Cauliflowers are one of the most delicious and versatile vegetables around. If you’re new to growing them, this article will give you all the tips you need to produce a bumper crop.

cauliflower curd white heads

What is Cauliflower?

Cauliflower, Brassica oleracea, is a biennial vegetable in the family Brassicaceae, grown for its swollen edible head. The head or curd is made up of curdled white, yellow, orange, and even purple florets surrounded by a thin, firm fleshy stalk. The head is formed on a thick stem which is usually dark green and grows to be 4,5 feet long, and the leaves of the plant are deeply lobed and broad in shape and are dark green.

The cauliflower plant is grown annually and is usually harvested before the plant begins to flower. The florets are edible and can be used in salads, soups, stir-fries, and even its crust pizza. This superfood vegetable is popular because it’s nutritious, has a mild flavor, is easy to grow in your garden, and requires low maintenance. 

cauliflower potatoes meal

Why Should You Grow Cauliflower in Your Garden?

Cauliflower is another great vegetable to grow in your garden. This incredible vegetable is another easy-to-grow crop for your garden and can be grown in many soil types.

Cauliflower is high in vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folic acid, which helps in the production of DNA and cell division. The fiber content of cauliflower helps regulate blood sugar levels and may help reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems. The antioxidants in cauliflower help protect the body against harmful free radicals, and it also contains dietary fiber and potassium, which help the body absorb minerals from the soil. So if your gardening adventure doesn’t include this super vegetable, consider adding it to your backyard.

How to Grow?

You can grow cauliflower in your backyard garden, pots, or containers. The growing season will take 55 to 105 days from seeds to harvest, depending on the variety.

The best time to plant is in the early spring when the soil is warm enough, and the weather is still cool enough to prevent the plant from flowering. You can amend the soil by adding organic matter such as compost, manure, and peat moss. That helps the plants to absorb nutrients and water better. This plant requires a long season of water and lots of sunlight to get the best possible yield.

cauliflower-leaves-in-the-field

When and How to Plant?

Soil should be between 60° and 70° F and moist but not wet. Cauliflower is usually planted in the spring in areas with a short growing season. It can be produced as early as March till mid-April in warmer climates.

Plant seedlings in late summer or early fall if you live where the growing season is more extended. Fall sowing will provide the longest growing season. It is a very forgiving plant and can tolerate some frost and cold weather. This cool-weather crop vegetable likes to grow in full sun and will produce a giant head if it’s not growing in the shade and also needs a lot of space, so don’t crowd them together.

Sow Seeds

Cauliflower can be direct-seeded but grows more successfully from seedlings when started indoors for transplants. Sow seeds in small groups in a mix of 50 % organic matter soil and 50% of your garden soil. Depending on the soil temperature and sun conditions, they need to germinate for 5 to 8 days.

When seedlings plants are at least 2 inches tall, they can be transplanted or thinned into individual pots, containers, or garden rows. Plant them more deeply into the soil to support them better. You can space them from 4 inches in pots or 18 inches in the garden allowing 30 inches between rows.

If you space them tightly, later, you will need to cut some more giant leaves to prevent shading on the second plant. After transplanting, water them thoroughly to avoid stressing the plants.

young-cauliflower-plant

Soil and watering

Cauliflower is a cool-season crop that thrives when air temperatures are around 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal soil should be loose, well-drained, and rich in organic matter. If you are starting to plant in a new garden area, prepare the ground with a shovel, turn it over with a pitchfork, and rake it smooth. You can then apply a 1-inch layer of compost and a 1-inch layer of manure. If you have a large, established garden, dig out the existing soil and mix in compost and manure. Add additional nutrients to the ground, such as compost, composted manure, or fertilizer.

