The first one who mentioned cauliflower in the 1st century AD was Pliny. In the Middle Age, it was cultivated in the island of Cyprus, and then gardeners in Western Europe started growing this vegetable in their gardens. In 1822, the British introduced this plant to India.
Nowadays, the US is 7th in the world in the production of these veggies. Gardeners throughout this vast country grow creamy white, green, yellow, orange, and purple cauliflowers all year round.
Basic Data about Cauliflower
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) is a cool-season crop which prefers growing is consistently cold temperatures, fertile soil, and high humidity. Almost all parts of this plant, including dense flower heads, made up of numerous tiny buds, leaves, and stems, are edible.
Provide the temperatures of around 60 F (15.5 C) to avoid prematurely ‘button’ forms of heads instead of one large, single, head. This veggie is not the best crop for novices, but if you are prepared for the challenge, you can try to grow this exciting and delicious plant in your garden.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
- Oxidative stress – Thanks to a high percentage of potent antioxidants (such as vitamin C and manganese) and phytochemicals (such as glucosinates and indoles), this veggie will nourish your body and protect the cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
- Cardiovascular health – Cauliflower improves blood circulation and prevents lipid accumulation in the blood vessels, which decreases the risk of atherosclerosis.
- Hypertension – Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, consuming cauliflower will help in reducing the levels of LDL cholesterol, lowering the blood pressure, and increasing the HDL cholesterol, which is good for your health.
- Absorption of iron – Vitamin C will help with better absorption of iron and increasing the hemoglobin in the blood.
- Abdominal disorders – This vegetable contains fiber which prevents most of the intestinal diseases such as stomach ulcers and colon cancer. Plus, it eliminates toxins from the human body.
- Bone health – It will improve the production of collagen, and consequently, protect your joints and bones.
- Macular degeneration – Antioxidants and vitamin C may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. On the other hand, the sulforaphane will protect the tissues of the retina from damage, improve vision, and prevent cataracts.
How to Plant Cauliflower in Your Garden
Regardless of whether you live in a warmer or colder region, the basic thing about planting cauliflower is to choose an adequate variety which will have enough time to become mature before the end of the season.
If spring in your region is short, you should pick out fast-maturing varieties. Otherwise, if your winters are mild, longer-maturing types are the best solution for your garden.
The best solution is to sow seeds indoors a month before the frost. Take care to sow seeds at least 0.25 to 0.5 inches (0.6 – 1.25 cm) deep to avoid the damage of seedlings’ tender roots. Place the pots on a sunny window, where the temperatures are about 70 F (21 C), and keep the soil moist.
Since this vegetable grows better in cold weather, you can transplant seedlings from peat pots in your garden two weeks before the last spring frost. Or simply sow seeds directly in the garden in late summer, and harvest your veggies in fall.
The temperature of the soil should be at least 55 F (13 C), with daytime temperatures of above 60 F (15.5 C). You need to make a proper calculation because your cauliflower will bolt if the weather in spring warms too quickly.
If winters are not too cold in the region you live in, you can plant these veggies in autumn and harvest them in spring.
Hardening off Cauliflower Seedlings
If you decide to start sowing seeds indoors, you need to harden off seedlings before transplanting them in the garden. It is necessary for them to get used to outdoor conditions, especially temperatures. The whole process will require about 7 to 10 days, primarily depending on the weather.
The best solution is to use a mini greenhouse or glass cloche for that purpose. Leave plants under the cloche when the days are dry and frost-free, but return them inside during the nights.
Increase the time when your plants spend under the cloche gradually, and after a week or a little bit longer, you can leave them outside all the time. If the temperatures in your region are mild, you probably won’t need the cloche. It will be enough to move young plants outside for a bit longer period every day.
How to Care Cauliflower
Plant your cauliflower 25 inches (63.5 cm) apart, and leave at least 25 inches (63.5 cm) between rows to get sizable heads. If you want to grow winter varieties, give them more space and organize rows no less than 30 inches (75 cm) apart.
If you prefer mini veggies, you can plant them closer, about 6 to 10 inches (15 – 25.5 cm) apart since the distance between single plants directly affects the size of the heads.
Cauliflowers require fertile, well-drained, well-compacted, and moderately moist soil rich in organic matter. The ideal pH should be from 6.0 to 7.0. It would be beneficial if you work the ground at least 6 inches (15 cm) deep.
Your cauliflower needs at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun a day. However, it is better providing some shade for your seedlings.
