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When to Pick Cauliflower

Cool Season Vegetables

Cool season vegetables like cauliflower and its relatives in the Brassicaceae family grow during the spring and fall months of the year. This means that your harvest periods will be in early summer, and then again in late fall or early winter. Cauliflower can take a frost, but it will not withstand too hot a day.

Spring Plantings

Spring plantings will be harvested in early summer. Depending on the variety, cauliflower may take between 50-100 days to mature. If you live in a warmer climate with shorter cool seasons, consider planting an earlier maturing cauliflower. Some Early maturing varieties include:

  • Snow Crown (50 Days)
  • Mardi (62 Days)
  • Cheddar (58 Days)

Fall Plantings

Fall plantings will mature in late fall or early winter. If you plant in late August, you may be harvesting around October or November. Because the weather is cooling down, early maturing varieties aren’t as desirable for fall plantings.

Instead, you want to select varieties with cold and bolt resistance. Inspect seed packets for information on which season each variety is suited for. Some favorites for fall plantings include:

  • Skywalker (80 days)
  • Amazing (68 days)
  • Denali (73 days)

Inspecting the Head

Despite the expected days to maturity, nature will vary. It’s important to be able to inspect your cauliflower heads and decide when they are ripe for the picking. Cauliflower is actually a giant flower bud or cluster of flower buds. The trick is to let it reach its maximum size and crispness but not to let it flower, or even think about flowering.

Typically a fully mature cauliflower head measures about 6-8 inches in diameter. This will vary with variety so read the seed packet for specifics. Inspect the florets each day for separation or a sign of opening. They should be compact and tightly closed. If they begin to separate, quickly cut that head. Separation is a sign that they are overly mature and going to flower.

Inspect the head for color variations. A fully mature head should have it’s full color whether that be white, orange, or purple. Hints of green indicate that it is still immature, and hits of brown indicate that it is overmature.

How to Know When Vegetables are Ready to Harvest

Posted February 24th, 2011 by Garden & Greenhouse in Food Crop & Edible Plant Articles, June 2011

The main point behind growing your own vegetables is how much better they taste fresh from the garden. The only fail safe way to guarantee harvesting vegetables at the optimal time is the taste test. Keep in mind that great flavor isn’t a simple matter of size or color. Without the right combination of soil, sun and water many vegetables can vary greatly in taste and performance.

There are some rules of thumb to guide you on when your vegetables are ready to be picked. Most vegetables are harvested just before full maturity, for maximum flavor and the most pleasant texture. The following criteria can help you evaluate when whether your vegetables are ready for harvest.

Asparagus

Begin harvesting when spears are 6-8 inches tall and about as think as your small finger. Snap them off at ground level and new spears will continue to grow. Stop harvesting about 4-6 weeks after the initial harvest, to allow the plants to produce foliage and food for themselves.

Beans (Snap)

Pick before the you can see the seeds bulging. They should snap into two pieces easily. Check them daily because it doesn’t take long for beans to go from tender to tough.

Beets

You can harvest and eat the green tops that you thin out of the rows. Beets are really a matter of personal preference when it comes to the right size for harvesting. They are ready any time after you see the beets shoulders protruding at the soil line.

Broccoli

Some people eat the unopened flower buds of broccoli, so check frequently, especially as the weather warms up, to ensure you don’t let the flower heads bloom. Don’t expect your home grown broccoli to get to the size of supermarket heads. Harvest the buds when they are about the size of a match head.

Brussel Sprouts

The sprouts will mature from the bottom up. You can begin harvesting once the sprouts are at least an inch in diameter. Harvest by twisting off or cutting the sprout from the stem.

Cabbage

The cabbage head will feel solid when gently squeezed. Cabbage needs to be harvested when it reaches maturity or it will continue to grow and split open.

Carrots

Carrots can be hard to judge. The tops of the carrot will show at the soil line and you can gage when the diameter looks right for your variety. If the diameter looks good, chances are the length is fine too but you will need to pull one to be certain. Carrots can be left in the ground when they mature. A light frost is said to improve and sweeten the carrot’s flavor.

As with broccoli, your home grown cauliflower heads will probably never match supermarket size. Harvest when the head looks full and while the curds of the head are still smooth.

Corn

About 3 weeks after the silks form, they will turn dry and brown. The kernels should exude a milky substance when pricked.

Cucumber

Cucumbers race to the harvest with zucchini. Check daily and harvest young. Timing and length will vary with variety. The fruits should be firm smooth. Over ripe cucumbers can be very bitter or pithy, even before they start to turn yellow.

Eggplant

Slightly immature fruits taste best. The fruits should be firm and shiny. Cut rather than pulling from the plant.

Garlic

The garlic tops will fall over and begin to brown when the bulbs are ready. Dig, don’t pull, and allow too dry before storing. It’s best to simply brush off the dirt, rather than washing.

Kale

Kale leaves can be harvested throughout the season with the flavor being best in cooler weather. They should be deep green with a firm, sturdy texture.

Kohlrabi

For the best texture, harvest once the kohlrabi bulb has reached about 2-3 inches in diameter. The bulbs become tougher as they grow and age. Pull or slice at the base.

Leeks

Harvest leeks when they are about 1 inch in diameter.

Lettuce (Head)

Harvest once the head feels full and firm with a gentle squeeze. Hot weather will cause it to bolt or go to seed rather than filling out.

Lettuce (Leaf)

Harvest the outer leaves one the plant has reached about 4 inches in height. Allow the younger, inner leaves to grow. Leaf lettuce can be harvested in this fashion for most of the summer.