The ideal soil pH is between 6.5 and 6.9. Water your plants every other day, using a soaker hose to distribute the water evenly. It is crucial to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

General Care and Maintenance

When caring for cauliflower, you don’t want the head change color due to intense sunlight. When the head is around 1-2 inches in size, tear off one leaf and cover the head with it, this is called “blanching” and keeps the head white. You can also lift the outer leaves over the head and tie them together. Be careful after the rain and make sure that the head is not soaked with water so that it does not rot and allow the head to dry. It is also desirable to remove the yellow leaves at the bottom of the stem.

 

cauliflower ready for blanching

Fertilizing

Cauliflower needs a lot of nitrogen to produce its edible white head. The best way to provide this is through composted manure, fish emulsion, aged cow manure, worm castings, and compost. If you don’t have access to composted manure, you can buy an organic liquid fertilizer specifically designed for your plants. Some gardeners like to add blood and bone to their soil mix because it is a high-nitrogen fertilizer and helps the plant’s head grow big. If you can, go for organic use a liquid 12-24-12 or 15-30-15 fertilizer, but you’ll want to dilute it to half strength, so you don’t overfeed the plants because young plants need higher nitrogen and mature plants need more potassium and phosphorus.

Companion Plants

Many vegetables benefit from the presence of certain herbs and flowers. For example, cauliflower enjoys the company of beans, onions, garlic, and potatoes. Aromatic herbs like mint and chamomile are said to improve your plant’s flavor. Hyssop, parsley, rosemary, sage, and rhubarb will help you to repel pests and slugs. You can also plant spinach, celery, beets, and carrots near as they like growing together. 

Avoid planting any of the following alongside cauliflower: strawberries, peas, tomatoes, corn, peppers, and pumpkins. Also, avoid plants from the same brassica family like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts would compete with the cauliflower plants for nutrients.

When to Harvest?

Cauliflower is ready to harvest when the curd is about 6-8 inches wide, the flowers are starting to open, and the heads are white, firm, but still closed and tight. That is around two weeks after “blanching.” You can harvest with a sharp knife by carefully cutting the main stem under the white head base and pulling the head from above. Then remove any loose leaves, and you can separate the head on smaller florets. Avoid picking cauliflower heads when they become soft, as they have become over-ripened.

harvesting cauliflower

Common problems

Cauliflower growing problems can include stunted growth, soft or deformed heads, discolored head, and weak growth. The most common pests are aphids, cabbage moths and loopers, flea beetles, cutworms, squash bugs, and thrips. Insects aren’t usually too big of a problem if you’re diligent about controlling them. Common diseases are:

  • Ring spot (Mycosphaerella brassicicola)
  • Damping-off – Wirestem Rhizoctonia solani
  • Purple blotch (Alternaria porri)
  • Downy mildew Hyaloperonospora parasitica
  • Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV)
  • White rust Albugo candida
  • Sclerotinia white mold Sclerotinia sclerotiorum
  • Bacterial soft rot Erwinia caratovora
  • Clubroot Plasmodiophora brassicae

You can control most of these diseases by prevention and proper crop rotation.

yellow-cauliflower-variety

Frequently asked questions

Can cauliflower survive frost?

Yes, cauliflower does indeed have the ability to withstand low temperatures. However, if your plant is located outdoors, make sure it’s protected from frost by covering it with a heavy layer of mulch.

 Why are my cauliflowers turning yellow?

The curd can turn yellow due to the intense sun, which does not mean it is terrible but aesthetically not as beautiful as white. Blanching or covering the heads in the last ripening stage is recommended to keep the curd white.

Should I soak cauliflower seeds before planting?

Yes, it is best to soak the seeds a couple of hours before planting. That will help the seed germinate faster and give your plants the best chance of survival.

Does cauliflower grow well in pots?

Yes, this vegetable has a relatively more minor root than the plant, so it can easily grow in pots. You can transplant seedlings into a pot of a minimum size is 18 inches in width with 10 inches in depth.

Sources

Medical News Today https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282844#nutrition

Cornell university http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene595b.html