First of all, I'm in New Orleans. The weather has been in the swinging from beautiful spring like days in the 70s to occasional nights in the upper 30's. My eggplants have primarily been indoors under growlights, but I have put them out in the sun and shade for several hours.
My eggplants are Udamalapet and Diamond, which I have grown from seed. Each variety is currently in 4 inch pots. They are in a 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost/ and 1/3 pete moss mixture. They have been bottom watered and grown under LED grow lights that are on for 16 hours a day. Each plant seems to be doing well, with strong stems and well formed leaves. The Udamalpets are about 3 inches high and the Diamonds are about 5.
Lately, I have noticed that the bottom most leaves seem to dropping off. The problems is worse on the Diamonds than on the Udamalapets. Any advice on what is causing this. I also notice that the leaves are starting to curl a bit. I do not think that the plant is in serious danger, because it continues to put out new leaves, but I've never grown eggplants from seed before.
Lastly, should I be giving these guys any additional foods? I know they have not been put in the ground yet, but would that help them to have some extra nutrients?
It's normal for young plants to gradually lose their lowermost leaves, particularly under stress of any sort, such as adapting indoor-grown seedlings to the outdoors. Anything more than 1/3 of the foliage though is cause for concern. Are they getting too cold? Eggplant (and peppers, sweet potatoes and a few other truly tropical veggies) don't like anything below 60 and at 50 the whole plant will wilt and begin to die. The warmer the better, well into the 80's. Many gardening beginners make the mistake of planting these out too early....they are in a whole different group than most "frost-tender" plants like tomatoes, corn, squash, etc. which can withstand numerous instances of barely above-freezing temperatures and resume growth unhindered.
Spider mites are also a big problem with plants growing indoors for long periods.....they are nearly invisible to the inexperienced eye and the first sign of them is a sickly plant and leaf loss....
Thank you for the reply. Yes, I suppose it is probably too early to put them out. Winter/Spring in New Orleans is very tricky because it will be beautiful 75 degrees one day and in the upper 30's the next.
I have them all inside right now. I do have a hypothesis though. It goes like this. I transplanted all but one into a larger 4" pot. The one that remains in the small seeding pot, seems to be the healthiest at this point. It has been largely neglected. Recieiving less water. Is it possible that I have over watered the ones in the 4" pots?
Also, I have seen several small flies flying around and landing on occasion. Could they be causing it. I have sprayed them with insecticidal soap. Will that help with the spider mites?
Research what spider mites look like. Tiny tiny red spiders, often in a filmy bit of webbing, on the plants, starting from the undersides of the leaves. Some of those plants in your photos look like they might have them....they will make the leaves yellow and look sickly if there are enough of them. Soap helps, as does simply sloshing the plant upside down (holding the pot and soil in place with your hand) in some soapy water. Upping the humidity somehow often deters them, too.
That said, overwatering is the first and foremost cause of failure of all kinds of potted plants for the beginner, and those yellow leaves could be due to that, too.
One good thing is that it's early enough, and your growing season long enough, that you have enough time to simply start over, perhaps with different soil or situation....
Timing is important. Seedlings have a tendency to develop
problems if you start them too early. Some starting mix
does not have anything to feed the plants. It is good to get
seedlings into the ground as soon as possible and not let
them lanquish indoors in artificial light. Weather permitting.
Those seedlings might fight their way through once they
are in the ground but I would be starting some backups.
A day job? In an office? My worst nightmare! Comfort me tiny ad!