In my ongoing search for low-maintenance vegetable varieties that perform well in small spaces, like my raised bed garden, I decided to try a newish Eggplant variety called ‘Patio Baby’ this summer. Developed by PanAmerican Seed and winner of the 2014 All-American Selections Vegetable- edible category, I was drawn to ‘Patio Baby’ due to the advertising claims made that it was a true miniature variety, perfect for growing in containers, only reaching 20” or so in height and producing both “early” and abundant fruit. I’ve been very pleased with the performance of this extremely unique variety so far in my informal backyard trial and definitely think it deserves consideration in your garden too!
The first observation when seeing a mature ‘Patio Baby’ is how small the plant is, leaves, flowers, fruit, everything. Compared to a standard ‘Black Beauty’ variety, ‘Patio Baby’ plants measure maybe a third as tall and wide. Where a “normal” eggplant fruit might be slightly larger than a softball and often have spines on their calyxes (the green part that connects the purple fruit to the stems), ‘Patio Baby’ fruit are roughly the size of a large chicken egg and totally spineless! I find this smaller plant and fruit size to have several perks. Vegetable plants that grow 2’ tall and wide are just about perfect for raised bed gardening. If you don’t require a large quantity of eggplant, you won’t have to sacrifice an entire bed’s space to ‘Patio Baby’ like you would with the standard varieties. Also, ‘Patio Baby’ fruit won’t bend or break branches and are held strongly on the plants, with no need for staking, another bonus when space is at a premium. Finally, I find it much easier to harvest, handle and prepare the small, spineless ‘Patio Baby’ fruit in the kitchen. Think of them as a “personal pan” eggplant. As I’m the only one in my house who eats much eggplant, I waste a lot less fruit cooking these little guys!
‘Patio Baby’ Eggplant also lives up to its reputation of being exceedingly easy and quick to grow. I purchased a packet of ‘Patio Baby’ seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in June and planted three in a 20” diameter decorative pot next to my raised bed garden during the first week of July, behind summer squash that had recently expired in the heat of late June. After sprouting, the plants grew strongly and, true to form for most Eggplant varieties, were bothered by no serious pest or disease issues other than the normal stinkbugs and occasional caterpillar that plague summer gardens in Florida. Around 8 weeks from sowing seed in the soil, cute, egg-shaped fruit were ready for harvest! Over the next three or four weeks, my single plant produced around 50 of the cute little fruit. More than enough for me and plenty to share, the goal of my gardening endeavors.
If you’ve run out of space in your raised bed garden, just want a single plant for your back porch or simply want to try a novelty vegetable variety, my experience this summer deems ‘Patio Baby’ Eggplant is an excellent option! For an eggplant that is space-efficient, very early and heavy producing, and comes in a more easily harvestable, kitchen-friendly package, try ‘Patio Baby’. For more information about raised bed gardening, vegetable varieties or any other horticultural topic, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Happy Gardening!