Peppers

Harvest them when the outside is firm and changing colors. There are many varieties of peppers. Most common peppers (Bell variety) will start green and turn red if left on the plant.

Tomatoes

Harvest the tomatoes when the outer skin color of the fruit turns orange. To add life to the fruit, they can be picked earlier while they are still green and put in a brown paper bag. This process will add approximately one week to the fruit’s life.

Samantha Michaels is a regular Garden & Greenhouse contributor.

Quick Guide to Growing Cauliflower

  • Plant spring cauliflower 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Both in-ground gardens and containers are good options.
  • Plant cauliflower in rows with each plant spaced 18 inches apart. Rows should be 30 inches apart.
  • Improve your native soil by mixing in several inches of compost or other rich organic matter.
  • Add a 3-inch layer of mulch and give plants 1 to 1.5 inches of water weekly.
  • Cover young plants to protect them from cold weather.
  • When the cauliflower head is about the size of a golf ball, gently fold leaves over the head and secure them in place with twine.
  • Harvest cauliflower heads when they are still compact but large enough to eat (about 6 to 8 inches in diameter).

Soil, Planting, and Care

If you’re looking to get the most you can out of your cauliflower plants in terms of growth and harvest, start with Bonnie Plants® cauliflower plants instead of seeds. Bonnie has over a century of experience providing quality plants for home gardeners, so you can rely on us. Plus, starting with young plants will put you that much closer to harvest time.

Like most vegetables, cauliflower needs at least 6 hours of full sun each day; more is better. It also needs fertile, well-drained, moist soil with plenty of rich organic matter. The soil pH should be between 6.5 and 6.8 for optimum growth and to discourage clubroot disease. To be sure of soil pH, test the soil. You can buy a kit, or get a soil test through your regional Cooperative Extension office. Apply fertilizer and lime according to test recommendations. Add nitrogen-rich amendments such as blood meal, cottonseed meal, or composted manure to the soil, or improve your native soil with aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil. (Growing in pots? You won’t be disappointed if you use Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains compost but is lighter and fluffier than in-ground soil.) You’ll get the best results if, in addition to providing the best soil environment for plant roots, you give your growing cauliflower plants regular feedings of a continuous-release fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition, which feeds the beneficial microbes in the soil as well as your plants. Fertilize throughout the growing season, following label directions.

Set out spring plants early enough that they can mature before the heat of summer, but not so early that they freeze; 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost is about right. Be prepared to protect them from cold weather with a cover. You can use fabric row covers or homemade items such as old milk jugs.

Set out fall crops about 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. Be prepared to shade them, if needed, to protect from heat.

Space cauliflower plants about 18 inches apart in the row with 30 inches between rows to allow room for walking. Remember, plants need an even moisture supply to avoid stress. Organic mulch will help keep the soil cool and moist and will suppress weeds. Apply 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week if rain falls short.

When the cauliflower heads are about 2 inches wide, you may need to pull the leaves up over each little head and fasten with a clothespin or twine. This shades the head to ensure it will be white and tender at harvest (called blanching). Plants are supposed to “self-blanch,” in which the leaves naturally curl over the head, but watch them because they often need the help of a clothespin.

Growing Cauliflower – How To Plant Cauliflower In The Garden

If you’ve been wondering how to plant cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis), you’ll find that it is not difficult once you know what it likes. Growing cauliflower can be done alongside other closely related plants like broccoli, kale and turnips.

Many gardeners don’t bother growing cauliflower, as it has the reputation of being one of the more temperamental crops and with good reason. Bringing cauliflower to fruition means knowing when is the best time to plant and when to harvest cauliflower. Read on to learn how to plant cauliflower and other helpful cauliflower planting tips to make this crop a success.

Best Time to Plant Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cool season veggie from the Brassicaceae family, which includes broccoli, and, in fact, cauliflower is often referred to as ‘heading broccoli.’ Unlike broccoli, however, which produces multiple side shoots, cauliflower only produces a single head which means you have one chance to get it right.

The main thing to remember is that the plant thrives in temperatures around 60-65 F. (16-18 C.) and no higher than 75 F. (24 C.). Of all the cole crops, cauliflower is the most sensitive to temperature. When temperatures exceed 75 F., the plants have a tendency to button or bolt.

The best time to plant most varieties of cauliflower is in the spring so they grow and produce their flower heads before summer’s hot temperatures ramp up. Other varieties are suited for mid-summer planting for a fall harvest. A good fall recommendation is its pointy, green Romanesco cousin.

How to Plant Cauliflower

For spring sown cauliflower, start seed indoors in April. For fall crops, start seed in July, either sown indoors or direct sown in the garden. Do not transplant any earlier than 2-3 weeks prior to the average frost-free date for your area. This can be rather tricky in that it is important to start cauliflower early enough so it matures before the heat arrives but not so early that cold spring temps damage the plants.

Sow seeds ¼ inch deep in peat pots or in furrows in well-draining potting soil. Once the seeds have germinated, continue to grow them in an area of direct sun or under grow lights and maintain a temperature of 60 F. (16 C.). Keep the seedlings moist.

Transplant the plants 2 feet (.5 m.) apart in rows that are 30-36 inches (76-91 cm.) apart.

Cauliflower Planting Tips

Early maturing varieties are more susceptible to buttoning than later cultivars.

Keep the plants moist but not soggy. Mulch around young plants to help retard weeds and retain moisture.

Harden off seedlings for 5 days to a week before transplanting outside by setting them in the shade and then gradually exposing them to longer periods of sun. Transplant on a cool, cloudy day or late in the afternoon to avoid stressing the plants.

