Many gardeners like growing cauliflower in their garden. Cauliflowers are more difficult to grow then cabbage.
Growing cauliflower is very similar to growing broccoli they both like a rich soil that’s full of nutrients. If you don’t provide good growing soil for the cauliflower plant this will result in poor growth and you’ll find that you only have small button heads.
When growing cauliflower you need good soil preparation, careful planting and water regularly.
There are Summer, Autumn or winter cauliflowers. The summer and Autumn variety take around 20 – 24 weeks from sowing to picking, for the winter variety it can take between 40 and 50 weeks – so you want to plant them in a light area that doesn’t get waterlogged in winter, as otherwise they won’t grow. If growing winter cauliflower try and avoid frost pocket.
Pick a sunny area in your garden and dig in some well rotted manure or compost during the autumn.
Two to three weeks before planting you need to apply a general fertiliser to the soil or chicken manure pellets, and rake over the surface lightly.
A good soil pH for growing cauliflower is anything between 6.0 to 7.0. If your soil is to acid dig in some lime to it to increase the pH of the soil.
Growing Cauliflower – Sowing and Planting
You can sow cauliflower seeds in a seed tray or outside in a seedbed. I tend to sow the plants outside in a seedbed because my soil is fine and it grows strong plants outside. The choice is yours.
To make a seedbed outside you need to rake over the soil and stamp it down with the bottom of the rake to make a fine seedbed. But two stakes on either end to mark a straight line and make a shallow drill along the length of the string with a trowel about 1/2″ deep and put any rows 6″ apart. Sow the seeds in the drill very thinly. Cover and water. Label the row with the variety sown. You need to keep the seed bed moist, but not soaking wet – always use a fine watering can spray. Water little and often in the beginning.
You can also sow the cauliflower seeds in a tray filled with multi-purpose compost, firm the top of the compost and water with a watering can, sow the seeds very thinly and cover with a thin layer of compost put the tray in a greenhouse or somewhere warm.
When the plants are about 2″ tall you need to thin the plants to about 4″ apart in each of the rows. This allows the plants to grow strong and healthy and stops any overcrowding which can cause the young plants to become thin and weak.
The young cauliflower plants are ready to plant out when they are about 6″ tall.
When you transplant the cauliflower plants into their permanent position you need to water the soil prior planting and make sure that the soil is firm around the base of the plants, this will ensure you start growing cauliflower plants that are strong and healthy. You’ll need to leave between 12 and 18″ between each plant.
Growing Cauliflower – Taking Care Of Your Plants
Once the cauliflower plants are planted you need to water the plants regularly. You can also mulch around the plants, use grass clippings, which keeps moisture in the soil and will also help keep any weeds down. Cauliflowers are a very hungry plant so feed them with some fertilizer or chicken pellets.
Pests & Diseases
You’ll need to watch out for caterpillars, the caterpillars lay their eggs on the underside of the leaf of the plant. Look for yellow clusters of the eggs you can squish these as well.
If you see caterpillars on the plant then pick them off and squish them.
You can use a natural product called `Just Caterpillar`, it uses nematodes to provide a safe treatment which is eco friendly, this product is watered straight onto the plants.
You can buy chemical sprays, but remember that the chemical sprays will have withholding period before you can’t eat the cauliflower.
Cabbage root fly can be a problem for the brassica family you can use a protective disc which you place at the base of the brassica plant.
The cabbage root fly lays their eggs in the soil and when they hatch the maggots will burrow down and start to feed on the roots. The discs can be bought ready made from a local garden centre or you can make them yourself out of roofing felt or carpet.
If you are up for the challenge then it’s definitely worth growing cauliflowers, even though it’s not the easiest vegetable to grow, it’s worth it if you have the space.