It is not easy growing cauliflower since it is highly sensitive to temperature changes. The optimal temperatures of the soil for germination are 80 F (26.5 C), but as long as the temperatures are above 50 F (10 C), you may expect decent yield.
These veggies will grow best when the temperatures of the soil are at least 70 F (21 C). Temperatures higher than 80 F (26.5 C) may cause the occurrence of the rough head.
Don’t forget to add a thick layer of mulch around your plants to conserve moisture and keep the ground free of weeds.
Water your veggies about an hour before planting, and keep watering after planting as well. Consistently moisture the ground throughout the season to make sure the heads don’t turn bitter. That means that you need to provide at least 2 inches (5 cm) of water a week. Take care not to soak your plants.
To provide adequate retention of water, you should keep the soil colder and protect delicate cauliflowers’ roots. To inhibit the growth of weeds, you can make a narrow moat around your vegetable and add mulch on the top.
Since your veggies will need some time to mature, you need to provide supplemental feeding every month. Add composted manure or some organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen such as kelp, blood meal, or fish emulsion on the surface of the ground.
Take care to sprinkle it outside the edge of the largest foliage to avoid direct contact. Also, try to provide enough magnesium to get beautiful firm heads.
As your cauliflowers grow, their leaves will become more voluminous, and you will notice a flower head forming in the center of your plant.
When the flower is a few inches across, you should start blanching it by binding the foliage up and over that head. That way, you will keep its color as well as the flavor of the future flower.
You should blanch flower heads just if they are white. There is no need blanching green, yellow, orange, and purple cauliflower heads.
If you grow some of the self-blanching varieties, you won’t need to blanch them since their leaves will curl over the flower heads naturally. Otherwise, you need to gather the foliage with hands and make a bouquet.
Use twine or rubber bands to bind and correctly shade heads, but take care to leave space for adequate air circulation. Unbind the foliage 7 to 12 days before harvest.
How to Harvest Cauliflower
When cauliflower heads are completely mature, they will be compact, bright white, and approximately 6 to 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) in diameter.
Use a large knife to cut the flower heads with one set of leaves to protect them. If you leave the plants’ stems about 1 to 2 inches (2 – 5 cm) high after cutting the main head, your veggie will continue with the production of little florets. Consequently, you can collect them continuously.
If you spot that the head begins to open up, don’t let it stay there no matter how small it is. Cut it to avoid declining in quality. On the other hand, too coarse cauliflower is not eatable, and you should add it to the compost pile.
|Di Sicilia Violetta
70 to 80 days
Green goddess F1
|60 to 65 days
55 to 60 days
Snow crown F1
50 to 55 days
How to Store Cauliflower
Once collected, you can save the heads in the fridge for two weeks. You can also freeze mature ones or to pick the whole plants, and store them in a cold and dry place. Your cauliflowers will also be excellent if you pickle their heads.
Cauliflower Pests and diseases
Unfortunately, cauliflower is a type of vegetable susceptible to most of the usual crop pests. You should pay special attention to young transplants, especially those grown in spring.
These changes usually occur when your plants are a lack of water. As a result, roots will become distorted and swollen, while the foliage becomes yellow and wilts eventually.
To avoid the death of your veggies, you should improve drainage. Adding lime to make the ground more alkaline will be excellent prevention.
Distortion of leaf tip
This is a common issue when you grow cauliflowers. If there is a lack of boron in the ground, you can spot the dieback and distortion of the foliage. You can quickly solve this problem by adding fertilizer with seaweed.
The most common caterpillars which can affect your cauliflowers are white butterflies. You will notice the caterpillars and the holes they make on the foliage.
Once they bore into the heart of flower head, you may expect to get damaged veggies you probably won’t want to eat. Try to hand pick the caterpillars or use insect-proof mesh to prevent laying eggs.
Those tiny insects make holes through flower heads and leaves of cauliflowers and leave traces of honeydew, which allows the growth of sooty mildew fungi. Handpick eggs on the undersides of the foliage or rinse them away with water. Use neem oil or natural fungicides to protect your vegetable.
Pigeons like eating seedlings, buds, foliage, and heads of this vegetable. You should cover your cauliflowers with mesh to protect them from birds. Also, you can use bird-scaring mechanisms or scarecrows for a while, but they won’t work in the long run.
If you spot this annoying animal around your cauliflower, you should make a fence to protect the veggies.