Cauliflower Growing Tips & Variety Guide
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It takes skill to grow the perfect cauliflower.
One of the most delicate members of the brassica family, temperature and timing are important factors in mastering the art of growing a cauliflower. Pull off one of the striking lime, purple, or orange caulis usually only seen at fancy greengrocers, then you can officially call yourself a vegetable growing pro!
sow and grow
- Sowing: December to March in hot regions; November to January in cooler regions
- Transplant the seedlings: from March to May and from August to October in hot regions; February to April and August to October in cooler regions
- Position: full sun, six or more hours a day
- Harvest: 14 to 26 weeks from seed
Caulis can be started from seed from early summer through mid-fall in warmer climates; and from late spring to mid-summer in the cooler parts of the country.
Seedlings can be planted in autumn and from late winter to mid-spring in warmer regions; and from late summer to mid-autumn and again from late winter to mid-spring in cooler regions.
* Cabbage: how to plant, maintain and harvest
* Brussels sprouts: growing tips and variety guide
* How to grow broccoli
Step by step
- Sow cauliflower seeds directly 5-10mm deep in well-cultivated soil, or start them in seed mix trays indoors in a sunny location or greenhouse.
- Keep newly planted seeds moist and warm.
- Expect signs of germination in 7-14 days.
- Thin the seedlings and, if you are growing them in trays, put them in larger pots if necessary. Transplant into the garden when the plants are about 10cm tall.
- Cauliflowers are large plants and in the garden most cultivars should be spaced about 40-50cm apart.
Cauliflowers can be grown throughout Aotearoa, but the plants only form good sized curds at low temperatures. Prepare the bed with compost, aged manure and a little lime before planting. Keep well watered during the growing season; but direct the water towards the root zone of the plant rather than up where the curd develops. Don’t overdo it with nitrogen-rich fertilizers, as these can lead to leafy plants with small buds. Side dressing with a liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks.
Harvest when the buds are firm to the touch. Don’t wait too long or the curds separate and start to bloom. If you harvest the main head but leave the stem and roots intact, a few smaller caulis will grow.
‘Snowball’ is fast growing, maturing about 12 weeks after transplanting. Grow it like a mini cauliflower by planting it 30cm apart and harvesting it when its heads are 10cm in diameter. It is also an excellent strain for a pot, just like ‘Mini White F1’, which has buds measuring 10-15cm. Remember to water the pots daily in hot weather. ‘Clapton F1’ has good strength at the root of the club. ‘All Seasons’ and ‘All Year Round’ can be grown all year round in cooler areas, but will need to be protected from moths.
For colored caulis, opt for the lime ‘Green Macerata’, the purple ‘Violet Sicilian’ (best served raw as the color fades when cooked) or the orange ‘Cheddar’ (available in trays) which contains 25 times more vitamin A than traditional. white caules. ‘Romanesco’ is the most beautiful of all, its architectural points resembling chartreuse coral.
Protect cauliflowers, especially seedlings, from slugs and snails with cloches or go slug hunting at night and carefully search the leaves, pull them out by hand and crush them.
In hot weather, the caulis are infested with the caterpillars of whiteflies and white cabbage moths. Protect plants, including seedling trays, with a physical barrier such as an old mesh curtain or horticultural netting. You can also inspect daily and remove cabbage butterfly caterpillars by hand.
Eliminate whiteflies by spraying the plants with soapy water or regularly sanding the undersides of the leaves with your hose. It will also discourage aphids.
Avoid clubroot, the fungal disease of brassica, by adding lime to your soil before planting and rotating your crops each year.