Consistent cool temperatures are required to grow this fickle “super” food.
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 70-120 days from seed, 65-85 days when grown from transplants
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows
For many home gardeners growing cauliflower can be a difficult task. This nutritious plant requires undisturbed growth for the head — or flower — to develop. As a result, planting success is often influenced by several environmental factors including cool temperatures, pest problems and moisture. Some gardeners will even set a few cauliflower plants out every week, hoping that at least a few of them will receive the proper conditions to thrive.
Cauliflower is a member of the Brassica family that also includes kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. It’s compact flower heads are packed with vitamins and minerals, and offer super-sized portions of fiber, anti-oxidants and other phytochemicals.
A cool season biennial which is grown as an annual, cauliflower requires full sun and regular water. The soil should be rich in organic matter and nutrients. To prevent insect and disease problems avoid planting in spots where other brassicas have been grown the previous three years. Learn about crop rotation here.
How to Plant:
For spring crops, plant from nursery cell packs or start seeds indoors ten weeks before last frost. If planting transplants, use only seedlings with a tiny bud in the center. If a bud is not present, the plant will not form a head. If planting from seed, sow directly into loose fast draining soil in fall for winter harvest or early spring for a late spring harvest. Allow 18 to 24 inches between plants and 2 to 3 feet between rows. Apply a balanced organic fertilizer at 1/2 strength every two weeks until harvest.
The edible portion of the plant is the flower which is harvested before it actually blooms. Pick cauliflower when the heads are full but before the sections begin to loosen. The timing depends on the variety, so begin checking plants daily when the heads reach 3 to 4 inches across. Plants will reach maturity 50-95 days after transplanting.
Cool season annuals will bolt (go to seed) quickly in warm weather. Check plants often when temperatures begin to rise.
Insects and Diseases:
Some of the garden pests associated with cauliflower are; root maggots, cutworms, aphids, flea beetles, cabbage worms and cabbage loopers.
Cauliflower is also susceptible to club root, a fungal disease that can be introduced into your garden by infected plants. To avoid this problem start your own plants from seed, rather than purchasing starts from a nursery.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Biennial. Cauliflower will cross-pollinate with all other Brassica oleracea, isolate by one mile the second year when going to seed. Do not harvest heads on plants you intend to save for seed. Carefully dig the plants and pot them in sand. Store plants between 32-40˚F. Plant back out in early spring and allow to bolt. Harvest seed pods when dry and clean by hand.