How to Grow Brinjal in Containers

Eggplants galore
Eggplants galore

Fire roasted brinjal (or eggplant or aubergine) smashed with chopped onions, chilies and a little mustard oil is a dish that is smoky, sweet, gooey, meaty, hot and above all irresistible. It is an absolute favorite here in my part of the world. In fact eggplant is one of the most used vegetables in Odia cooking. Its goodness can really be enjoyed to the fullest if it is organically grown and is of indigenous variety. Brinjal being a perennial vegetable in tropical weather, it can be planted any time and it can be enjoyed throughout the year. In this post I’ll guide you on how to grow Brinjal in containers organically in your terrace garden.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Brinjal in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 30 °C
Germination Temperature 25-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 6-12 days
Soil pH 6 to 7
Sunlight Need 6-8 hours per day (Sun loving Plant)
Preferred Planting Method Transplanting
Container size 15-20 liter
Time to Harvest 60-80 days from germination
Harvest Period  8-12 months
Pollination Self pollinating.
Typical Pests mealy bugs, aphids, fruit borers
Best season to plant in India June – November

Starting Eggplant Seeds and Transplanting in pots

Seed starting in paper cups
Seed starting in paper cups

To grow brinjal in containers you can sow the seeds directly. But its better to start brinjal seeds in a seed tray as the seedlings take good amount of time to grow. During this time it is susceptible to forces of nature. If you do not have a seed tray you can use used paper cups. Fill up the seed tray loosely with seed tray mix (see potting mix post for details) and give a tap so that it settles down nicely in the tray. Drop 3-4 eggplant seeds in each cup of the tray. Cover the seeds with more seed tray mix so that the seeds are just covered with 2-3 mm of the mix. Water the tray very lightly so that the soil mix is not disturbed. Now cover the tray with a polythene sheet and keep the tray in a warm place. Make sure that there is about 1-2 inch gap between the soil and the polythene sheet. The plastic sheet helps in retaining moisture. But you can skip this step if you want to. But you need to make sure that the soil is moist all the time. In about 6-7 days time seedlings will emerge in the tray. As soon as the first seedling emerges remove the plastic sheet and transfer the tray to a place where the seedlings can get at least 4-6 hours of sunlight.

You need to water the seedlings as needed. Make sure they are protected from direct rain and harsh sunlight. Young brinjal seedlings are susceptible to root rot. To reduce probability of root rot you may water the seedlings with Amrut Jal once in a week. in about thirty to forty days time when 4-6 true leaves have emerged the sapling is ready to be transplanted.

watering the eggplant seedlings with a spray
watering the eggplant seedlings with a spray

To transplant carefully take out the sapling from seed tray and bury the ball of the sapling it in the center of your pot. Water the pot properly and place it in a sunny area. After about 7-10 days when the saplings have adjusted to the new soil it is time to remove the weaker saplings. Retain only one plant and cut off rest of the saplings using a garden scissor. To grow brinjal in containers successfully you need to limit the number of plants to 1 for 15-30 liter container. If you have much bigger containers you can plant more saplings. But keep at least 2 feet distance between each sapling.

Growing Brinjal in Containers

Brinjal grow in full sunlight and hence the soil can dry out very fast. So mulch you pot heavily to avoid evaporation. Keep the soil moist all the time and never let it dry out. in harsh summers a fully grown plant can get water stressed.

Happy brinjal seedlings
Happy brinjal seedlings

Just like Tomatoes suckers sprout in a brinjal plant too. Suckers are sprouts that develop between the main stalk and a leaf node. If left on the plant it affects the yield and overall health of the plant. So check for suckers and remove them using hand shears regularly. It is a good idea also to remove all leaves that become old and start touching the soil. You can also prune the leaves that point towards the stem of the plant. Such leaves block sunlight to other leaves and also prevent airflow.

Suckers in eggplant have been cut off
Suckers in eggplant have been cut off

Use Amrut Jal or any other organic liquid soil conditioner/fertilizer every 10-15 days. During flowering increase the frequency and use it once every 7 days. When you grow Brinjal in containers you need to make sure your plant gets enough nutrients at all times. Do not forget to add extra compost to your pot at regular intervals. Adding about 3-4 liters of compost for each plant every 40-50 days will keep the plant healthy. Always add compost below the mulch layer.

