Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that will be a little difficult for you to grow but will give you so much delight when you succeed! Due to its sensitivity to temperature, it is a challenge compared to growing cabbage or broccoli.
But if you are up for the challenge, growing cauliflower will taste that much better!
What Is Cauliflower?
Cauliflower belongs to the species Brassica oleracea in the genus Brassica of the Brassicaceae (mustard) family.
Did you know that the word “cauliflower” is derived from the Italian word cavolfiore? This word, literally translated, is “cabbage flower”. This word itself originated from the Latin words caulis meaning “cabbage” and flōs meaning “flower”.
Given its sensitivity to temperature, it grows best within moderate daytime temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if it is a crop from the cabbage family, it requires more care to grow compared to the others as it is not as heat or cold resistant as the others.
Although the first image we have when we think of cauliflowers is that of a white flower surrounded by green leaves, there are, in fact, cauliflowers of many colors.
- White: This is the most commonly available color. It has a white head (the flower or the “curd”) surrounded by green leaves.
- Orange: This was first seen in Canada as a result of a natural mutant that gives it the characteristic orange color. Beta-carotene, a provitamin A compound is responsible for the orange pigment. “Cheddar” and “Orange Bouquet” are two of the cultivars of this type of cauliflower.
- Green: This is also called broccoflower because of its resemblance to broccoli. There are two types of green cauliflowers—one has a normal curd and the other has a fractal spiral curd. The second type is called the Romanesco broccoli.
- Purple: Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that cause the purple color in cauliflowers. These pigments are found in other purple foods such as red cabbage and red wine. “Purple cape” and “Graffiti” are two varieties of this color.
Varieties of Cauliflower
There are several variants of cauliflowers across the world. It might be a difficult task to choose an appropriate variant to grow in your home if you look at all of them. So, here are a few options you can choose from:
- Early Snowball: It is small and matures quickly.
- Amazing: It is self-blanching in nature.
- Fremont: It is self-blanching in nature.
- Graffiti: It has bright purple curd.
- Violet Queen: It has purple curd.
- Snow Crown: It can tolerate frost even at 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Alverda: It has green curd.
- Panther: It has green curd.
When to Plant Cauliflower?
Unlike most other crops of the cabbage family, cauliflower is an annual plant. It is reproduced by seed. A seed is usually viable for 4 years.
For you to grow it in your home garden, you need to first know when to start your cauliflower seeds indoors. You can get a spring crop or a fall crop based on when you start the seeds.
When to Start Cauliflower seeds for a Spring Harvest?
You need to first find the date for the last predicted frost of the season. You should start the seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last frost date.
If the springs in your area are short and quickly move to summer, then you should start your seeds seven weeks before the last predicted frost.
Starting your seeds for spring gives you an advantage of the warm growing season. Seedlings started indoors can be planted outdoors two to three weeks before the first frost.
When to Start Cauliflower seeds for a Fall Harvest?
You have to find the date for the first predicted frost in fall. For a fall crop, you must start your seed 10–12 weeks before this date.
This is a better time to grow cauliflower in areas with a warmer climate.
How to Plant Cauliflower?
- You should start cauliflower seeds in individual cells or pots. You can use biodegradable pits, egg carton cells, paper pots, or soil blocks for this.
- Never forget to put a solid tray underneath your pots so as to not soil the place where you keep your seedlings.
- Cauliflower demands soil that is rich in nutrients. You can start your seed in seed compost instead of a soil mix. Use a seed compost that is lower in nutrients and is of a finer texture than standard multipurpose compost.
- Pour the compost into each of the cells. Make sure it is at least 2 inches deep. Break off any lumps in the soil.
- Sow the seeds in the soil about ½–¼ inches deep.
- Water the cells with a spray bottle to make the soil moist. Make sure that the soil doesn’t feel wet or soggy.
- Cover the tray with the cells using a plastic wrap and poke some holes in it for air circulation.
- Keep the tray in a place that has a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It should take your seeds about a week to germinate. You can remove the plastic wrap then.
- Wait for the seedlings to grow a few more leaves and about 4–6 inches tall before you can transplant them outdoors.
Where to Plant Cauliflower?
You can transplant your spring seedlings three to four weeks before the last frost; for a fall crop, transplant the seedlings six to eight weeks before the first frost.
Before you transplant your seedlings outdoors, you should harden them to make sure they don’t get frozen or sunburned outside.
To harden your seedlings, you can start by keeping them outside for a couple of hours in partial shade and out of the wind, and bring them inside. Repeat this with another hour added to the duration for which the seedlings stay out each day. Remember to always bring them back in for the night.
After a few days, you can place them in direct sun for a few hours and have them rest in partial shade for the rest of the time.
- After your seedlings are hardened, you can plant them in soil that is very rich in organic matter. The soil should be friable, moisture-retaining, and within the pH range of 6.0 to 7.5.
- Make sure the bed on which you plant the seedlings gets full sun. They can also tolerate partial shade.
- Plant the seedlings 15 inches apart and each row of your plant should be 20–24 inches apart.
- For two to three weeks after planting your seedlings outside, you should be protecting them from the frost, or they will not yield favorable crops. Cover the seedlings with a plastic tunnel, cloche, or cold frame during this time.
- Keep the soil moist throughout this time and feed the seedlings with an organic fertilizer at half strength regularly. You can also side-dress the plants with high-nitrogen fertilizers.
If you want to grow your cauliflower in a container, make sure the container is at least 22 inches in depth.
How to Deal with Pests and Diseases?
Cauliflower is prone to attacks by aphids, cutworms, cabbage loopers, and similar cabbage worms. You can use fine mesh row covers to keep these away. You can also handpick the worms and remove them.
It is also susceptible to diseases such as black rot, clubroot, downy mildew, etc. You should destroy the infected plant immediately. Keep your garden clean and handle the plants only when they are dry.
To make sure your plants are doing healthy, keep a close watch on them and take the measures immediately as they occur.