How to grow cauliflower is as interesting as it is challenging for some people. But it’s not always the case if you learn to adhere to some very specific requirements this plant needs. To start, timing when to plant and harvest is a crucial factor in growing cauliflower.
Read on as we detail the whats and hows of successfully harvesting your very own cauliflowers from the backyard.
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When to Plant Cauliflower
Cauliflower thrives well in consistent cool weather — not too hot and too cold. Ideally, the daytime temperature should remain 60-65 ºF. If the temperature fluctuates to around 75 ºF, it may cause plants to button or bolt.
- For cooler areas, plant in early Spring or in late Summer.
- For warmer areas, plant during the Fall to have an early Spring harvest. You can also choose a fast-growing variety of cauliflower to plant in Spring.
Cauliflower Varieties for Home Garden
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In choosing the variety to grow, consult with local farmers on the best type to grow in your area.
- Snow Crown – A variety that is easy to grow with good tolerance to Fall frost. This matures in 50-60 days.
- Self-blanching Snowball – As the name implies, this variety will save you some work. The plant matures in 65-75 days.
- Sicilian Violet – An Italian heirloom that is insect resistant and light frost tolerant. It takes about 80 days to be ready for harvest.
- Cheddar Hybrid – This orange variety matures in 60-70 days and does not need blanching.
How to Grow Cauliflower
Step 1. Grow Seeds Indoors
As mentioned, cauliflower is the most temperature-sensitive plant among the coles. It’s better to start the seedlings indoors to protect them from the weather.
- Start by filling your nursery pots with rich compost or potting soil. Place seeds on top and lightly cover with soil.
- Keep the soil well-watered and moist, but not wet. Once the seeds start sprouting, place the pots in a sunny area to make sure they get as much sunlight as possible.
- You can apply fertilizer after the first true leaf appears.
After about a month, begin preparing them to adapt to outdoor conditions. Place plants outside where they will get a couple of hours of sunlight.
Step 2. Prepare the Soil
You’ll want to transfer your cauliflower to rich well-moist soil. It must enable the cauliflower to absorb nutrients as it grows. For starters, make sure the following criteria are met by the soil:
- High potassium and nitrogen – Fertilizers just might do the trick.
- High organic matter content – Mix 50% compost and 50% garden soil.
- Soil acidity between 6.5 and 7 pH – Lower the soil pH with aluminum sulfate and sulfur; increase with pulverized lime.
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Step 3. Transplant the Seedlings
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When soil and transplants are ready, carefully remove the seedlings from the container without breaking the roots. Select and plant only the healthy seedlings.
Create a small hole in the ground and plant the healthy sprouts. Lightly press the ground and sprinkle with water.
Maintain 2 feet distance between each transplant to allow maximum growth.
Step 4. Care for and Maintain the Plant
- Water the cauliflower plant regularly. Keep the soil around it moist (not wet) at all times.
- To help regulate temperature, lightly mulch around the planting area. This is only a way to ensure that the soil remains moist.
- You may need to supplement growth with fertilizers. Apply fertilizer as a side dressing only since the roots are shallow and sensitive.
- Like other members of the cabbage family, cauliflowers are not immune to pests and diseases. Use organic pesticides and fungicides as much as possible. You can also practice companion planting to deter these pests.
As the cauliflower matures, the “curd” will start forming in the center of the leaves. Curd is the term we use for the cauliflower head.
For the white variety, continuous exposure to direct sunlight will cause discoloration and change in texture and taste. To avoid this, you need to “blanch” the curd. Bend some leaves over the head, and tie them in place. Make sure the curd is dry before blanching to prevent it from rotting.
Harvesting and Storage
Depending on the variety you chose, use the seed packet information to determine the right size and number of days to maturity. In harvesting, cut the curd from the base of the plant using a sharp knife. Include a few leaves attached to protect the head.
Cauliflower normally lasts for a week in the refrigerator. For storing it long term, you can either freeze it (to last for 3 weeks at most) or pickle it together with other vegetables.
Watch this video by Amanda’s Allotment on how to transfer cauliflower seedlings to pots:
Cauliflowers may be something most gardeners are scared of planting. But knowledge of the basic requirements will ease the fears. And besides, cauliflower is too healthy to not be included in your garden. It even has more vitamin C than an orange.
I hope this year you consider planting cauliflower in your vegetable garden. You’ve learned what the challenges are in growing cauliflower, and you are equipped with effective ways on how to grow cauliflower in your backyard. With the right timing and the right variety, you are well on your way to indulging in your own home-grown cauliflower.
What other plants would you like to grow in your garden? Let us know in the comment section below.
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