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Cauliflower

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Botanical name: Brassica oleracea

Plant type: Vegetable

Sun exposure: Full Sun

Soil type: Loamy

Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral

Flower color: White

Bloom time: Spring

Cauliflower is a cool-season crop and a descendant of the common cabbage. It is more difficult to than its relatives because it does not tolerate the heat or cold as well. For this reason, cauliflower is usually grown commercially.

If you plant to attempt growing cauliflower in the home garden, it requires consistently cool temperatures with temperatures in the 60s. Otherwise, it prematurely "button"—form small button-size heads—rather than forming one, nice white head.

Planting

  • 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 1/4 to 1/2 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.

Care

  • 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.

Pests

Harvest/Storage

  • 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.

Recommended Varieties

  • 'Snowball', which produces medium heads and a good yield throughout the growing season.
  • 'Orange', which has a similar taste to the white cauliflower but has more vitamin A.

 

Recipes

Wit & Wisdom

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
     -Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Comments

Can you eat a cauli that has

By Alison Bray on December 4

Can you eat a cauli that has turned brown?

Hi Alison, Brown cauliflower

By Almanac Staff on December 5

Hi Alison,
Brown cauliflower is not good to eat. Sometimes you can cut off the brown parts and use the inside parts that are white.

Dear All, Could you please

By Dr. Mohammad Muhebbullah Ibne Hoque on November 24

Dear All,
Could you please let me know the reason why small curd develops in the stem of cauliflower plant. One curd is obvious in one cauliflower plant, but we found some plant bear small curds below the main curd. We will be grateful if someone give us the reason why it is happening. For your better knowledge, we are cultivating cauliflower in Bangladesh and it is a subtropical country and the temperature is 30 - 20 degree C respectively at day and night. Thanks

I am harvesting a head of

By michelle and John

I am harvesting a head of cauliflower however I find a bunch of black turds to say the least. If I rinse these of can you eat or should you discard..

Most likely this is frass

By Almanac Staff

Most likely this is frass (poop) from a cabbage looper or other caterpillar pest. It should be fine to eat the cauliflower if you first wash it properly. First, soak the cauliflower head for one to two minutes in cold water, then rinse. Then, use a vegetable brush to scrub the crevices in the cauliflower head, rinse again, and pat dry with a paper towel. After this, you might also try rinsing the head in a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar to 2 cups water, then rinse with fresh water and pat dry with a paper towel. This can help eliminate some more bacteria.
 
For more information about washing produce, see:
 
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09369.html
 
http://umaine.edu/publications/4336e/

My heads do very well growing

By Donald Hoch

My heads do very well growing but when I harvest them there are a lot of small black spots on the white flowers. I do not know what this is or what causes it.I have heard of "black rot" but when you scratch off the spot it is only on the surface. Can this be my problem and if so how can I prevent it next year? Please reply. Thank you

Several diseases and problems

By Almanac Staff

Several diseases and problems cause black or brown specks. Black rot may show up as V-shape yellow areas on the leaves that point to a vein. It may spread into the stems, which when cut may show a brown discoloration. The head may have many black specks, discoloration, and black veins. This is caused by bacteria that overwinter on plant debris, or reside in infected seeds. It can survive in the soil for 2 years. High temperatures and humidity help it to spread, and is easily transmitted by garden tools, insects, wind, splashing water, etc. If you suspect this is black rot, do not plant cole crops in that area for 2 or 3 years. Remove all plant debris each season, keep up with weeding, and buy certified disease-free seeds.
 
Black speck is a physiological disorder, not related to a bacteria, fungus, or virus. In this, tiny black specks appear in the interior of the curd, on the stems and flower stalks. You can see it when you break open the head, but they are not on the outer top of the head. Black speck can appear in warm weather during rapid growth, and may be related to a nutrient deficiency.
 
Downy mildew can also discolor heads. Sometimes cauliflower will develop black specks just as a part of aging, indicating that the head is past its prime.
 

This is the first year I have

By Michele Rivera

This is the first year I have grown cauliflower and I was wondering why would some of it turn purple not all of them did in fact we had some for dinner tonight and it was very good of course they were nice and white but why would it turn purple and is it safe to eat?

You should always tie the

By Mike Batchelor

You should always tie the leaves over the head as sson as it appears to keep the head shaded and white.

Long, hot days will cause

By Almanac Staff

Long, hot days will cause red-purple discoloration in cauliflower. Certain varieties (one is Snow Crown) are more vulnerable to this than others, especially in hot weather. Try a bit raw and see if you like it.

i never do any growig of

By Nishant Mishra

i never do any growig of vegetable ... i am newcomer in farming. i want to grow cauliflower in my land . i am from allahabad utter pradesh. i have no idea about growing cauliflower. so, give me some ideas . how to grow cauliflower.

so far I have had good luck

By marc berard

so far I have had good luck in my apartment I have full light exposure and extra lighting ...I have potatoes growing like crazy I have celery , tomatoes onions basil ...I have a question a lot of my things I took and put in water until they grew roots is that possible with the cauliflower? im trying all different types of things besides flowers its kinda fun but would like any input from others if possible!! thanks again~~ Happy Gardening~~ marc n deidre

I just checked my cauliflower

By Jesse Brown

I just checked my cauliflower again and all the plants have a white head inside so I guess i will tell the wife we had better get the heads out.

