Vegetable Gardening | Cauliflower (Brassicaceae – Brassica oleracea)

Cauliflower a vegetable fit for royalty. If ever one happens to grow a cauliflower in a home garden, then one can truly say that one has a home vegetable garden because a cauliflower is one of the most difficult vegetables to cultivate successfully. In the event of the smallest, minutest error, one can be left with a cauliflower that is so tiny that the curds are lost in the leaves. Cauliflowers are more difficult to grow than the other vegetables in the Brassica family. These other vegetables include the cabbages and Brussels sprouts as well as the Broccoli. Cauliflowers do not like heat, and should never be allowed to dry out and temperature fluctuations should only be moderate. Cauliflowers are greedy feeders and constantly require Nitrogen and detest strong wind. Cauliflower is also quite finicky when it comes to pH levels of garden soil. Cauliflowers prefer a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. In fact it is essential to cultivate your home grown cauliflower crop in the second half of summer so that harvesting can occur in early winter since cauliflowers are a cool season crop. It is worthwhile to grow cauliflowers once a year, but it is not worth the time and effort of the home vegetable gardener to grow cauliflowers out of season.

Many cultivars of cauliflowers have been developed over the years and these days the Australian varieties such as Wallaby and the Snowball which is very adaptable to various conditions. The Wallaby cauliflower even allows for out of season cultivation. Other cultivars include the Boomerang, the Canberra, the Early Erfurt, the Snowcap and the Southern Cross.

Do not be scared to introduce cauliflowers to you flower garden as the cauliflower makes an excellent companion plant to Petunias and Nicotianas. The Petunias and Nicotianas will act as a resilient and tough pest deterrent and the cauliflowers will not only look pretty, it will reward you with a wonderful crop to harvest.

Nutrients in Cauliflower

Cauliflowers are filled with antioxidants and are sometimes referred to as nature’s antioxidant. Very high levels of vitamin C and folate as well as dietary fiber can be found in cauliflowers.

Often cauliflowers are included in a diet to treat ailments such as anaemia, asthma, biliousness, colds, constipation, gout and high blood pressure.

How to grow Cauliflower

Where and when to plant your Cauliflower

Cauliflowers prefer cool conditions because hot weather is bound to hamper good head formation and will probably result in the cauliflower heads going to seed before they have reached a decent size. Prepare you seedbeds by working in some organic compost such as bone meal or superphosphate and 3:1:5 fertilizer. The best ratio of compost to use is two parts garden soil, one part organic compost, one part of river sand. Cauliflowers will thrive in rich, well drained garden soil with the occasional organic compost such as bone meal or superphosphate, added to the 3:1:5 basic dressing.

How to sow your Cauliflower seeds

It is recommended that you sow you cauliflower seeds in seedbeds, preferably under a shelter. Sowing of the seed itself should be done in furrows of about a finger nail’s depth. Cover the cauliflower seeds with a thin layer of soil.

When sowing the cauliflower you should make sure that the seedbeds are about an adult’s hand width apart. Water the seedbeds thoroughly after sowing. Thereafter you must ensure that the seedbed does not dry out. Water regularly and weed regularly to provide your cauliflowers with the optimum of conditions in which to thrive.

The transplanting of your successfully germinated cauliflower seedlings: In the event of you cultivating your own cauliflower seedlings from seed it is imperative that you have to transplant your cauliflower seedlings after it has germinated and grown to the desirable height. Cauliflower seedlings are usually ready after 5 to 6 weeks from sowing time. At this time the cauliflower seedlings would be approximately the height of your index finger (say 10 cm). If you leave your seedlings in the seedbeds too long, then they will become unproductive.

Water the seedbeds thoroughly before transplanting your cauliflowers. Remove your cauliflower seedlings with the garden soil in which they germinated. If the cauliflower seedlings are pulled out by the stem they can easily be damaged.

Ensure that you space the rows 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) apart; and 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) between the cauliflower seedlings itself when transplanting them. Strive to keep the garden soil moist and it is advisable to transplant you cauliflower seedlings in the late afternoon when it is cooler.

Taking care of your Cauliflower

Keep the cauliflower plants healthy by protecting it against pests and diseases and provide them with sufficient water. Make use of a good mulch to keep the garden soil cool and moist around your growing cauliflowers. The mulch will also help with controlling the weed population.

Cauliflowers are heavy feeders and you will need to apply a top dressing every 3 to 6 weeks after you transplanted your cauliflower seedlings. You may also make use of a liquid fertilizer for this purpose. This liquid fertilizer can consist of Limestone Ammonium Nitrate (LAN).

Try to keep your cauliflower heads out of the sun while it is growing. The sunlight may discolor the cauliflower heads. Take the outer leaves of the cauliflower plants and crack them in the middle and fold it over the developing cauliflower heads. Do this when your cauliflower heads have grown to about 5 inches (15 cm) in diameter.

How to harvest your Cauliflower crop

Cut off the cauliflower head when they are fully developed, that is, the correct size, the proper shape and texture. The cauliflower heads should be cut off before branching occurs.

In general it is better to harvest your cauliflowers too early than too late because over ripe cauliflower heads will wilt after harvesting. Harvesting time can be anywhere between 2 to 5 months depending on the variety of cauliflower that you sowed.

Troubleshooting Cauliflower, crop failure and growing pains

Cauliflowers are small and bolting

This usually happens when you plant cauliflowers out of season. In nature as much seed as possible is produced by forming a large curd in the correct season. However, if you happen to stress your cauliflower plants then it will panic and start to go into a premature productive phase to produce seed at all cost and leaving you with small, pre-maturely bolting head of cauliflowers of poor quality. Keep the cauliflower healthy, well-watered and well-fed sight up to harvesting time.

Cauliflowers are not white

This is a result of the growing, developing cauliflower heads being exposed to the sun. Crack the outer leaves of the cauliflower plant and fold them over the developing cauliflower head.

Cauliflowers do not stay fresh for long after harvesting

Your cauliflowers will stay fresher if you put it in a paper bag in your refrigerator.

Cauliflowers discoloring when it is cooked

Discoloring of cauliflowers can be prevented by adding a few drops of lemon juice when cooking.

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