A Guide to Growing Cauliflower

A close brother to broccoli, cauliflower is a delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Romanesco Cauliflower Unusual Lime Green Variety

Romanesco Cauliflower Unusual Lime Green Variety

Romanesco cauliflower is smaller than a standard cauliflower, with a vivid chartreuse and conical shape. It grows best in cool weather, and so is most abundant in fall and winter.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Cauliflower can be harvested most of the year, but it is sometimes challenging to grow. The extra effort is well rewarded however, with delicious homegrown florets and colored types rarely seen in supermarkets. 

How to Grow

Cauliflower can be grown year round, but sowing times differ for summer or winter varieties. All types of cauliflower need fertile, well-drained soil that is firm enough to support the heads and has been improved with well-rotted organic matter. For early summer crops, sow seed under cover in the fall in small pots, or sow in midwinter for a slightly later crop. If you don’t have much space, try growing miniature summer varieties, which can be grown 6 inches apart.

For a fall crop, sow under cover or outside under fabric in early spring. Harden off seedlings before they reach 2 inches tall, then  transplant outside, 24 inches apart. For winter varieties, sow in late spring outdoors where they can grow on, 30 inches apart. Keep the plants well watered as they grow, and feed them with liquid fertilizer in midsummer. If growing white varieties, shield the curds from the sun. Harvest the heads while firm, cutting the stem with a sharp knife. 

Varieties of Cauliflower to Try

  • Summer cauliflower: ‘Gypsy’, ‘Igloo’, ‘Mayflower’ F1 and ‘Snowball’
  • Fall cauliflower: ‘Fall Giant’, ‘Clapton’ and ‘Skywalker’
  • Winter cauliflower: ‘All Year Round’, ‘Galleon’ and ‘Medallion’
  • Colored cauliflower: ‘Romanesco’, ‘Trevi’ and ‘Violet Queen’ 

How to Blanch Cauliflower Heads

Cauliflower curds can discolor in bright sun. Prevent this by folding or tying four to five outer leaves over the center. Make sure the curds are dry to prevent them from rotting. Keep the leaves in place until harvest. The curds are ready to pick when large enough to crop but still firm to touch. Do not harvest cauliflowers until you plan to use them; they soon deteriorate. When harvesting, cut the curd with some surrounding leaves to keep it fresh for longer.

Watch Out for These Pests and Diseases

All brassicas suffer from similar pests and diseases. White blister is a disease that attacks all brassicas and causes white blisters on the leaves and distorted growth. There are no chemical controls. Remove infected plants, improve airflow and avoid wetting the leaves when watering. Molybdenum deficiency causes leaves to become mottled and stunted. Raise soil pH with lime.

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