Fertilize at transplanting with a liquid fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions and again when the plants are established, side dressing with nitrogen rich compost.

White cauliflower should be blanched, while green, orange and purple cultivars need sun to develop their colors. When the head is golf to tennis ball size, tie the outer leaves loosely over the developing head with a soft cloth or nylon. This will protect it from sunscald and keep it from turning yellow.

When to Harvest Cauliflower

Cauliflower is ready to harvest a week or two after blanching, or covering the heads. Check the heads every couple of days. Harvest when the heads are 6 plus inches (15+ cm.) across but before the flower parts begin to separate.

Cut the cauliflower from the plant with a large knife, leaving at least one set of leaves to protect the head.

How To Grow Cauliflower

Pest and Disease Control

I don’t want to put you off but there are a couple of things you’ll need to look out for when you’ve planted your seedlings. Cauliflower belongs to the cabbage or Brassica family so all the same pests and diseases apply as cabbage,Cabbage root fly, Cabbage White Caterpillars, Cabbage Whitefly, and Clubroot.

Cabbage Root Fly

Cabbage root fly is a small grey fly a bit like a small house fly. It lays it’s eggs at the base of cabbage seedlings, the eggs hatch into maggots and then burrow down to feast on the new roots of your plants.

Symptoms:
Young plants will begin to wilt and eventually stop growing. The leaves will start to take on a blue\green colour. If you bite the bullet and pull up the plant you will see white maggots tucking into the roots.

Control:
The best organic method of control is to cover your calabrese with bionet (micromesh) to stop the fly laying it’s eggs. Make sure the net is sealed all the way round to prevent access by the fly.

Cabbage collars. You can either buy or make these yourself from roofing felt or carpet underlay.
The collars are a circle of material covering the soil around the base of the plant which helps prevent the root fly laying its eggs around the stem and stops the maggots burrowing down to the roots.

Nematodes. These are naturally occuring microscopic worm which attacks the larvae of the cabbage root fly. The nematodes are in your garden soil anyway you’re just increasing the numbers. It is a non chemical product so is safe for use around pets and children. You will need to do a couple of applications but in my opinion it’s well worth it as you’ll also protect a whole host of other crops.

Cabbage White Caterpillars

The caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly will reduce your plants to a skeleton within a couple of days so clearly it’s best to keep on top of them. Look out for the yellow eggs of the butterfly under the leaves and brush them off. It’s much easier to remove the eggs than the caterpillars so this is well worth doing. The caterpillars in the photo are babies, they’ll get a lot bigger and do a lot more damage if you let them!
The best and easiest method however is to cover your crop with bionet as with root fly.

Cabbage Whitefly

The Cabbage whitefly is an aphid (Like a greenfly, except white), it is less troublesome than other cabbage pests but worth keeping an eye on. The adults are tiny white insects which you’ll find on the underside of the leaves. They produce a sticky substance called ‘honeydew’ which will probably cause a grey mould later.

Remove any yellowing leaves at the base of the plant as they may be harbouring aphid eggs. You can wash off whitefly, honeydew and grey mould with a strong jet of water.

Clubroot

Clubroot is one of the most tricky diseases you’ll encounter in the garden but with proper precautions it can be successfully controlled. If you start a new vegetable garden the chances of having clubroot are pretty slim and you can prevent it entering quite easily. If you do get clubroot the cysts survive for up to 9 years in the soil. You won’t be able to grow any of the cabbage family (Brassicas) until it’s gone so you’ve been warned!

The disease usually arrives in your garden through infected transplants or by walking from infected soil into a virgin patch. If you have an isolated garden you are unlikely to get it whereas you need to be more careful in established allotments.

Symptoms:
Poor growth with wilting leaves of a reddish-purple colour. If you pull up the roots you’ll see swollen, knobbly deformed growth with a pungent foul odour. In more advanced cases the roots will have dissolved into a slimy pulp.

Prevention:
If you have clubroot already seek out varieties with resistance to the disease, this will be clearly marked as an advantage on the pack. Otherwise you’ll just have to live with it, you can minimise it’s effects by doing the following:

  • Not composting your brassica roots, burn them.
  • Don’t sow brassica famiy green manure. (Mustard, Rape)
  • Start your plants in modules. (I’d recommend that anyway).
  • Lime the soil the previous Autumn to make it more alkaline (Clubroot likes acid conditions).
  • Grow in raised beds as clubroot likes wet conditions.

Cauliflower is one of the many cabbage related cole crops that revel in cool weather. Mark Twain called it “A cabbage with a college education.”, but we don’t think it’s just cabbage with airs. Cauliflower has a very distinct nuttiness, closer to broccoli in flavor. The main edible part of both cauliflower and broccoli is the flower bud, making them both edible flowers.

Cauliflower is not the easiest vegetable to grow, because it is very sensitive to temperature changes, however with a little TLC, it can be a very rewarding vegetable for your garden. You’ll have many more variety options if you start your cauliflower from seed.

The white varieties need to be blanched, by covering the head with its leaves. The purple varieties get their color from anthocyanin, an antioxidant. Unfortunately, both the color and the benefits disappear with cooking. And a happy accident leads to the orange cauliflowers, which have a higher percentage of beta-carotene.

  • Leaves: The thick, oval leaves have a pronounced mid-rib and veins. The leaves and stem of cauliflower are both edible.
  • Flowers: The cauliflower head is composed of tightly packed flower buds, often referred to as curds. The actual flowers of the cauliflower are the familiar 4 petals in a cross shape that give this family of vegetables the name cruciferous.