Flower of aubergine
Flower of aubergine

Aphids and Mealybugs are the major pests that you have to face when you grow brinjal in containers or on the ground. So check your plant regularly below the leaves. In case you find them remove them with water jet. You can also use a neem spray or any broad organic pesticide like diluted cow urine to get rid of aphids. For mealybugs take a cotton ball dipped in a methylated spirit to wipe them off.  During fruiting plant can get infested with borers especially if temperature is low. Spraying once a week with Panchagavya keeps borers away. It is a good idea to keep all your brinjal and tomato plants away from each other so that borers can not spread easily.

Harvesting Brinjal

Fruit borer on brinjal
Fruit borer on brinjal

Eggplant flowers are self pollinating and they are pollinated with the help of a little wind. You can also tap the flowers gently to help in pollination if there is no wind. The plant tends to fall over during fruiting due to the weight of the fruits. So staking is a must for brinjal plants. Stake your plants before or as soon as flowers start to bloom. Staking will also help protect your plants from heavy winds.

An eggplant has just formed
An eggplant has just formed

Eggplant is ready to be picked up in about 15-20 days from formation of fruit. Press the fruit slightly to check if it is mature. If it is soft to touch then it probably will grow a little more. If it is hard to touch it has already matured. You need to harvest your eggplant when it is no more soft to touch. To harvest do not pull it. It will not come off and will damage the plant. Use a pair of garden scissors to cut off brinjal from the plant.

Second life of Eggplant

When you grow brinjal in container, in about 5-7 months after the first harvest there may be a reduction in size of the fruit and the leaves. When this happens its a good idea to cut off your plant from top leaving only 3-4 main branches and about 8-10 leaves in the plant. The best time for this to be done is during monsoons. Never do this in harsh summers. In few days time new and bigger leaves start to emerge.In about a month’s time your plant will grow to its full glory again, and the brinjals that will fruit in the plants will be of bigger size. Thus you’ll be able to get tasty and nutritious eggplants round the year from the same plant.

 

Growing Long Beans in Containers

Yardlong  beans, asparagus beans, Chinese long beans are different names for what is commonly known as long beans. This is a tropical and subtropical climate vegetable which is a favorite vegetable in Asian countries. The bean pods generally grow around 12-20 inches and are tender, crisp with a beautiful texture. You can eat it stir fried,  pan fried, steamed and in curries. You can even eat it raw. But in raw form it tastes best when you grow it in your own Organic Terrace Garden. One of the very interesting aspect of this plant is that it grows quickly and fruits vigorously. You need to harvest on a daily basis as they fruit on a daily basis. The best part is that Growing Long Beans in Containers is super easy. It needs very basic care and is quite hardy in nature. In this post I am not only going to guide you on how to grow long beans in containers and pots, I am also going to give you some tips, which will make Growing Long Beans in Containers a fun activity for the entire family.

By the way in case you are new to Organic Terrace Gardening I recommend you to read about the things you should consider before starting your Organic Terrace Garden and a Beginner’s Guide to growing vegetables in containers.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Long Beans in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 25-35 °C
Germination Temperature 30 °C Ideal
 Germination Time  3-7 days
 Soil pH  6.0 to 7.0
 Sunlight Need  6-10 hours per day
 Planting Method  Direct Sowing
 Container size  upto 2 plants in 10 liter container
 Time to Harvest  40-45 days from germination day
 Harvest Period  30 days typically
 Pollination  Self Pollinating
 Typical Pests  Aphids, Ants
 Best season to plant in India  Monsoons

Before Sowing Long Bean Seeds in Pots

Trellis structure for long bean
A Simple Trellis structure for long beans. Long bean plants automatically start climbing on the strings provided.

Yardlong beans are climber plants. Within 10-12 days of developing true leaves they start to develop vines which starts climbing on any support that they get. This support is generally strings hanging loosely from top of the trellis. These plants grow very fast. Hence you must be prepare the trellis structure for the plant to climb as soon as you sow the seeds. It would be better to make the trellis even before sowing long bean seeds in pots because sometimes it is not possible to put up a structure at some places and if you cant move your container your plants get stuck in a place where they cant climb. And that is a disaster. Hence make sure you have a structure ready for climbers when you are Growing Long Beans in Containers.

