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Growing Cauliflower – How To Plant Cauliflower In The Garden

Growing Cauliflower – How To Plant Cauliflower In The Garden


If you’ve been wondering how to plant cauliflower (Brassicaoleracea var. botrytis), you’ll find that it is not difficult onceyou know what it likes. Growing cauliflower can be done alongside other closelyrelated plants like broccoli,kaleand turnips.

Many gardeners don’t bother growing cauliflower, as it hasthe reputation of being one of the more temperamental crops and with goodreason. Bringing cauliflower to fruition means knowing when is the best time toplant and when to harvest cauliflower. Read on to learn how to plantcauliflower and other helpful cauliflower planting tips to make this crop asuccess.

Best Time to Plant Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cool season veggie from the Brassicaceaefamily, which includes broccoli, and, in fact, cauliflower is often referred toas ‘heading broccoli.’ Unlike broccoli, however, which produces multiple sideshoots, cauliflower only produces a single head which means you have one chanceto get it right.

The main thing to remember is that the plant thrives intemperatures around 60-65 F. (16-18 C.) and no higher than 75 F. (24 C.). Of allthe colecrops, cauliflower is the most sensitive to temperature. When temperaturesexceed 75 F., the plants have a tendency to buttonor bolt.

The best time to plant most varieties of cauliflower is inthe spring so they grow and produce their flower heads before summer’s hottemperatures ramp up. Other varieties are suited for mid-summer planting for afall harvest. A good fall recommendation is its pointy, green Romanescocousin.

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 thegarden. Do not transplant any earlier than 2-3 weeks prior to the average frost-freedate for your area. This can be rather tricky in that it is important to startcauliflower early enough so it matures before the heat arrives but not so earlythat cold spring temps damage the plants.

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

Transplant the plants 2 feet (.5 m.) apart in rows that are30-36 inches (76-91 cm.) apart.

Cauliflower Planting Tips

Early maturing varieties are more susceptible to buttoningthan later cultivars.

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

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

Fertilize at transplanting with a liquid fertilizeraccording to the manufacturer’s instructions and again when the plants areestablished, side dressing with nitrogen rich compost.

White cauliflower shouldbe blanched, while green, orange and purple cultivars need sun to developtheir colors. When the head is golf to tennis ball size, tie the outer leavesloosely over the developing head with a soft cloth or nylon. This will protectit from sunscald and keep it from turning yellow.

When to Harvest Cauliflower

Caulifloweris 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.


Growing Cauliflower: The Complete Guide to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Cauliflower

Steph Coelho

Steph is a certified Square Food Gardening Instructor who has been gardening for more than 10 years in Canada where the winters are long and cold, and the summers are unpredictable. She is a volunteer for her community's Incredible Edible project. In the past she created an educational gardening space for seniors and taught classes at a local community center where she created her own curriculum and activities. She participated in several local municipal garden days where she set up a booth to educate citizens about the joy of gardening.

Mark Twain said that “cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education” and I think he’s right. Cauliflower is part of the cabbage family, but it has a nutty, sophisticated flavor that sets it apart from its broccoli and cabbage cousins.

While the attractive vegetable is a popular addition to dinner plates, it takes a little extra care in the garden. That’s because it’s one of the more finicky brassicas. Temperature fluctuations and other stressors can cause growing cauliflower heads to become discolored, disjointed, and unappetizing.

Don’t let the challenges put you off. With a little bit of trial and error, you can grow picture-perfect versions of this persnickety veggie. It’s all worth it in order to harvest a vibrant white (or green, or orange, or purple) head of cauliflower.

So why go to the trouble? Because cauliflower is endlessly versatile in the kitchen – there are countless recipes for you to try! It can be mashed, roasted, or riced. You can add it to soups, stews, and curries, or pair it with meat. Cauliflower can be a meal all its own since you can use different spices to change its entire flavor profile. Is there anything this lovely little cole crop can’t do?

We’ll show you what you need to know, including which varieties to choose for your area, to overcome the challenges and get your cauliflower to prosper.