Latin Name

Brassica oleracea

Common Name

Cauliflower

Hardiness Zones

Cauliflower plants are biennial, although they may bolt to seed in their first season because of weather fluctuations. However, if you want to save seeds, you will need to leave some plants unharvested, perhaps over the winter, with some protection from the cold.

Exposure

Plants will grow best in full sun, although a little partial shade might prevent plants from bolting or budding (forming small, button-sized heads), in warmer weather.

Mature Size

The size of the head will depend on the variety you are growing, but average between 6 to 12 in.

Days to Harvest

Most cauliflower varieties require about 2 months to mature, although some are a little quicker and others can take up to 3 months. Since they will not form heads in warm weather and can only handle a light frost, be sure to choose a variety that will have enough time to mature in your climate. That means a fast maturing variety if your spring or fall is short. Longer-maturing varieties are good choices for gardeners with mild or late winters. Gardeners in cold climates often have better luck putting out transplants in mid to late summer and harvesting in the fall.

Harvest when the heads reach the desired size and while the buds are still tight. Don’t leave them too long, or the flowers will open. It would be better to cut them when mature and freeze them for later use. Another option is to lift the whole plant and store it, roots, stem and all intact, in a cool, dry place.

Suggested Varieties

It seems plant breeders like to play with cauliflower because new varieties are always being introduced. Do some sleuthing at your local cooperative extension office, to find varieties that do especially well in your area.

  • Green goddess f1: Lime green varieties with nice flavor and no blanching required (60 to 65 days).
  • Snow crown f1: One of the easier to grow white varieties with some frost tolerance and a short season (50 to 55 days).
  • Di sicilia violetta, aka violetta of Sicily or some other derivation: Beautiful purple, Italian heirloom with a sweet, nutty flavor (70 to 80 days).
  • Cheddar f1: Pretty orange heads that are slow to bolt (55 to 60 days).

Growing Tips

  • Soil: Cauliflower needs a soil rich in organic matter, with a soil pH between 6.0 to 7.0. The soil should be well-draining, but cauliflower needs consistent moisture, to prevent buttoning.
  • Planting: Start seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before your average last frost date. Cauliflower doesn’t like having it’s roots disturbed (we said it was fussy), so peat or paper pots are recommended. Plant seeds 1/2 to 1/2 in. deep and keep moist. They will sprout faster if kept warm (65 to 70 F).

Whether you are planting your own seedlings or some purchased from the store, be sure to harden off your transplants before setting them out in the garden. Space plants about 18 to 24 in. apart, to give the outer leaves plenty of room.

Maintenance

Cauliflower needs consistent moisture and plenty of it. Without sufficient water, the heads turn bitter. Provide at least 1 in. of water a week and make sure it is soaking 6 to 8 in. into the soil. Leaving the soil dry in hot weather will cause the buds to open slightly, making the heads “​ricey”, rather than tight curds. Mulch at planting time, to keep the soil cool and help retain moisture.​

Since cauliflower takes so long to mature, some supplemental feeding will be necessary. Feed every 2 to 4 weeks with an organic fertilizer like kelp and fish emulsion.

White cauliflower will need to be blanched if you want it to remain white. The flavor isn’t terribly altered if you allow it to turn its natural yellowish-brown, but it does seem to remain a little sweeter and a lot more appealing if blanched. Begin blanching the heads when they are about the size of a large egg. Start the process when the plants are fully dry, to avoid rotting. The traditional way to blanch is by folding some of the larger leaves over the head and tucking or securing them on the other side. You can hold them down with a rock or tie them in place. Don’t fit the leaves too tightly; you want to block the light, but leave room for the head to expand.

Once the leaves are in place, try not to get them wet and check under them periodically to make sure insects aren’t using them as a hideout.

If this sounds like too much effort, you can simply cover them with an overturned bucket. Or take an even easier route and grow one of the colored varieties. They do not need to be blanched.

Pests and Problems

  • Insect pests: Unfortunately cauliflower is susceptible to all the usual cole crop pests, and there are many, including cabbage maggots, cabbage loopers, and cabbage worms. Young transplants are also attractive to aphids and flea beetles, especially if grown in the spring.
  • Animal pests: Groundhogs are exceptionally fond of cole crops. Fencing or caging is the best deterrence.
  • Diseases: Here again, the cole crops are problem prone, with blackleg, black rot and club root leading the pack. It’s very important to not plant cole crops in the same place, year after year, and to clean up all debris at the end of the season, to prevent diseases over-wintering in the soil.

Another common cauliflower problem is leaf tip dieback and distortion. This is generally caused by a lack of boron in the soil. Kelp or seaweed fertilizer should help prevent this.

Growing Cauliflower – How to Grow Cauliflower

How to Grow Cauliflower – A Guide to Growing Cauliflower

Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers are not the easiest of brassicas to grow but I think they are probably the most satisfying. A beautifully formed cauliflower with tight curds is wonderful to see and producing it is a very satisfying. As well as white varieties you can get yellow and purple ones.

There are three types of cauliflower; summer, autumn and winter varieties. Summer varieties can be sown in the cold frame in September, indoors in January or outdoors in April and some varieties may be harvested in June or July while other outdoor sown varieties will be ready during August.

Autumn varieties maturing during October and November are of two types some vigorous and large and some more compact. Winter cauliflowers are really ‘heading broccoli’. They are less delicately flavoured than true cauliflowers but are easier to grow. They may take 40 to 50 weeks to mature from March through to June.

By selecting different variety and planting at the right time, it is possible to have a cauliflower to cut most of the year but mostly from March to November. The old Victorian Head Gardener would be able to provide a fresh cauliflower on demand evry day of the year.

