Most of the time eggplants need to have some type of support for two reasons. One, eggplant can get quite big and droop over if not supported. Two, the eggplant fruit can get very large and heavy (some varieties can weigh over a pound), causing the plant to droop, or even break, if not properly supported.
Supporting your eggplants in the vegetable garden is a must, even if it is for some added insurance. It will never hurt to go ahead and stake the plant up just it case. It is better to support it now instead of waiting until after the damage is done.
If you are like me, you forgot all about staking the eggplants up until they were already well established and beginning to show fruit. It is best to put the stakes in place when you are planting (if using transplant), or soon after the seedlings begin to form their true leaves (if growing from seed). Staking them up at this time will help prevent damaging any roots once the plant has become well established.
Here is how you should stake the eggplants up after they have become well established:
- Here is one of my 'Black Beauty' variety eggplants that needs to be staked up. This plant is about two feet tall right now and has two small (but growing) eggplants on it. I better stake this eggplant up before those little guys get any bigger. A heavy eggplant on an unsupported plant could be catastrophic.
- I use stakes that I purchased from Lowe's that are a metal rod, coated with plastic. These stakes are a bit more expensive (they cost about $3 a piece) than conventional wooden stakes, but they support well and will last several seasons. They feature little notches all the way down the stake to give the tying twine something to hold on to, and a pointed end to make driving into the soil easier. The ones I am using on the eggplants measure 3/8-inch in diameter and 6 feet long.
- Now here comes the tough part – pushing the stake into the soil without damaging the well-growing eggplant. Get the stake as close to the main branch of the plant as you can, but not too close. Usually about an inch to an inch and a half should be just fine. Slowly and gently begin to push the stake into the soil. Make sure to watch the plant as you push, if the plant begins to lean towards the stake, or wiggles some when pushing on the stake, then STOP! You might be hitting a vital root. Try to re-position the stake somewhere else near the plant. Possibly try the opposite side.
- Push the stake as far down as you can. You want to get the stake as far down as possible, but still leave enough of the stake above ground for future growth of the plant. If you use a 6 foot stake, try to get 2 feet of the stake into the soil, leaving 4 foot above ground. This should leave plenty of room for further growth of the plant. A good way to know how far you have gotten the stake in the soil, mark a spot at the desired depth on the stake with a magic marker or Sharpie. If you happen to hit a tough spot and the stake will not go any further, try lightly tapping the top of the stake with a rubber mallett.
- Now that you have the stake fully inserted, it is time to tie the plant to the stake. You can use garden twine, old shoe laces, or the rubber ties found at most garden centers. The absolute best thing to tie back any plant with is strips of old panty hose. The panty hose will not damage the stems and is elastic so it will move as the plant goes. In this demonstration, I am using garden twine.
- Make sure you tie the plant back below any stems or branches. This will prevent the garden twine from getting in the way as the plant continues to grow. Do not tie the plant too tight to the stake. Just tie it tight enough so that it supports the plant, but leave some slack. Continue to tie the plant as it gets taller – checking it at least once every couple of days.
By continuing to properly support your eggplants, you will have big, beautiful eggplants without the worry of them falling over or getting damaged. Please check out the growing eggplant page for more information on growing these tasty vegetables.