Choosing Container for Long Beans

You don’t really need very big containers to grow long beans in your Organic Terrace Garden. You can use a 10 liter container to grow 2 plants. Just make sure that the depth of the container is 8-12 inches. Anything smaller than that would not give a good harvest and anything bigger than that would not boost your harvest significantly. The container can be anything from a un-glazed earthen pot to a plastic tub. Anything works as long as you take care of the minimum depth requirements of the container. Depending on the surface area of the container you can plant multiple long bean plans. If you are planing in a box type container, keep the distance between two plants 1 ft and between two rows the distance should be kept at 1.5 to 2 ft. If your containers is more of a bucket or a pot then plants can be planted closer; but not more than 2-3 per container.

Seed Sowing and Germination

Step by step guide to sow long bean seeds
Step by step guide to sow long bean seeds in containers

We treat Chinese Long Bean seeds with Amrut Jal before sowing. We simply soak the seed in Amrut Jal for 24 hours before sowing. This helps in faster germination. Amrut Jal also helps in protecting the seed from fungal attack. However this step is not a must. You can alternatively soak your seeds in lukewarm water for 20-30 minutes before sowing. Even this step can be bypassed if you wish to.

It is always a good idea to fill up your pot in the day time with potting mix to warm the soil and sow the seeds in the evening in the warm soil. To sow the seeds make small holes of 1/2 to 3/4 inch depth with your finger or any blunt object like back of a pencil. Place one to two seeds in the hole and cover it with potting mix and compress the soil gently. Water thoroughly and you are done. Growing Long Beans in Containers is really simple, but you have to be a little careful during the germination period. Make sure that the soil is always moist and never becomes dry. If the sun is too harsh during day time cover the pot to protect the soil from drying during noon, but make sure that air is circulating well. Also don’t over water. It may cause the seed to rot. If it is raining continuously and heavily during this time cover your pots. If you just take care of these things, your seeds should germinate in 3-7 days time.

Growing Your Long Bean Plants in Containers

When your seeds have germinated all you have to do is water them regularly to keep the soil moist all the time. When the plant grows to around 5-6 inches of height mulch your pot with organic material. This will retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing.

When the plants have grown to around 5-6 inches, they are vulnerable to heavy winds. So you need to stake them til they develop their vines and start climbing. Use any small stick of about 10-12 inches of length for staking. Just lightly tie the plant to the stake near the tip with a soft string. We use jute string for skating as it is soft, natural and cheap.

When the plant develops vines it will automatically start climbing around the strings in your trellis. You may also train the plants manually to the nearest string. Make sure that there are not more than two vines on a single string. If there are any flower pods when the plant is not even 2 ft tall just remove them. Let the plant focus on growing first. When the side vines have two to three sets of leaves pinch the tip. Pinch the tip of main vine when the vine has climbed more than 6 ft. Pinching the tips is not a absolute requirement. But when you are Growing Long Beans in Containers, pinching tips at the right time will help in growing a bushier plant and give you more produce. However you don’t have to religiously do it. Just do how much ever you can.

Fertilization and Pest Care

long beans germination, flowers and pods
Long beans plant life cycle from germination to flowering and fruiting.

Asparagus beans and not too heavy feeders and will grow well from the nutrients in your potting mix. But to keep a good supply of nutrients and micro-nutrients in the soil and to keep the soil alive by providing enough microbial activity water you plants with a cow dung based solution like Amrut Jal or Jiwamrit every 5-7 days during growing period. When the plants begin to flower supplement your soil with good quality compost and additionally you can increase frequency of Amrut Jal watering. To apply compost remove your mulch layer. Loosen the top 1 cm of soil and add good quality compost. Add about half a liter of compost per plant. Put the mulch layer back again. When you loosen the soil you’ll notice that there are feeder roots even in the top one cm of the soil. Hence do not dig any deeper than 1 cm as you’ll be disturbing more roots if you do so.

Use Amrut Jal, Jiwamrit or Panchagavya as a foliar spray every 10-15 days before fruiting and every 7 days during fruiting. This keeps the foliage healthy and fruits become better due to direct absorption of nutrients.

Whether you are Growing Long Beans in Containers or on the ground, no matter what you do aphids will attack your plants. Ants will also attack your pods and flowers and will help the aphids to spread. Check each morning for signs of aphids or any other pests every morning. If the infestation is not too much then wait out for a day or two to see if ladybugs have arrived in your garden for feasting on the aphids. In case you don’t want to wait you can always wash the aphids off with a spray of water. If the infestation is towards the higher side then use neem spray once every 7 days and you’ll be okay. Just make sure that you spray it very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Otherwise it may cause leaf burns. Drop some turmeric powder on young pod, flowers and vines to control ants.

