Cauliflower is another member of the brassica family. You will find it is a little more restricted by climatic conditions than other members of this family. Coupled with cauliflower seedlings and plants not responding well to interruptions in their growth cycle is their poor adaptability to extremes of temperature making cauliflower a little more challenging to grow successfully.
The edible portion is the single compact dome shaped head of immature flowers, these are commonly white but there are varieties that produce purple, orange or green heads. Head size varies with variety, ranging from 4-10 inches (10-25 cm) diameter.
Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable. In fact, the flavor of cauliflower, as with other members of the Brassicaceae family, improves with cooler temperatures. It can withstand light frosts, but is intolerant to wide temperature fluctuations. Extremes of cold, heat, drought or poor plant handling can cause failure to set or abort development of the cauliflower head.
Cauliflowers that mature during hot weather often produce heads that separate into loose, smaller curds.
Growing cauliflower requires similar soil conditions to broccoli and other Brassicaceae family members. Cauliflower seedlings prefer fertile, well-drained, moist soils with plenty of organic matter.
Good growth is experienced with a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0. To discourage club-root disease, ph levels closer to the neutral (7.0) end of the scale is better.
Transplanting seedling grown indoors is the best way to grow cauliflower. For detailed information on starting seeds indoor click this link.
Cauliflower likes room to grow, space plants at 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) within the row and space rows at 30 inches (75 cm) apart. Transplant the cauliflower seedling into the garden or beds slightly deeper than they were in their pots. Water well and supply a good mulch for moisture and weed control. For more details on transplanting seedlings click this link.
The most important aspects of caring for cauliflower are;
Weed control with any plant that is transplanted really is a breeze by mulching around the plant as soon as it is transplanted . It is not hard to maintain the mulch during the growing cycle.
To produce good yields, consistent soil moisture content, moist but not soaking, is very important for cauliflower transplants to become well established and keep moving forward without undue stress.
When transplanting use liquid starter fertilizer. 2 to 3 weeks before transplanting spread 3-4 quarts per 100 sq feet (3.3-4.4 liters per 9.3 square meters) of All-Purpose 5-5-5 Organic Fertilizer. Use the same rate every 3-4 weeks as side dressing. last side-dressing as the heads begin to show.
Unlike broccoli, when growing cauliflower it is important to protect the growing head of the plant from the sun to keep it from turning green and developing an off-flavor when eaten.
When the head begins to form 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) of white curd, older varieties and varieties that are not self blanching will need to be blanched.
This is done by gently lifting the outer leaves of the plant up and tying them together over the center of the head. The object of this procedure is to keep the sunlight off the white cauliflower head but to let air in and also leave room for the cauliflower head to grow.
Most new varieties are self blanching, which means they have a leaf growth pattern that curl over the head to form natural sun protection making the need for manual tying unnecessary. This is more important for white head varieties than others.
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Crop rotation is important with cauliflower and other members of the Brassicaceae family that includes Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, turnips, and of course, all forms of cabbage. Allow at least 2-4 years between growing any members of this large vegetable group in the same garden bed.
Planting cauliflower in a bed that has previously grown beans, celery, corn, eggplant, onions, peas, peppers, squash and tomatoes is fine.
Aphids, Cabbage Loopers, Cutworms, Diamond Back Moth, Flea Beetles, Harlequin Bug, Imported Cabbageworm, Mites, Root Fly, Slugs, Weevil, Whitefly.
Alternaria Leafspot , Black Leg, Black Rot, Club Root, Damping Off, Downy Mildew, Leaf Spot, Rhizoctonia, Yellows.
Harvest cauliflower heads when they are 5-6 inches in diameter. Cauliflower heads are easily damaged so handle with great care. To harvest cauliflower, cut it off the stalk just below the head.
Cauliflower can be held for up to 3 to 4 weeks at 32 F (0 C) with a relative humidity of at least 95%. Heads that are slightly immature and compact will keep better than older more mature heads.