Recommended Varieties of Cauliflower

Summer Cauliflowers

  • Gypsy is a good summer variety, sow in October and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in March for early summer deep, round, white Cauliflowers. Good for exhibition and less fertile soils. Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
  • Clapton is the first cauliflower to be resistant to clubroot; it has taken over over 18 years to breed this variety. Depending on its sowing time it matures from late summer to late autumn, producing large, excellent flavoured, solid, deep white heads of uniform quality.
  • Mayflower are the earliest summer cauliflower . Sow them in mid-January and plant outside in late March for a harvest of delicious, tender, large heads in May and June.

Autumn Cauliflowers

  • Pavilion is my favourite autumn variety. It was bred in Australia bred and stands reasonably well in the ground. It produces good sized heads with pure white curds during late September and October with leaves that protect them from frost so prolonging the cropping season. Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
  • Cheddar produces deep yellow-orange heads which contain a high level of beta carotene. Leave the heads uncovered to produce the best colour, which deepens later in the autumn.
  • Purple Graffiti produces a bright purple head but although not particularly tasty it’s great fun to grow cropping July-October. Purple cauliflowers contain anthocyanins a very powerful antioxidant, which is said to help prevent cancer and is beneficial to general health.

Winter Cauliflowers – ‘heading broccoli’

  • Jerome F1 is a superb ‘cauli’ which stands well through the winter. It has deep, white heads of superb quality for harvesting in April. The vigorous leaves should be folded over the curds to protect them from winter weather.
  • Chester F1 has good vigour. It’s deep well covered curds can be harvested in April.
  • Romanesco is a type of cross between calabrese and cauliflower. It has beautiful lime green curds which are reminiscent of a fractal design. They are produced from November to January, long after calabrese has usually finished. It has a wonderful flavour and a more tender texture than cauliflower. It can be cooked whole or served as individual spears. It is grown in the same way as cauliflower. (see Romanesco)

Growing Problems of Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers are very vulnerable to club root so follow the instructions on growing with clubroot infected soil some, however, are now being bred with clubroot resistant. They are susceptible to cabbage root fly as well. Caterpillars and slugs and pigeons are the worst pests of cauliflowers. Caterpillars will eat the leaves and get into the curd and slugs to climb the stem to eat away the surface of the curds leaving brown trails. Pigeons will eat the leaves of young plants.

Cultivation of Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers should be grown in firm soil and react badly to poor cultivation techniques. Follow our instructions for the ideal brassica bed and you’re likely to be successful. Cauliflowers are very hungry plants and need plenty of nitrogen to grow well. They are best eaten fresh so you should sow them successionally to prevent a glut you can’t use.

Sow successionally into modules, thinning them at seedling stage to one plant per module. Move them up to a larger pot when ready, this will prevent root disturbance – but don’t allow them to become pot bound.

You can check the root system by turning the pot upside down holding the plant between your fingers to stop the soil from falling out then lift off the pot. If the white roots go around the pot in circle it is pot bound. Move it into a larger pot teasing out the roots to encourage them to grow into the new compost.

When re-potting or planting out they should be planted deeply, up to the base of the seed leaves. This helps them have a firm stalk above ground and grow into strong plants.

When you plant Cauliflowers out into their final growing position, ensure they are well firmed in and watered so that the roots establish well. If a good root system is not established early on they will never be able to absorb the water and nutrients they require – cauliflower heads will be small. Don’t allow too much sunlight to get onto the head as it will cause the curds to be slightly yellow rather than white, this can be prevented by bending some of the inner leaves over to shade it the head.

If you don’t harvest the cauliflower as soon as it is ready it will continue to grow and the florets will begin to open spoiling its eating quality. Some varieties stand longer than others, so check the description in the seed catalogue.

Harvesting, Eating & Storing

Cauliflowers can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 weeks wrapped tightly in cling film. A glut can be frozen although they do tend to go a little soft and discoloured.

Further Information on Cauliflower

Cauliflower Seed & Plants

  • Cauliflower from the Allotment Shop
  • Cauliflower with the Award of Garden Merit

Varieties that have won the RHS Award of Garden Merit will generally give consistent good results

Brassica Information

Articles relevant to brassicas. The brassica or cabbage family, is technically known as Cruciferae but was previously known as Brassicaceae from which we get the word Brassica. Brassicas are one of our oldest known and very important edible crops. It’s…

Cauliflower Head Development: Information About Headless Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cool season crop that is a bit more finicky regarding its climactic needs than its relatives broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, and mustard. Sensitivity to weather and environmental conditions make cauliflower prone to numerous growing problems. Usually, the issues center on cauliflower curd problems such as headless cauliflower. What are some of these conditions that can affect cauliflower head development?

Cauliflower Growing Problems

Cauliflower has two phases of growth — vegetative and reproductive. The reproductive phase means head or curd growth and any number of conditions during the reproductive phase such as unusually hot weather, drought or low temps can result in small premature heads or “buttons.” Some people think of this as a headless cauliflower. If you have no head on your cauliflower, it’s undoubtedly stress affecting the plant.

Stresses that affect cauliflower development may be overly cold soil or air temps in the spring, lack of irrigation or nutrition, root bound plants, and insect or disease damage. Cultivars that mature more quickly are more susceptible to stress than those that need a longer growing period.

Troubleshooting Cauliflower Curd Problems

To avoid having tiny buttons or even no head on a cauliflower plant, proper care must be taken when planting and during follow-up care.