Harvesting Long Beans

Long beans need to be harvested at the right time to get best taste and texture. Leaving them a little longer in the plant makes it loose it moisture and texture. Generally it takes about 9-10 days for the fruit to be ready after flowering. Your plant will flower and bear pods daily. So harvest your yardlong beans also regularly. Just pull them using your thumb and index finger gently and they will separate from the plant.

Plant your beans every 15-20 days throughout the season to get uninterrupted supply of healthy and fresh long beans. We also plant them with other vegetables like pumpkin, eggplants and tomatoes, so that while we enjoy the great taste of long beans they are busy helping other plants. Long beans belong to legume family of vegetables and they fix nitrogen deficiency in the soil. This helps other plants which feed on nitrogen from the soil.

Fun tips

At the start of this post I told you that Growing Long Beans in Containers is super easy and you are most likely to agree with me on that now. But here are some fun do’s that would make Growing Long Beans in Pots even more interesting for the entire family. One of the tings that you can do it to use the long bean plants as a decorative plant. Just design your trellis in a way that the support climbing strings for the beans make a great visual design. Keep the color of the string red of orange and when the green long beans plants start climbing on them, they do make a very pretty picture.

Another fun activity that you can do with the kids is to find the longest bean. Get your kids to do the harvesting while you are doing other important things like watering the plants. Kids will learn to differentiate between mature and immature pods when the harvest regularly. Then check who has got the longest bean pod. Declare her the winner for the day. You’ll notice how kids start to take more interest in garden with such activities.

I am sure with the information you have got from this post you’ll be successful every time you are Growing Long Beans in Containers. And I am also sure if you have never grown or eaten long beans you’ll now be roaring to go and plant your first long bean seed. As a further motivation I’ll be posting a simple yet delicious recipe with long beans in my next post. Stay tuned and stay blessed.

 

Ten things to consider before you start your organic terrace garden

More than 50% of the people, who start their own organic terrace garden, give it up within a month’s time.  Almost all the road blocks and de-motivating factors in such cases invariably point to an over enthusiastic start with almost zero groundwork.  No matter how big or small is your kitchen garden a little planning and some amount of design goes a long way. There will be many changes that you’ll have to make to your original plan as time progresses, but a basic plan and design of organic terrace garden initially will give you a good guideline to start with. And as they say well begun is half done. And here are the things you must consider to get you started with your plan and design of your own organic terrace garden.


1. Space identification and preparation

suitable spce for organic terrace garden
Identify sunny spots which are easy to access and maintain.

Windowsills, Balconies are good places to start your kitchen garden. These places are easy to use, access and maintain. Starting a garden in the terrace however needs significant amount of effort. But if done in phases this too can be managed quite easily. Whatever be the place, make sure that every day it gets at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight. Without sunlight plants just can not live and produce. Check for drainage to be working well in your balcony and terrace. If you get rains and the rain water is drained off automatically through drainage holes then you are good to go. For doing container gardening no extra waterproofing will be needed for your terrace. However if you plan to cover your terrace with soil, then its good to get specialized waterproofing done

2. Division and Design of space

terrace_garden_design
Divide the terrace space according to light, functions and requirement of plants.

By observing the sunlight and shadow patterns in the space identified you can get an idea about the spaces that get full sunlight (8-10 hours a day) and the spaces that get partial sunlight (2-5 hours a day). Placement of plants can be planned according to the sunlight need of the plants. Space also needs to be assigned for nursery operation, composting/waste management, storage and work area.

Climbers and Creepers will need trellis structures. Installing them early saves a lot of trouble later. Placement of containers, soil beds etc must be planned in such a way that each container and each corner of the bed is easily accessible. One should never have to reach out for them. Placement of plants needs to be planned according to the geography of the terrace too. For example there may be small depression in the terrace where harmless amount of water logging may be taking place. Having direct soil beds in such areas will be a disaster. However a temporary platform can be created using bricks and plywood and containers can be placed on them.

Drawing out your design is a must. It does not have to be a great looking one. It can be as bad a drawing as the one I have posted. But it should be a good functional design. So go ahead and draw it out.

