Slightly Acidic to Neutral
- Select a site with at lesat 6 hours of full sun.
- Soil needs be very rich in organic matter; add composted mature to the soil before planting. Fertile soil holds in moiture to prevent heads from “buttoning.”
- Test your soil! (Get a soil test through your cooperative extension office.) The soil pH should be between 6.5 and 6.8.
- It is best to start cauliflower from transplants rather than seeds. Transplant 2 to 4 weeks before the average frost date in the spring, no sooner and not much later.
- Space the transplants 18 to 24 inches apart with 30 inches between rows. Use starter fertilizer when transplanting.
- Plant fall cauliflower about the same time as fall cabbage. This is usually 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost and also need to be after the temperature is below 75 degrees F.
- If you really want to try starting cauliflower from seeds, start the seeds 4 to 5 weeks before the plants are needed. Plant the seeds in rows 3 to 6 inches apart and ¼ to ½ of an inch deep. Do not forget to water the seeds during their germination and growth. Once they become seedlings, transplant them to their permanent place in the garden.
- In early spring, be ready to cover your plants with old milk jugs or protection if needed. For fall crops, shade them if they need protection from the heat.
- Add mulch to conserve moisture.
- Make sure that the plants have uninterrupted growth. Any interruption can cause the plants to develop a head prematurely or ruin the edible part completely.
- Cauliflower requires consistent soil moisture. They need 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week; with normal rainfall, this usually requires supplement watering.
- For best growth, side-dress the plants with a nitrogen fertilizer.
- Note that the cauliflower will start out as a loose head and it takes time for the head to form. Many varieties take at least 75 to 85 days from transplant. Be patient.
- When the curd (the white head) is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, tie the outer leaves together over the head with a rubber band, tape, or twine. This is called blanching, and it protects the head from the sun and helps you get that pretty white color.
- The plants are usually ready for harvest 7 to 12 days after blanching.
- When the heads are compact, white, and firm, then it is time to harvest them. Ideally, the heads will grow 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
- Cut the heads off the plant with a large knife. Be sure to leave some of the leaves around the head to keep it protected.
- If the heads are too small but have started to open up, they will not improve and should be harvested.
- If the cauliflower has a coarse appearance, it is too mature and should be tossed.
- If you want to store cauliflower, you can put the head in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should last for about a week.
- For long-term storage, you can also freeze or pickle the heads.