I absolutely love growing aubergines. Incredibly versatile for so many different recipes, I love all of the different colours and shapes, how some are seriously spiky and of course the delicious taste. In the UK, aubergines, chillies and sweet peppers take a very long time to grow from seed to fruiting and require a lot of nurturing until the danger of frost has passed. It can be a bit of a palaver to be honest, but one that for me feels worth it. To me it feels amazing that I can go outside in the summer and autumn and harvest such beautiful, exotic looking freshly grown veggies for my dinner: most of the varieties I grow are not available to buy in the shops, so that is special too.

Never grown aubergines before, why not give them a try? Now is a good time to sow them.

I love aubergines!

Yesterday (February 12th) started cold, bright and sunny, but soon clouded over and we had a mini blizzard for a few minutes of snow. I know this looks very pathetic but this is Somerset and we are grateful for anything that makes the ground sparkly, even for just a few hours. But according to both my moon calendars it was a ‘fruit moon’ day*, great for sowing chillies, aubergines and peppers.

Outside, it is too cold to sow anything much except broadbeans.

(*as I have explained in previous posts, I use the moon sowing guides for pleasure and to help plan my sowing schedule, it’s fun but not compulsory!)

I have 19 different kinds of aubergine seed! One of the new ones for for me this year is Mr Fothergill’s Aubergine Pot Black, an F1 hybrid that has been bred to grow outside in the uk in pots. The other 18 varieties are mostly open pollinated with a few F1s. Every year I also buy 2 or 3 grafted Black Pearl aubergines, so there’ll be 20 kinds in my garden this year.

This is quite possibly a little mad! Fortunately the polytunnel is 40ft long and I also have a greenhouse, as most of these require undercover growing in the UK.

I also have 6 kinds of chilli and 3 kinds of sweet pepper, although for me Padron is really a kind of hot sweet pepper. It turns out that one of those packets photographed below (the silver one with a yellow label) was actually empty.

Top tip: don’t put empty seed packets back in your seed stash!

As I’ve explained in earlier posts, chilli peppers are simple to keep as perennials. In early winter, I prune them hard and keep on windowsills in the house to overwinter. The odd one dies off, but most survive. Here, an Early Jalapeño is starting to shoot. I’ll do the same with the new chillies this year.

The sun was shining, so I thought I would wrap up warm and make the most of the sunshine and do my sowing on my bench under the old apple tree. It was lovely – my robin came by to sing next to me and elsewhere, the garden birds were sounding especially tuneful.

First of all, I wrote out all of the labels. On each one I make a note of where they are from (S of I = Seeds of Italy, NN = Nicky’s Nursery, RSC = Real Seed Company, etc).

I still have a lot of plastic labels as well as the wooden ones, so it would be pointless not using them. These are some I picked up cheaply in Sainsburys last year, in their bargain bin, I think they were 10 or 15p a packet. The quality isn’t that great – they are sturdy enough but my pen showed up grey rather than black, which makes me unsure whether they will fade quickly.

Next, I filled two plastic seed trays with compost (this is West Riding multipurpose).

Using my hands, I firm the compost and make it flat.

Next, the trays are watered. I put them on top of a crate so they drain easily.

Then, I got a pot of old labels from the greenhouse …

and used some to make a divider down the middle of the tray. Using my finger, I made little indentations in the tray.

This is where I sow the seeds. It helps to keep them together and makes it easier to identify when I am pricking out. This way, I can fit 28 different varieties into two seed trays: saves on compost, space and electricity. There are a lot of seeds here, I won’t be pricking out all of them. I over sow at this stage because there’s a rather narrow window for sowing aubergines etc, they take while to germinate and require special treatment, so I want to have plenty of seedling choice. The excess will be composted: I would rather do that than not have enough seedlings to grow on.

(In the right hand seed tray you can see the empty furrow I made for the seed packet that contained no seeds, discovered that one a bit too late!)

After sprinkling on some compost to cover the seeds

they came into my workroom and onto the heated propagators. I probably should have cleaned the windowsill first….!

The propagators are kept well ventilated. Now I have to wait for the first seedlings to sprout! Meanwhile, I’ve made notes in my Garden Diary so I can remember what I have done and when.

What will happen next? When they have popped, the seedlings will be pricked out into module trays, which will go into my greenhouse on heat mats, with more propagating lids on top as extra protection. Later, I’ll choose the best of the modules (usually 3 or 4 of each variety), they’ll be potted on and remain in the greenhouse until they can be planted in the polytunnel or into large pots for the garden (depending of variety).

Many of these seeds were left from last year’s sowings. 

Chilli varieties I am growing from seed in 2018

 

 

  • Palivec Long Red                                        The Real Seed Catalogue
  • Pretty in Purple Rainbow
  • Lemon Drop
  • Padron                                                          Seeds of Italy
  • Mayan Love Pepper                                    Open Pollinated seed from South Africa
  • Hot Cayennetta                                           Mr Fothergills

 

Sweet pepper varieties I am growing from seed in 2018

 

  • Friggitello                                                      Seeds of Italy
  • Quadrato D’Asti Rosse
  • Goccia D’Oro

 

 

Aubergine varieties I am growing from seed in 2018

 

  • Aubergine Pot Black F1                               Mr Fothergills
  • Pianta delle Uova                                          Seeds of Italy
  • Tonda Bianca Sfumata di Rosa
  • Violetta Lunga 2
  • Mini Round Eggplant                                   Thai seed company
  • Long Purple                                                   Kings Seeds 
  • Slim Jim                                                          Chiltern Seeds
  • Czech Early                                                    The Real Seed Company
  • Ping Tung                                                       Nicky’s Nursery
  • Striped Toga
  • Thai Long Green
  • Gretel F1
  • Hansel F1
  • Kermit F1
  • Thai Light Round Green
  • Goyo Kumba
  • Thai Yellow Egg
  • Thai Long Purple
  • Jackpot F1

 

 

11 comments

  1. Thanks for this very clear description of your process! I still feel a little bit apprehensive to grow aubergines. Because if there’s a tiny window for you in the south, it’ll be even more difficult for an inexperienced gardener in the north east! But I agree with you they’re absolutely delicious! Probably my favourite vegetable. Maybe next year, I’ll feel braver.

    1. I grow so many because I like to use them in different recipes, so there is not one that is ‘the bes’t as it depends what I am hoping to do with them. The long thin green and violet ones for example are extremely productive and fantastic in curries; the Thai small green are bitter tasting but absolutely what one needs for certain Thai recipes.

      The most productive aubergines are certainly the Black Pearl we buy on grafted root stock from http://www.organicplants.co.uk, that I mention in the blog. They produce a lot of huge, delicious, meaty aubergines, the kinds one sees everywhere in shops, over a very long time for the UK.

      As I mention in the blog, I grow all of the aubergines under cover. Some spare plants I also grow outside, they are much less productive than their undercover friends.

      This year I am trialling an outdoors aubergine, but of course have no idea what it’s like yet.

  2. Hello, have vou heard from Aubergine ‘Frühviolette’? I read that some gardeners here in Germany grow them with big success outside. I have no green house. You are such a great gardener 🙂

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