3. Watering

water management in terrace garden
Water should be available always for plants. Look at options of reusing waste water and rainwater harvesting.

Water is the most important resource to be managed for a terrace garden. Water must be available on a daily basis for the plants. One should also look at managing waste water from home. The water used to clean vegetables can be used to water the plants. Consider having an arrangement of rain water harvesting to save water. During vacation time arrangement must be done so that your plants are watered as needed. Homemade drip irrigation systems can take care of this problem. But we suggest keeping things simple on your terrace garden to start with.

4. Waste management and composting

home composting
Have simple composting systems to recycle your kitchen waste back to your organic terrace garden.

Our idea of Organic gardening is to turn home into a zero food waste zone. This naturally means that you need to have some form of waste management system in your home. A simple bucket or a composting bag is good enough to compost your waste. Just make sure that you have planned for a place for composting which is protected from rain and direct sunlight. Some home composting systems which are easy to use is also a good option. These don’t need too much space and composting is also much easier with these.

5. Gardening supply

gardening store
Find a reliable gardening supply store in your area.

Find out a good gardening supply store in your area. Go to different vendors and build a rapport with them. The amount of knowledge that you can get from these guys is unbelievable. Try and compare their products, especially compost and seeds. You can do a simple jar test to check maturity of the compost. Initially get seeds from al vendors to test their quality. Later stick to the one that give you the better seeds. Some of these shops will give you limited quantity of seeds if you have a good rapport with them. Else you have to buy full packets of seeds. These packets are generally for farmers and you really won’t need so many seeds. Keep looking out for some exotic flower or vegetable in their nurseries which you can add to your garden.

6. Record Keeping

terrace garden record keeping
Keeping records of your garden will give you valuable feedback.

One of the things many amateur gardeners fail to do is to keep a record of all the work that they are doing and all the observation they are making.  A lot of factors affect a plant starting from germination to harvest. And many of these are not controllable and vary from place to place. Hence plan to maintain records of your observations. Prepare templates and number your pots so that this job becomes easy and streamlined. Your observations will be the best teacher that you’ll ever have for your kitchen garden.

7. Budget

budgeting your organic terrace garden
Financial and time budgeting is necessary to create and maintain a terrace garden.

Though a lot of recycling is done in terrace garden, still it’s not a zero cost affair. Containers even if bought from a scrap shop will cost some money. And then initially one has to start with some store bought compost, seeds etc. Investing in some gardening equipment also goes a long way. Last but not the least one has to dedicate some amount of time everyday for management of the garden. In case of a tight budget of money and time one can start small and grow slowly. If you have enough budget, it’s not a bad idea to get done with all the structural installations like green houses and wire mesh for creepers early on.

8.  Getting Family Involved

make tgardening a family activity
Gardening is a great family activity. Family involvement also makes sure your plants are always taken care of.

It is very important to get your family involved initially, so that everyone has ideas of at least the basic things like watering, composting, manure application etc. This is very crucial because in your absence garden is taken care of by your family members. Hence starting your organic terrace garden during exam time of your kids may not be such a great idea.

9. Starting Small

start small
Start your organic terrace garden with what you can initially manage. Gradually grow your garden while gaining valuable experience.

Starting small makes sure that you start well. Start with a few plants initially. Anything between 2-10 plants of maximum 3 different vegetables and herbs works well. As you grow them and get hands on experience, some more plants can be added to your garden gradually. Starting with a lot of plants at one go will demand a lot of effort and care and without experience it will be difficult to handle that.

10. Patience

patience for gardening
Patience is the key to success in organic terrace gardening.

The last and most important thing to keep in mind is that nature works at its own pace. A tree does not bear fruit overnight. Sometimes seeds may not germinate. Your produce can be destroyed overnight by insects. And sometimes you may just break a pot with a fully grown plant in it. You’ll feel the sky crashing on you at such times. But don’t lose heart. Learn from your mistakes. Have patience and let nature do its magic.


These are just a few pointers to get you started with your terrace garden and its plan. But it is good to remember that the plan cannot be a very tight one. Always have flexibility in your plan. Use your plan as a guideline and not as a prescription. A garden is a complete ecosystem of plants, weeds, insects and microorganisms. It has life and a mind of its own. Hence at times you’ll have to flow with it while at other times you’ll have to make course corrections. And it will be an art of balancing that you’ll learn only with time.