Cauliflower is a cool-season crop of the broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi family (Brassica oleracea). It is, nevertheless, more erratic than its cousins. Consistently mild temperatures are essential for producing cauliflower, which is why over three-quarters of commercial cauliflower is cultivated in California’s coastal valleys. However, regardless of where you reside, you may try growing it at home, but time is crucial to get the temperature exactly right. It also requires fertile soil, as well as a constant supply of water and nutrients. Temperatures in the 60s are ideal for cauliflower. There is a delicate balance between leaf and head development in immature cauliflower plants. Premature heading, or “buttoning,” occurs when the plant produces small button-sized heads as a result of any stress. When it’s too hot or too cold, this might happen. This can also happen if plants are kept too close together for too long, or if they are stunted by dryness or bad soil. Allow us to prepare you for success now that you are aware of the hurdles.
Quick Guide to Growing Cauliflower
2 to 4 weeks before the final frost, plant spring cauliflower. Both in-ground and container gardens are viable solutions.
Cauliflower should be planted in rows, with each plant 18 inches apart. The distance between rows should be 30 inches.
Mix several inches of compost or other rich organic matter into your native soil to improve it.
Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch and water the plants weekly with 1 to 1.5 inches of water.
Protect young plants from the cold by covering them.
Fold the leaves over the cauliflower head when it’s approximately the size of a golf ball and tie them in place with twine.
When the cauliflower heads are still compact but large enough to consume, harvest them (about 6 to 8 inches in diameter).
Soil, Planting, and Care
Start with Bonnie Plants cauliflower plants instead of seeds if you want to get the most out of your cauliflower plants in terms of growth and harvest. You can trust Bonnie since she has over a century of expertise delivering high-quality plants to home gardeners. Furthermore, starting with young plants will get you closer to harvest time.
Cauliflower, like other vegetables, requires at least 6 hours in direct sunlight every day; more is ideal. It also requires soil that is fertile, well-drained, and wet, with enough of organic matter. For best development and to avoid clubroot disease, the soil pH should be between 6.5 and 6.8. Test the soil to make sure of the pH. You may either purchase a kit or request a soil test from your local Cooperative Extension office. Fertilizer and lime should be applied according to the test results. Improve your native soil with aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose In-Ground Soil, or add nitrogen-rich additions like blood meal, cottonseed meal, or composted manure. (Are you growing in pots? If you choose Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Container Mix, which incorporates compost but is lighter and fluffier than in-ground soil, you won’t be disappointed.) You’ll receive the finest results if you feed your developing cauliflower plants a continuous-release fertilizer like Miracle-Gro on a regular basis, in addition to providing the ideal soil condition for plant roots. Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules, for example, is a slow-release fertilizer that feeds both beneficial bacteria in the soil and your plants. Fertilize according to the label’s instructions throughout the growth season.
Plant spring flowers and vegetables early enough that they will grow before the summer heat, but not too early that they will freeze; 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost is about appropriate. Make sure you have a cover to keep them warm in the winter. Fabric row coverings or improvised things like old milk bottles can be used.
Fall crops should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. Prepare to shade them if necessary to keep them cool.
Cauliflower plants should be spaced 18 inches apart in a row, with 30 inches between rows to allow for strolling. Remember that plants require an equal flow of moisture to minimize stress. Weeds will be suppressed by using organic mulch to keep the soil cool and wet. If there isn’t enough rain, add 1 to 1.5 inches of water every week.
Pull the leaves up over each small head and secure with a clothespin or twine when the cauliflower heads are approximately 2 inches wide. This provides shade to the head, ensuring that it is white and sensitive when harvested (called blanching). Plants are meant to “self-blanch,” in which the leaves curl over the head naturally, but keep an eye on them because they frequently require the assistance of a clothespin.
Watch out for cabbage loopers, imported cabbageworms, cabbage root maggots, aphids, and flea beetles, among other pests. Black leg, black rot, clubroot, and yellows are all possible disease pests. For additional information on pest identification and current management suggestions, contact your local Cooperative Extension office. Keeping your plants healthy and your garden tidy is the greatest approach to avoid issues.
Harvest and Storage
After you tie up the leaves, the head should be ready in about a week. Allow the head to continue to expand as long as it remains compact (ideally, it will grow to 6 to 8 inches in diameter). You may untie it to peep inside and then re-tie it if necessary. If the head starts to open up, take it off the plant at the base of the neck, no matter how little it is, because the quality will only deteriorate. Keep the head in the refrigerator for at least two weeks.
For more on growing plants, flowers, herbs and vegetables organically, please visit Organic Gardening.