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Cauliflower GrowingGrowing Cauliflower

 

Cauliflowers are pricey to buy in the supermarkets so if you can grow your own, it’s really worthwhile. They take up quite a bit of space, need rich, deep soil and need plenty of watering, especially in summer, but they can be grown all year round.

Cauliflowers

Like all memebers of the cruciferous family, the cauliflower is rich in many nutrients incluiding vitamin C, and has sulphurous componds that may help to protect against various types of cancer, an average helping of raw cauliflower say 100g supplies more than the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. 

Benefits of the Cauliflowers

  • Good source of vitamin C
  • Cancer protction

Drawback

  • May cause flatulence.
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  Sowing
  Growing
  Harvesting
  Problems
  Varieties
Cauliflower from Seed

Growing Cauliflower from SeedGrowing Cauliflower from Seed

Sowing in Modular trays

Use a seed compost which has a finer texture and lower nutrients than your standard multipurpose compost. We use a seed module tray with each section being approx 2 inches deep.

Fill the seed tray with compost and brush off any excess. When filling the tray rub the compost through your hands to break up any lumps. Give the tray a sharp bang on your table to settle.

With your fingers make small depressions in each cell about a fingernail or 1.5cm deep. Sow 1 or 2 seeds per module. If 2 seeds germinate you will have to remove the weaker seedling.

Cover the seeds with another layer of compost then scrape across the top of the tray with a stick to remove excess. Gently water your seeds. A good tip is to use a plastic bottle with small holes punched in the cap. This is less likely to wash the seed around than the heavy spray from a watering can. Place your trays in your greenhouse, poly tunnel, cold frame or windowsill to germinate. They should be ready to plant out in about 4 weeks.

If you're sowing in March the seeds will need some warmth. Use a propagator, heat mat or a warm south facing windowsill.

Watering

It's important to keep you seedlings properly watered before you plant them out in the garden. You are actually far better to under rather than over water your plants. This may sound odd but making the roots search for water helps to develop a better root system. It's a bit like keeping fit.

You do need to be careful, however, not to let the compost plug completely dry out or it will form a crust on top and won't absorb the moisture the next time you water. It will all depend on the weather of course but on a hot day you will need to water twice a day, if it's it's dull every 2 days will be fine.

Hardening Off

Plants that have been raised indoors will need to get used to the outdoor temperature and conditions before they can be planted outside, this will take about a week to 10 days depending on the weather.

The best way is to use a cloche or mini greenhouse. You can leave the cloche off the plants on dry frost free days and replace at night. Gradually increase the time with the cloche removed until the end of the week when you leave it off day and night. If the weather is mild you may not need the cloche, just move the plants outside for longer periods each day.

If you have started your seeds on a windowsill you will need to leave them in an unheated room for a day or two before moving outside to the cloche.

Planting Out

Planting cauliflower vegetable seedlingsCauliflower plants should be planted 60cm between plants and 60cm between rows. The distance between the plants will determine the size of the head so try to stick to the recommended distance. The closer you plant, the smaller the head.  It has become fashionable recently to grow mini cauliflower so if you want to keep up with the Jones's you could plant 15cm x 25cm.

Like cabbage, cauliflower needs a well compacted soil so ideally have your digging and manureing done a couple of months in advance. If this isn't possible make sure you firm around the seedling very well with your boot, it's o.k. to be heavy handed here as firm soil is very important.

Water your plants well an hour before planting. To plant your seedling make a hole in the soil the approximate size of the seedling 'plug'. You need to push the soil in around the roots firmly with your fingers to get good contact with the soil. Don't firm down on the top of the soil as this can compact it and prevent moisture getting down to the plants roots.

Water the plants after planting but do not soak them. You are better to transplant on a dull day or in the evening to prevent the plants wilting on a hot, dry day.

Growing Cauliflower

Growing CauliflowerGrowing Cauliflower

Growing Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers do best in very fertile soil, and digging in a bucketful of well-rotted manure or organic matter before planting, and raking in 150g per sq m of Growmore or other general purpose fertiliser, will help growth. Firm the soil by treading before planting.

