Cauliflower is a member of the cole family and is a cool season vegetable. It grows best if the soil is rich in nutrients, well-drained when watered with the soil being kept moist but not soggy.
Like many vegetables, cauliflower requires full sun for no less than 6 hours a day, more if at all possible. Its pH needs to be between 6.0 and 7.2 which implies that the soil needs to be high in nitrogen as well as organic matter. If you find your soil doesn’t measure up you may need to add some blood and bone, composted manure or cottonseed meal to improve its nitrogen-rich levels.
Depending on your level of expertise at growing cauliflower you can either plant seeds or seedlings. I would recommend that the majority of home gardeners stick with seedlings to maximize results.
It is important that your soil is of high quality in order to guard against such diseases as club root disease which is caused by the soil-borne fungus Plasmodiophora brassicae. This fungus is prone to infect susceptible plants through the root hairs. When this occurs diseased roots become swollen and knobbly giving rise to the term club root disease. Frequently cracking and rotting is associated with this nasty disease which in turn causes plants to experience difficulty soaking up water and nutrients appropriately.
This fungus is prone to infect susceptible plants through the root hairs. When this occurs diseased roots become swollen and knobbly giving rise to the term club root disease. Frequently cracking and rotting is associated with this nasty disease which in turn causes plants to experience difficulty soaking up water and nutrients appropriately.
A very important point to realize about club root disease is that it significantly reduces the expected harvest you envisaged when you first planted your cauliflower seedlings and may even cause the crop to fail altogether.
You need to guard against the weather being too cold or too hot otherwise, the cauliflower seedlings won’t thrive and will result in negatively impacting on the quality and quantity of the heads. Perhaps this is why it is often referred to as a finicky vegetable to grow. If you are a newbie veggie gardener, then perhaps cauliflower may not be the best choice for you while you are still learning the ropes so to speak.
If you are a newbie veggie gardener, then perhaps cauliflower may not be the best choice for you while you are still learning the ropes so to speak.
Ensure the seedlings you intend to plant come from an organic plant supplier and are strong and healthy. Steer away from any that are wilting with leaves turning yellow. It is always best to purchase quality at a higher price than settle for cheap and inferior. Your harvest or lack thereof will be a testament to the decision you make.
It is always best to purchase quality at a higher price than settle for cheap and inferior. Your harvest or lack thereof will be a testament to the decision you make.
Before you plant your cauliflower seedlings make sure the soil is well cultivated to a reasonable depth of approximately 8 to 10 inches (20cm to 25cm) and has the optimum levels of nitrogen and organic matter present. Once you feel the soil is right, plant the cauliflower seedlings about 18 inches (46cm) apart.
Depending on the quantity of harvest you are anticipating you will then need to plant the seedlings in rows no less than 30 inches (76cm) apart. As a home gardener don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be swamped with cauliflowers.
Remember to give the seedlings a thorough watering but don’t drench them. You then need to apply a protective covering of quality organic mulch to preserve water and to guard against the soil cracking and drying out.
On an ongoing basis, you will need to ensure the seedlings maintain a good moisture level by watering them weekly with about an inch (25mm) of water. If your garden receives a decent rainfall during this period, you may want to skip watering for that week.
If necessary, apply a quality organic fertilizer twice during the growing season at fortnightly (2 week intervals).
Normally it takes approximately between 7 and 10 weeks for cauliflower to mature. To test whether you crop is ready to harvest make sure the florets are fully formed, tightly packed and feel firm to the touch and aren’t soft or spongy.
Depending on the variety you have grown you may find it necessary to blanch the heads of your cauliflowers. Not all cauliflowers self-blanch (curl leaves over to protect the developing head) so for those that don’t, you will need to tie the outer leaves of the plant to cover the heads when they have about 2 -3 inches of growth.
Check that the color is consistent with the mature shade of the variety you have grown. For example, white cauliflowers should be white and not have any traces of green or yellow coloring when ready to harvest. On the other hand, colorful varieties should be the expected color when ready to pick.
Guard against waiting too long to harvest your cauliflowers otherwise, the florets will begin to spread apart and open.
Take time to understand the climate and soil conditions in which cauliflower will flourish. By doing so when you come to planting the cauliflower seedlings you will be confident of a bumper crop come harvest time.