We planted cauliflower here

By Jesse Brown

We planted cauliflower here in Arizona a little after Christmas. We made a garden with 2x6 borders and then filled and mixed it with organic garden soil, tuning it with the dirt till it got all black. now the plants have grown huge leaves sort of like mustard greens and have a white head inside. But there are also these these long very tall stalks abut two feet tall with white spuds on the ends. What do you do with these stalks? do you cut them off or what? I read the above suggestion to fold these big leaves we have over the head inside and tie them with a rubber band or string which I will do. It is now in the 70 to 80's here in Arizona so reading your article this climate is not good for planting this crop.

If the weather is too cold or

By Almanac Staff

If the weather is too cold or too hot cauliflower has a tendency to form tiny heads (to button) at the ends of long stems. You can cut these stalks and use the tiny white heads in cooking. If the weather gets too hot you need to shade the cauliflower somehow.

I'm having amazing luck

By Jim C

I'm having amazing luck growing Snow Crown Cauliflower in a NFT hydroponic system indoors. I have beautiful white heads that I expect to harvest in the next couple weeks. I use masterblend hydroponic fertilizer and a little Superthrive. Almost trouble free.....change the water every couple weeks and don't let it go dry. My plants have never seen soil.

i want to grow cauliflower in

By susanta kumar biawas

i want to grow cauliflower in may to july in orissa nabarangapur disr and again from august. how can i grow in that season and verity of seed please give in detail.

I planted cauliflower in our

By Daya Vyaghra

I planted cauliflower in our farm this year for the first time in Nagpur India. There was beautiful growth of heads but Some how after 45 days, they started having purple colouration on them. What could be the reason? What is the remedy?

The purple is normal. If you

By Susan Haugwe

The purple is normal. If you blanch the plants they are less likely to do this. The purple is not a disease or problem

get cauliflower plants well

By Michael Stenger

get cauliflower plants well started and transplant in garden with miracle gro potting soil..add sea weed when watering..put down mulch, cover with bone meal and kelp meal...results are astounding...same procedure is perfect for broccoli

from personal experience mg

By motdrads

from personal experience mg soil will never be bought by me again. One year it ruined my whole green house of transplants. The way its bagged and stored outside in most garden centers keeps it moist too long and it not only becomes far to acidic but the ferts in it leach out of it making it just potting soil that you paid too much for.Find a nurserey that you can buy some of what they use(wont be mg) use that or compost . Another reason not to are the chemical ferts they use...not good

i am from st. lucia in the

By paul ernest

i am from st. lucia in the caribbean i have a question can i plant cauliflower in a green house

my cauliflower made deformed

By lindalu47

my cauliflower made deformed heads (i think it was too hot) we're trying it in our greenhouse. my question is how do i prepare it for winter? do i put it outside, cut it down to a small stalk, what?

There are overwintering

By Almanac Staff

There are overwintering varieties of cauliflower that you start in July to early August. If you live in a region that doesn't get freezing temps. you can grow these outdoors.

First year trying

By Shawn Marr

First year trying cauliflower. I got very large plants but no heads. any thoughts?

Cauliflower is a challenging

By Almanac Staff

Cauliflower is a challenging crop for the home grower which is why you rarely find it outside of commercial growers. The main reason that cauliflower does not head nicely is because of temperature. Cauliflower likes it cool.  Temperatures need to be in the 60s for those perfect round heads, not much warmer or colder. It is best grown in most regions in the fall after the temperature gets lower than 75 degrees but will not fall below 30 degrees. You also want fertile soil enriched with compost, six hours of direct sunlight, and even and continual moisture.

from what iam reading from

By emmanuel

from what iam reading from these questions is it that cauliflower head can develop another one if the original head is harvested?

Nope. Your objective for a

By Almanac Staff

Nope. Your objective for a cauliflower plant is to grow one nice head. If you cut it off, it will not grow another. It may grow side shoots, but that's it.

why have my cauliflowers gone

By ruth megraw

why have my cauliflowers gone brown .. they were nice and white one day a few days later the heads are brown ..why

The most common reason for

By Almanac Staff

The most common reason for cauliflower turning brown is boron-deficient soil. If this happens, provide foliar feed with liquid seaweed extract immediately, and repeat every 2 weeks until the symptoms disappear. In the future, add more compost to the soil.

another reason for many

By motdrads

another reason for many problems are mineral deficiencies try rock dust look on you tube to see the wonderful results it gives many swear by it . This will be my first year trying it buy from what I have seen and read wont be the last

Are the side shoots worth

By barbara cooper

Are the side shoots worth saving? Harvested large inner head but is putting out side shoots like broccoli. Are they worthtrying to save?

Side shoots are bonus! Enjoy!

By Almanac Staff

Side shoots are bonus! Enjoy! Many varieties of cauliflower do not develop side shoots, though some cultivars will produce as long as you leave a few leaves on the plant (eg., Green Comet). This can extend the harvest period for a month or more.

Third time's a charm?

By tridoc927

This will be my third year trying to grow cauliflower. And this time I am starting with seed for purple cauliflower. Can't grow the white stuff so going to another color. First year huge plants no heads. Second year small heads and blossomed quickly. So cross your fingers!

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