of flavor to your foods, and let's not forget pesto! We make a l...

Homesteading

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Hatching Chicks: Incubator vs. Broody Hen

The main reason most people raise chickens is for the steady supply of fresh eggs. But at some p...

Gardening

growing eggplant in your garden 1

Growing Eggplant in Your Garden

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is closely related to potatoes and tomatoes. It is most commonly recognized as a large...

Growing Eggplant in Your Garden

growing eggplant in your garden 1

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is closely related to potatoes and tomatoes. It is most commonly recognized as a large blackish-purple vegetable known for it’s use in dishes such as Eggplant Parmigiana, but a short browse through any seed catalog will reveal eggplant in all shapes, sizes and colors. And while it is a beautiful and versatile vegetable, it is also quite a temperamental plant to grow.

Getting a Head Start Growing Eggplant

To get a head start on your eggplant it is best to start them from seed about 6-9 weeks before your last frost date. They are a warm weather crop and require a soil temperature of about 80 degrees F to germinate properly. The use of a heating pad, or keeping them in the warmest room of your home, will greatly increase your germination rates. Plant your seeds about 1/4 in. deep in your choice of seed starting  medium. It should take between 1 and 2 weeks for germination to occur. You may notice that your seedlings are growing much slower than their relative, tomatoes, and that is because eggplant prefer warmer growing conditions. As it gets closer to spring  you should notice their growth rate increase.

Once your seedlings reach about 3 inches tall, transplant them into larger containers. You will not want to transplant them into the garden until the weather has warmed and the daytime temperatures are in the 70s.

Planting Your Eggplant

growing eggplantWhether you buy your plants from a nursery or start your own, you do not want to plant out your eggplant until the soil and air temperatures have sufficiently warmed. Raised beds and plastic mulch can be used to help warm the soil a little earlier in the season. Here are some tips on getting your eggplant off to a good start:

  • Choose your location wisely. Eggplant need full sun and well-drained soil
  • Give them room to grow by placing at least 2-3 ft between each plant
  • Eggplant does not like standing water, but do need to be watered deeply weekly
  • Add mulch will help keep the soil cool and conserve water

Problems Growing Eggplant

Flea Beetles are by far the worst pest for eggplant. They can destroy and kill a small plant in a matter of days if you aren’t careful. Starting with larger, healthy plants can go a long way on combating these bugs, but even then they may still struggle. I keep a good dusting of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth on all of my eggplant for the first few weeks- reapplying after rain or watering. This is very effective in killing the flea beetles until your eggplant has grown large enough and strong enough to fend for itself.

Other problems pests are the Colorado Potato Beetle and the Tomato Hornworm, both of which can be effectively hand-picked with out much trouble. Companion planting with beans and calendula can also help with these pests.

Eggplant is also susceptible to verticillium wilt. Using proper clean gardening techniques and crop rotation can help in prevention. Eggplant can also do well in a large container- such as a 5-gallon bucket, if wilt is particularly bad in your garden.

ping tung eggplant

Harvesting and Using Your Eggplant

If you’ve never grown eggplant before, you may be wondering how to tell if your eggplant is ready for harvest. Eggplant should be picked when it is still on the small size, when the skin takes on a high shine. Like zucchini, you want to pick eggplant when they are immature. This lends to a better flavor and smoother flesh. Picking often will also encourage more growth and a more abundant harvest for you. When you cut open an eggplant, it should have a soft inside with very small, soft seeds. If the inside is on the tougher side or the seeds have begun to harden, your eggplant is past it’s prime and will most likely have a more bitter taste.  Eggplant will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, but always try to use or preserve it right away.

 

 

More about Using and Preserving Your Eggplant:

Varieties of Eggplant to Try

Ping Tung: This is a long, thin eggplant that comes out of Taiwan. The plants are extremely prolific and the fruits are tender, mild and sweet. This is my favorite to grow!

Purple Long: Coming from Italy, this eggplant has a more delicate flavor. It’s flesh is tender without a lot of seeds.

Rosita: These eggplant are a lovely bright purple color. The flesh is white and mild and the skin is very tender.

Black Beauty:  This is your standard black, egg shaped eggplant. It requires a little longer of a season than some and isn’t as productive, but it is a good standby in your garden.

 

Pesto Dinner Rolls

Pesto Dinner Rolls

Basil is one of my very favorite things to grow. It’s easy, add a burst of flavor to your foods, and let’s not forget pesto! We make a lot of pesto during the summers to keep in the freezer for using all through the year. And one of my very favorite things to add pesto to is these Pesto Dinner Rolls! The recipe calls for about 1/2 a cup of pesto, but I have been known to pack quite a bit more into these rolls!

Pesto Dinner Rolls

To make these pesto dinner rolls you will need:

1 cup milk- whole, raw goat milk is what I use!
1 egg
1/2 cup butter
1-2 T honey
1/2 tsp salt
4-5 cups flour (I use half all purpose and half whole white wheat)
2 1/4 tsp yeast (or 1 package of yeast)
1/2 cup pesto
up to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Warm milk, butter and honey until the butter melts. Place the egg in your mixing bowl and whisk slightly. Add the milk mixture. Add 4 cups of flour, salt and the yeast. Using the dough hook knead the dough until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour if needed. Place dough in a greased bowl covered with a towel and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour).

pesto dinner rolls 1
Turn dough out and pat into a large rectangle. Spread the pesto all over the surface and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Starting with the long side roll the dough and pinch closed the seam. Cut 1-1.5 inch slices and place in muffin tins, cut side up. You can also place the rolls, cut side up, side by side on a baking tray.

Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 F and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops with butter if desired.

pesto dinner rolls 2

These rolls make a wonderful addition to most meals and are a great way to get in some extra pesto goodness! Let me know if you try them! Here’s a printable recipe:

5.0 from 1 reviews

Pesto Dinner Rolls
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1-2 T honey
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4-5 cups flour ( I use half all purpose and half whole white wheat)
  • 2.25 tsp yeast
  • ½ cup pesto
  • up to ½ cup Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Warm milk, butter and honey until the butter melts. Place the egg in your mixing bowl and whisk slightly. Add the milk mixture. Add 4 cups of flour, salt and the yeast. Using the dough hook knead the dough until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour if needed. Place dough in a greased bowl covered with a towel and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour).
  2. Turn dough out and pat into a large rectangle. Spread the pesto all over the surface and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Starting with the long side roll the dough and pinch closed the seam. Cut 1-1.5 inch slices and place in muffin tins, cut side up. You can also place the rolls, cut side up, side by side on a baking tray.
  3. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 F and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops with butter if desired.

 

5 Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors

tips for starting seeds indoors

When it comes to plants, they all have the same basic needs: sun, food and water. When starting seeds indoors you have to create an optimum environment that provides all of these basic needs, and then some, to help make your seeds germinate into strong and healthy seedlings for your garden.

Temperature

Though plants have different temperature needs, most seeds require an average soil temperature of about 75 degrees F to germinate. This means if you are starting your seeds in an unheated greenhouse, cold basement or other area that is not at a controlled temperature you will need to provide supplemental heat to ensure proper germination. There are some exceptions to this rule- seeds that require lower or warmer temperatures- so it is best to check out your seed packet for any important soil temperature info.

starting seeds- planting depth

Once your seeds have germinated they will also need the correct temperatures to grow correctly. Cool weather crops, such as those in the brassica family,  prefer cooler growing temps and will not grow as well in a sweltering hot house. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant on the other hand will grow much more quickly once the air temperatures are warm. Still 65-70 degrees is still a nice temperature to keep your seedlings at to ensure that they don’t grow too fast and get long and leggy.

Planting Depth

When I talked about the common seed starting problems, I mentioned that poor germination was often a result of incorrect planting depth. This is because if you plant the seed too deeply it will run out of energy before it reaches sunlight to make more. If you plant the seed to shallow, you run the risk of letting the seed dry out- and it will die before germinating. Some seeds, such as lettuce,  actually require light to germinate,  so you will need to simply press the seeds into your soil as opposed to covering them- the back of your seed packet will usually inform you if this is the case. A good rule of thumb is to plant the seed no deeper than it’s diameter.

starting seeds- consistent waterConsistent Water

Water is one of the most important part of starting seeds. Too much leads to disease, mold or fungus and too little will lead to….dead plants. When starting your seeds it is best us a spray bottle to lightly mist the soil to keep it evenly moist. You will have to water more often to prevent drying out, but you will lessen the risk of disease or rotting seeds. Keep in mind that starting your garden from seed is more time consuming- if you use small seed trays or peat pellets- you may have to spray your trays a couple of times a day to keep the soil moist. Once your seeds have germinated, you can begin to water more deeply, allowing the soil to dry in between waterings. You can even allow your seedlings to wilt just slightly before watering to help them toughen up and strengthen their roots.

Soil

Your seed starting soil is what gives your seeds the best start possible. Many people agree that a soilless mix is the best way to go.  You can buy peat pellets, a premixed seed starting mix, or mix your own. Usually this mix would be equal parts of vermiculite,  perlite, peat moss. I, however, usually mix mine with (approximately) 1/3 organic potting soil and 2/3 peat moss and have no problems. If you do some looking you will find that most people have their own versions of seed starting mediums- from soil straight from the garden to a mix of many ingredients. To get an idea of others’ mixes you can check out Better Hens and Gardens Mix or The Mind to Homestead’s simple mix. You can also check out this thread on my Facebook page where lots of others shared their seed starting mixes! Personally, I think if the seeds I plant straight outside in the garden can germinate in a rich, compost-filled, non-sterile medium- than my indoor seeds can too.

Light

starting seeds indoorsMost seeds do not require direct light to germinate, but once they sprout they will need about 14-16 hours of light per day. You can place your seed trays in a south-facing window, under artificial grow lights, or in a green/hoop house- provided they are at the right temperature. If you are using artificial lights make sure that their height is adjustable so that they can be moved up as the seedlings grow. You will want to place the lights as close to the plants without touching. If you are growing on a windowsill you may still need to provide some artificial light- especially if you are starting your seeds in the winter when the days are shorter. Don’t forget to turn your trays often so that all the plants have an equal chance at the light to prevent legginess!

Providing for these 5 basic needs, you should be well on your way to strong and healthy seedlings. Do you have any tips do you have for those new to starting seeds? If you are just starting out, what questions do you have about the process? Share them in the comments!