MSU Extension

Cauliflower

  • Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard)
  • Season: Cool
  • Ease of growing: Difficult
  • Nutrient needs: High
  • Water needs: High
  • Common propagation: Transplant

Seed facts

  • Germination temperature: 45°F to 85°F
  • Germination time: 5 to 10 days
  • Viability: 5 to 10 years
  • Direct sow: Midsummer for fall harvest

Transplants

  • Weeks to grow transplants: 4 to 5
  • Start: Early March through June
  • Plant out: April through July

Planning facts

  • Typical spacings: 18” x 24” or 18” x 36”
  • Square foot per plant: 2
  • Time to harvest: 45 to 75 days from transplant

Variety selection

Cauliflower varieties come in multiple colors including white, purple, green and orange. For white cauliflower, varieties such as Fremont are available that are not as dependent on blanching (see “Care”) to get good white color and quality. For an interesting visual addition to your garden, try Romanesco varieties which are green and form a spiraled head with a pointed tip.

Preparation and planting

Since cauliflower doesn’t like hot weather, it’s best to sow cauliflower seed in early June or transplant by mid-July for a fall harvest. Early maturing varieties are generally transplanted to the garden in early spring before the summer temperatures arrive. Prolonged heat or stress from lack of water can cause the plant to bolt, or flower and produce seeds. Cauliflower does best on moist, well drained soils with high organic matter levels.

The cultural requirements are similar to those of broccoli, but cauliflower is more difficult to grow successfully due to greater sensitivity to environmental stresses. Hot weather may cause buttoning, or failure of developing heads to enlarge. Too cool of weather tends to produce a loose, “ricey” head rather than a compact curd. It is perfectly edible, just not as attractive.

Cauliflower needs a consistent supply of moisture and is a heavy feeder. To get white curds on many varieties, it is necessary to tie up the leaves around the developing curd. This process is called “blanching” and prevents sunlight from stimulating production of green chlorophyll in curds. You can still eat the heads if they were exposed to sunlight, but the curd will develop a greenish brownish color and flavor will be impaired. Blanch cauliflower while the curd is dry as this will help avoid disease problems. In warm weather, the head will ripen in a few days, so check it regularly.

Harvest and storage

Harvest dates vary with the weather. Warm temperatures make the heads ready only a few days after blanching. In cooler weather, it may take up to two weeks for heads to reach harvest size. Complete harvesting before the first frost for best results as cold temperatures will discolor the heads. Cool the cauliflower immediately to 32°F to 40°F and store for up to three weeks.

Developed by James Manning, Undergraduate Research Assistant, and Daniel Brainard, Vegetable Extension Specialist MSU Department of Horticulture Gary Heilig, MSU Extension educator.


Gardenate

(brassica oleracea var. botrytus botrytus)

(Best months for growing Cauliflower in Australia - sub-tropical regions)

S = Plant undercover in seed trays T = Plant out (transplant) seedlings

  • Grow in seed trays, and plant out in 4-6 weeks. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 30°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 60 - 100 cm apart
  • Harvest in 15-22 weeks.
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Dwarf (bush) beans, beets, celery, cucumber, onions, marigold, nasturtium, rhubarb, aromatic herbs (sage, dill, chamomile)
  • Avoid growing close to: Climbing (pole) beans, tomato, peppers (chili, capsicum), eggplant (aubergine), strawberry, mustard

Large leafed cabbage-like with a white 'curd' or flower forming in the centre. It can be hard to grow successfully. More frost sensitive than most brassicas, it's also not particularly heat tolerant. They tend to fail if stressed when transplanting.

Watch for cabbage white butterfly. Grow better in cooler temperatures. Not suitable for warm areas. Break a leaf over the head to prevent the curd becoming discoloured

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Cauliflower

Cauliflower can be eaten raw, steamed, stirfried, grilled, or roasted. Popular grated and steamed/stirfried as a low-carb rice substitute.
Cook briefly and add to curry mix.
Traditionally served with cheese sauce. Add tomato slices for colour.
Toss with oil and spices and roast/grill until browned and delicious!


Key Takeaways

  • Cauliflower is a cool-season crop that grows best when soil temperatures are steady in the 50’s to 60’s (Fahrenheit).
  • Plant cauliflower in full sun to partial shade with ample room, in soil rich amended with organic matter and compost.
  • Provide consistent water, mild slow-release fertilizer, and buffer the plants against temperatures swings.
  • Be proactive to manage pest populations early.
  • Harvest when heads are formed but still tight.

Well folks, I think I’ve shared every tip and trick I know to successfully grow cauliflower! With this information, I hope you’re able to grow and harvest some big, beautiful, tasty cauliflower of your own. Enjoy experimenting with a variety of colors, or just stick to classic white for now. Please let me know if you have any questions, and come report back on how your growing season goes. Finally, please pin or share this article if you found this information valuable!


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