  • Moisture – Soil should always be moist to a depth of 6 inches. Consistent moisture is necessary for the plants to develop full heads. They need additional water the later in the season that you plant it since cauliflower grown into the warmer parts of summer obviously need more water than those grown in the cool early spring.
  • Temperature – Cauliflower doesn’t tolerate warm temps and must be planted early enough to mature before the hot weather. Some varieties of cauliflower may need to be blanched to protect the heads from sun damage prior to harvest. This means the leaves of the plant are tied over the developing heads much like a kerchief.
  • Nutrition – Sufficient nutrition is also crucial for proper head development. No head on a cauliflower plant may be a symptom of a lack of nutrients, especially since cauliflower is a heavy feeder. Amend the soil with compost, well tilled in, and apply a 5-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet just before transplanting. It’s also a good idea to side dress with nitrogen at three to four weeks post transplantation in the amount of 1 pound per 100 foot row.

Monitor the cauliflower for any signs of insect or disease, provide plenty of nutrition and consistent irrigation and you should be seeing beautiful, large white cauliflower heads in no time.

Problems With Growing Cauliflower: the correct method of growing

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Mark Twain once said that cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. Thankfully, a college education is not required for growing your own cauliflower at home!

This cool weather plant can even yield 2 harvests per growing season outdoors if you plan carefully. It is a descendant of the wild cabbage plant, and contains plenty of antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, and even cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. Recent research also shows a link between white-fleshed vegetables and a reduced risk of stroke.

Though growing cauliflower is fairly easy, it does require a fair bit of skill and dedication to produce the best yield. We’ll cover all you need to know about planting, growing, harvesting, and storing this super-vegetable at home.

Planting cauliflower

Choosing your cauliflower variety

In general, cauliflower is no more difficult to grow than any other garden vegetable or tomato plant. The ‘Snowball’ provides a good yield with medium-sized heads, though other varietals, such as ‘Romanesco’ – a green variety, ‘Violet Queen’, or ‘Cheddar’ – which is an orange cauliflower than contains more vitamin A – have a similar taste, and are also easy to grow.

Seeds, shoots, or scraps?

Like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower can be grown from seeds, shoots, or scraps. They can be grown outdoors in a planting bed, or in a container, even indoors if the conditions are right.

Growing from a seed will take longer, and growing from food scraps may produce a bunch of smaller heads rather than one large one. Cauliflower starts (or shoots) can be purchased at most garden centres and will usually provide a good balance between a speedy harvest and a solid yield.

When to plant cauliflower

As cauliflower prefers cooler temperatures and slight humidity, it will grow during the spring, summer or fall. A crop planted in mid-spring will take 8-10 weeks to grow, producing a mid-summer harvest. If planted in mid-summer, the cauliflower will need only 4-5 weeks to produce a crop. Fall crops tend to produce higher-quality plants than summer crops.

If you’re beginning from seeds, start your spring crop indoors (in the house or greenhouse) approximately 10 weeks before the last average frost date for your area. Be sure to leave 12 weeks before your area’s first frost date for your fall crop to mature.

If you’re uncertain of the best timing in your climate, you may want to start a new batch weekly for a 4-6 weeks period to see which works out best.

Seed spacing

It’s best to check the seed packet for the producer’s recommendations for depth and spacing, but generally cauliflower should be planted ½” to ¾” deep in rows that are between 3 and 6 inches apart, and no more than 8 seeds per foot in each row.

Growing cauliflower

Moving the starts outdoors

When the seedlings have reached at least 2” tall and each have 3-4 leaves, the plants are ready to move outdoors – provided that the weather is appropriate.Choose a planting site that will be in full sun for at least 6 hours per day, where the cauliflower will not be shaded by taller plants. The starts can be transplanted into rows that are 8”-10” wide, with at least 36” between the rows and 18”-24” between the plants. For the first watering, include a high phosphate fertilizer to help the plants establish themselves in the soil.

In the garden

Cauliflower prefer a moist soil – slightly less than 2” of water weekly – so be sure to water consistently during the summer, when the weather is more likely to be hot and dry. Paradoxically, they are also sensitive to overwatering, so every 5-7 days is usually sufficient for areas with regular, light rains. Ensure that your planting bed has good drainage so that excess water does not accumulate.

It’s best to fertilize your plants frequently as cauliflower requires plenty of potassium and nitrogen for healthy development. Also, maintain a pH level between 6.5 and 7 – if the soil is too acidic, the cauliflower will show symptoms of magnesium deficiency, with smaller heads and paler leaves.

Problems with growing cauliflower

Young, fragile cauliflower plants are vulnerable to a number of garden pests such as aphids or cabbage worms. Some pests could completely ruin a cauliflower crop, so use either a plant-friendly pesticide or nontoxic pest treatment at the first sign of trouble.

Cauliflower (and its cousins in the Brassicaceae family) are prone to a fungal infection called clubroot that causes growths on the plant roots. This interferes with the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. This fungus is highly contagious, and any affected plants should be pulled up immediately by the roots and discarded. Do not compost them!

Another common fungus causes blackleg – irregular grey patches or lesions on the leaves. As this fungus is difficult to treat, the best technique is preventative treatment such as crop rotation or washing seeds in hot water to remove the fungus before planting them.

Harvesting cauliflower

When to harvest

Whether it’s the spring/summer or summer/autumn planting, when the recommended growth time has elapsed, it’s time to begin watching the plants for signs of readiness.

Before the harvest

The harvest process for Cauliflower is a long one; first, if you’ve chosen a white varietal, when the curd (the head of the plant) is 2”-3” in diameter, the outer leaves should be loosely tied over the head. This process is called blanching and will protect the head from the sun, allowing it to maintain a beautiful white color. The leaves can be tied within elastic bands, twine, or even tape – ensure that the head is dry before blanching, and that air can circulate freely between the tied leaves and the cauliflower head.

