I always debate with myself over when to plant hot weather crops. We have a cool climate. Our average high temperature in June is 77°F(25°C). Our average low is 55°F(13°C). This is not particularly hot. It is fine for my tomatoes and my chili peppers, but eggplants aren't as forgiving of cool temperatures.
Last year I started my eggplants on June 1st. The ground was mulched in black plastic. I added a plastic hoop tunnel. I put water jugs in between the eggplants to collect heat. This year is more problematic. I'm growing carrots between my eggplants. The carrots should be out of the ground before the eggplants need that space, but carrots don't like heat. All the heat collection that I did last year would either kill my carrots or make them bitter. So this year the eggplants got nothing. No plastic of any kind. I love the look of the garden without all the plastic, but will they grow?
Yesterday I noticed two things with the eggplants. They are getting a bit root bound and they were being attacked by insects. I hand picked the flea beetles off before they went in the ground. Then I rubbed off all the aphids. These poor plants have been through so much and their leaves look a bit chewed. Previously they had a caterpillar when they were younger. Then I put them next to my tomatillos and they ended up with cucumber beetles. Sigh. They still seem to be holding their own.
Even though we might get some cooler weather this week, I felt they had to go in. Nothing stops a plant faster than getting root bound. I think most of the times that people recommend for growing transplants are way over estimated. They let the plants get too root bound. Yes with paper pots the roots do tend to get air pruned, but it still slows their growth down if they aren't planted in a timely manner.
They were placed about two feet apart from each other in the row and about 18" apart. They got supplemented with some bonemeal, coffee grounds and lime. I hope they survive all the travails they had in their youth and grow up strong. Hmm maybe I should surround them with some soda bottles to pamper them a bit. They could use a little pampering.