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How to Grow Cauliflower Plants

Like other members of the the cabbage family, cauliflower grows best in the cooler weather of spring and fall. Cauliflower plants do not like hot, summer weather, and will go dormant or grow very slowly.in hot weather.. Cauliflower withstands frost and freezes, and will actually taste better after the first frost.

Most often, cauliflower is grown as a fall crop. In most areas, especially the northern part of the country,  you can grow a spring and a fall crop.

The plant will produce just one, large head.

Varieties:

Most varieties, like Early Snowball, produce white heads. There is a variety that produces a light green head, making it quite novel. ( See Cauliflower Brocoverde )

Days to Maturity:

Varies by  variety: 55 - 70 days

How to Grow Cauliflower:

Growing cauliflower plants takes a little more work, than other members of the cabbage family. As the flowerhead begins to develop, it needs to be covered to "blanch" the head.

Cauliflower plants like cool weather. In most areas, you can plant both a spring and  fall crop. For a spring crop, start indoors four to six weeks before the last frost in your area. Transplant spring crops into the garden after the last frost date in your area. Fall crops can be directly seeded into the garden.

Cauliflower plants grow best in full sun. The soil should be rich and well drained, with plenty of organic matter. A slightly alkaline soil is best.

Cauliflower plants require regular, even watering. Do not allow the soil to dry. Fertilize when planting, and at regular intervals. The combination of ample water and regular fertilizing is important to vigorous growth, and development of a big, healthy head.

Blanching Cauliflower

The heads are covered, or "blanched", for two reasons. Covering the heads helps protect it from rotting. It also helps to produce the white color and improve flavor.

Blanch the heads as soon as the curd gets 2-4 inches in diameter. This is done by covering the head with the large leaves just below the head. Use garden twine to tie the leaves loosely around the head. The object is to protect the head from light and water, while letting air in. As the head grows, loosen  and  re-tie the leaves, as necessary. 

Harvesting Cauliflower:

Harvest your Cauliflower when the flower head is full, and the florets are still tightly packed.

Timing of harvest is very important to taste. Food quality and taste  rapidly deteriorates as the flowerets begin to separate and open, and as the head turns from a creamy white to brown.

Insects and Pests:


The most common pest of cauliflower is cabbage flies, and cabbage worm or cabbage loopers. Cabbage loopers are the larva stage of a moth. Those white moths that visit your garden and yard are the culprits. Some people call them white butterflies.

Commercial growers apply insecticides to control them. In your home garden, you can avoid the pesticides. Just place a screen over the plant, so the moth can not lay eggs.

Disease:

The heads of the cauliflower is susceptible to rotting in warm, humid weather. That's one of the two big reasons to protect the head, called a "curd", from water.

Hardiness:


All members of the cabbage family like cool and even cold weather. They can be among the first plants in your garden each spring. Start them indoors, and plant them before the last frost, freeze or snow.

More Information:

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