How to harvest

Usually, 7-12 days after blanching, the cauliflower will be ready to harvest. The head should be firm and compact – ideally, it will be 8”-9” in diameter.

Using a large – a very sharp – knife, cut the head off the plant. Be sure to leave some leaves around the head to protect it.

Storing cauliflower

Where should cauliflower be stored?

A head of cauliflower should be kept cool – it can be placed in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator.

How long will it last?

The refrigerated cauliflower will last about a week; so long that is has not turned brown, it’s good to eat.

Can cauliflower be preserved?

Cauliflower heads can either be frozen or pickled for long-term storage.

Sources:

Cauliflower is a cool-weather crop that requires 55 to 100 days of cool, even temperatures to reach harvest.

Start cauliflower seed indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost in spring. Transplants can go into the garden 2 to 6 weeks before the last frost, usually 6 weeks after sowing.

Direct seed cauliflower into the garden where the soil temperature is between 65°F and 75°F and the weather will remain cool.

Crops for a fall harvest can be direct-seeded 8 to 12 weeks before the first expected frost in fall. Transplants come to maturity in 55 to 80 days; from seed, cauliflower requires 70 to 120 days.

About Cauliflower. Cauliflower is a cool-weather half-hardy biennial grown as an annual. Cauliflower is grown for its edible buds which form a solid head atop single stalks. Heads are sometimes called curds. Heads can be cream, white, purple, or green colored. Broccoflower is a hybrid cross between a cauliflower and broccoli; broccoflowers have green heads.

Cauliflower Yield. Plant 1 to 2 plants per household member.

Planting Cauliflower

Site. Cauliflower grows best in rich, well-drained, moisture-retentive soil with a pH within the 6.5 to 8.0 range. Plant cauliflower in full sun. Broccoflower prefers partial shade. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting.

How to Grow Cauliflower: Cauliflower is a cool-weather crop that requires 55 to 100 days of cool, even temperatures to reach harvest

Cauliflower Planting Time. Cauliflower requires 55 to 100 days of cool, even temperatures to reach harvest. Start cauliflower seed indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost in spring. Cauliflower germinates at 45°F. (Cauliflower is usually grown from transplants.) Transplants can go into the garden 2 to 6 weeks before the last frost, usually 6 weeks after sowing when plants have 4 to 5 true leaves. Direct seed cauliflower into the garden where the soil temperature is between 65°F and 75°F and the weather will remain cool. Crops for a fall harvest can be direct-seeded 8 to 12 weeks before the first expected frost in fall. Cauliflower does not like extremes of temperature, hot or cold; it does not tolerate dry conditions. Plant cauliflower in autumn for a winter harvest where winters are mild and frost-free. Extreme temperatures will cause cauliflower to bolt and go to seed.

More tips: Planting Cauliflower.

Cauliflower Planting and Spacing. Sow cauliflower seeds ½ inch deep and 2 to 3 inch apart. Thin plants to 15 to 24 inches apart; space rows 24 to 30 inches apart. Set leggy or cooked-stemmed transplants deeply, up to their first leaves, so that they will not grow top-heavy. For succession crops, plant a couple of heads at a time or plant early and midseason varieties at the same time.

More tips: Cauliflower Seed Starting Tips.

Companion plants. Beets, celery, herbs, onions, potatoes. Avoid pole beans, strawberries, tomatoes.

Container Growing Cauliflower. Grow cauliflower in a container at least 8-inches deep. In large containers, plant cauliflower on 18-inch centers.

Caring for Cauliflower

Cauliflower Watering and Feeding. Cauliflower requires evenly moist soil for uninterrupted, vigorous growth and head formation. Do not let the ground dry out. Add aged compost to the planting bed before planting and as a side dressing again at midseason.

Cauliflower Care. Keep cauliflowers planting beds free of weeds. Avoid deep cultivation which can damage roots.

White cauliflower is often blanched to keep the heads white and to protect the heads from rain and too much sun; blanching does not improve flavor greatly. Blanch white cauliflower varieties when the head gets to be about the size of an egg: draw three or four leaves over the head and secure them with a rubber band. Check the heads weekly to make sure pests are not hiding under the leaves. Self-blanching cauliflower does not need to be tied but it will not blanch in hot weather.

Cauliflower Pests. Cauliflower can be attacked by cutworms, cabbage loopers (preceded by small yellow and white moths), and imported cabbage worms. These pests can be controlled by fine mesh row covers, handpicking, and spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis.

Cauliflower Diseases. Cauliflower is susceptible to root rots–an initial symptom is the yellowing leaves. Plant disease-resistant varieties, keep the garden free of debris and avoid handling plants when they are wet. Remove and destroy infected plants immediately so they cannot spread disease to healthy plants. Downy mildew which occurs in cool, wet conditions can cause cauliflower head to brown.

More on cauliflower pests and diseases: Cauliflower Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Harvesting and Storing Cauliflower

Cauliflower Harvest. Time from planting to harvest is 55 to 100 days for cauliflower grown from transplants 85 to 130 days for cauliflower grown from seed. Under good growing conditions, the heads develop rapidly to about six to eight inches in diameter. The mature head should be compact, firm, and white. Cut the whole head from the main stem. The leaves can be cooked like collards or cabbage.

More tips: How to Harvest and Store Cauliflower.

Storing and preserving. Cauliflower will keep for one week in the refrigerator unwashed and wrapped in plastic. Cauliflower can be frozen, pickled.

Purple cauliflower and green broccoflower

Cauliflower Varieties to Grow

Check the cultivar to be sure it is suited to the growing season: spring, summer, and autumn, or winter.

Common name. Cauliflower

Botanical name. Brassica oleracea botrytis

Origin. Europe, Mediterranean

Handy tips to take to the garden: Cauliflower Growing Quick Tips.

Grow 80 vegetables and herbs: KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

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Cauliflower Growing and Harvest Information

Temperature
Germination 45-85 F
For growth – 60-70F (daytime), 50-60F (nighttime)
Soil and Water
Fertilizer -Heavy feeder; needs high N and K
Side-dressing – every 3-4 weeks
pH 6.0-7.5
Water – average. Critical early in season, and during warm weather
Measurements
Planting depth 1/4 – 1/2″
Root depth 18-48″
Height 18-24″
Width 24-30″
Space between plants
In beds 12-15″
In rows 18″
Space between rows 24-46″
Average plants per person 3-5
Harvest
When heads are 8-10″ in diameter, harvest by pulling the entire plant from the soil. Cauliflower heads deteriorate quickly, so check periodically and harvest when ready.
First Seed starting Date 25-45 days (uncovered), 53-73 (covered) before last frost date
Last Seed Starting Date 89-140 Days before first frost date
Companions
Companions Aromatic plants, artichoke, beet, bush beans, garlic, lettuce, peas, potato, spinach
Incompatibles Pole beans, strawberry, tomato, Kohlrabi

Cauliflower is an annual cool-season crop, half-hardy to frost and light freezes. To prevent spreading clubroot and other soil-borne diseases, don’t compost any brassica roots. Pull and destroy all infected plants. Also rotate brassica plants on at least a 3 year basis, preferably on a 7 year basis.

Where to Grow Cauliflower

Cauliflower can be grown wherever there are steady cool, frost-free growing seasons. It is a little more particular than other brassicias and around 60 degrees is the preferred temperature.

Early Snowball; Snowball Imperial; Self-Blanch (fall); and Early Purple-Head (fall, not blanched).

Soil for Cauliflower

Fertile, enriched loam is ideal with pH from 6 to 7. Cauliflower is sensitive to boron deficiency in the soil.

Germination 3-10 days.

When –

Cauliflower can be difficult to grow as a spring crop because it tends to bolt in the heat. It is generally easier to grow as a fall crop for this reason. It is the most sensitive of the brassicas to frost. Cauliflower should not be transplanted outdoors until all danger of frost is past, unless covered. It also needs to mature before hot summer weather arrives. A compromise might be to choose an intermediate starting date and cover the plants when set out to protect them from the cold. For fall crop, start seed in mid-June to set out transplants in late July. Allow 2 to 3 months growing time before first frost.

How –

In rows 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart, with 2 feet between plants. Plant transplants 1″ deeper than they were grown in starting pots, and cover with netting to protect from pests.

How Cauliflower Grows

The plant has broad green-blue foliage that develops a central flower head. This increases in size to a large, cabbage-sized head of condensed flowers. By tradition the head is blanched (covered from the sun) to bleach it white. Spacing between plants determines head size: the closer together, the smaller the head. When heads start forming, prevent yellowing by tying several upright leaves loosely together with string, covering the rest of the head from direct exposure to sunlight.

Storage Requirements
Wrap individual plants, head and roots, in plastic. Store in a root cellar or cool place
Fresh
Temperature Humidity Storage Life
32F 95-98% 3-4 weeks
Preserved
Method Taste Shelf Life
Canned poor
Frozen good 12 months
Dried good 12 months

Cultivating Cauliflower

The trick to cauliflower is to keep it growing steadily once the seedlings are planted outdoors. So much, however, depends on proper growing weather – ideally, a cool, long, sunny season with ample moisture or irrigation. When the center begins to develop a tight flower head about the size of a McIntosh apple, loosely tie the outer leaves with twine. Do not tie too tightly, as there must be some air circulation. This will cause the flower head to bleach white in about 1 to 2 weeks.

Harvesting Cauliflower

Cauliflower is ready to harvest in approximately 60-80 days from transplant date. As soon as the compact head is formed and blanched, it should be cut off with a sharp knife, along with several of the leaves for protection. The head should look full, and will likely be slightly smaller than supermarket varieties. Harvest when the curds of the head are still smooth. If too many heads ripen at once, cut them anyway and store in a cool, dark place for several weeks. Ripened heads left on the plant will rot and deteriorate rapidly.

Cauliflower Pests

  • Same as cabbage
  • Root Maggot -Place 3 inch tar paper squares around each seedling when transplanting to cover the soil areas; or keep the ground dusted with wood ash.
  • Cabbage butterflies/worms -controlling cabbage worms is surprisingly easy. Cover susceptible crops with a floating row cover when planting and leave it in place until harvest.
  • Cutworms – Use stiff paper collars around transplants to extend at least 1 inch below the soil line.
  • Flea beetles – Dust with wood ash or flour dust.

Diseases for Cauliflower

  • Same for cabbage
  • Soil fungicides are somewhat effective on cauliflower diseases, but they are expensive, sold in large quantity, and not practical for small home garden use, unless a great deal of cauliflower is grown.
  • Club root fungus – Most frequent in soggy or acid soil. Grow only in well-drained soil; follow crop rotation practices; lime to keep soil pH at a neutral 7.
  • Yellows – A soil-born diseases; choose resistant varieties.
  • Black rot – Bacteria born on seed; buy only from reputable seed dealers or bedding plant growers; rotate crops.
  • Blackleg – Bacteria spreads from infected plants, garden tools, and leftover debris. Follow crop rotation.

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