If growth is checked, at any time during growth, they produce small, deformed heads. To avoid problems, water plants well the day before transplanting and make a hole deep enough to hold the plant with the lowest leaves at ground level. Fill this hole repeatedly with water. This will fill the hole with soil and ensure the plant is sitting in a large area of moist soil. Firm the soil very well against the roots

Space summer and autumn cropping types 60cm (2ft) apart and winter cultivars 75cm (2.5ft) apart; spacing 30-45cm (12-18in) apart, provides mini, 'one person' curds.

Water well in dry weather, watering every 10 days, and applying sufficient water to thoroughly wet the root zone. Once the plants are growing well, add 30g per square metre of high nitrogen fertiliser such as sulphate of ammonia or Growmore to boost growth and curd formation.

cauliflower870-5Blanching CauliflowerWhen and How to Blanch Cauliflower

Cauliflower needs cool temperatures, a consistent supply of moisture and lots of fertilizer. To get white curds on many varieties, it is necessary to tie up the leaves around the developing curd.

The first thing to know is when to blanch a cauliflower head. Start checking your plants about 30 days after transplanting your seedlings. The curds develop quickly and it’s that development that tells you when to blanch. A cauliflower curd about the size of a chicken egg is perfect. Smaller curds are already protected from the light by the leaves surrounding them. As they grow, they become more exposed and this is the time to begin blanching. Cauliflower curds develop rapidly into full heads so the window is small.

Cauliflower is extremely susceptible to fungus, so the second condition of when to blanch a cauliflower would be the driest part of the day. You don’t want to trap moisture inside your leaf cover. How to blanch cauliflower successfully is the next step.

When the curd is 2 to 3 inches in diameter (about the size of that egg) the large outer leaves should be tied up and over the emerging curds. The easiest way to do this is to tie the leaves with rubber bands, tape or twine. If you’re using rubber bands, be sure they are sturdy enough to contain the growing leaves and heads. The leaves should be tied loosely to give the curds plenty of room to grow.

Since the curds develop at different rates, you’ll need to check your plants for several days, tying up those that are ready. If your planting is large, using a different color band or string for each day will prove useful for harvest, as those heads that were tied first will be ready for harvest first. Time from tying to harvest varies from 4 to 5 days during warm spring weather to 14 to 21 days during the cool days of autumn.

 

Harvesting Cauliflower

Harvesting CauliflowerHarvesting Cauliflower

Harvesting Cauliflower

Needs to be harvested on time otherwise the curds (White heads) will turn brown and rot. What a shame considering all the work you've put in!  The image above show an over ripe head alongside one that is perfect.

If you planted a number of cauliflower it's best to start harvesting some of the small ones while you're waiting for the rest to mature. This is because they will all be ready at the same time and don't store well. It the florets begin to separate then you've waited too long.

Cut the cauliflower head at the base of the plant. It's a good idea to keep the leaf wrapping intact to prevent the curd from damage. The best time to pick is in the early morning when there's still dew on the plant, if it's frosty you're better off waiting till midday.

If you wish to store the cauliflower for 2 or 3 weeks lift the whole plant including the roots, shake off any excess soil and hang upside down in a cool shed. Spray the head occasionally with water to prevent drying out.

Problems Growing Cauliflower

Club Root & Butterfly EggsClub Root & Butterfly Eggs

Birds:

Birds can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.

Remedy:

Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows will deter birds temporarily.

Club root:

Roots become swollen and distorted, and leaves become pale and yellow and wilt easily. Plants may die.

Remedy:

Improve drainage and add lime to make soil more alkaline. Do not grow in affected soil.

Caterpillars:

A number of caterpillars will feed on brassicas, but the most common are those of cabbage white butterflies. You will usually see the caterpillars, if not, you will see the holes they make in the leaves. They will also bore into the heart of cabbages.

Remedy:

In mild attacks, or if you have only a few plants, you may be able to pick the caterpillars off. You can spray with pyrethrum, deltamethrin or lambda-cyhalothrin. Insect-proof mesh or fine netting (5-7mm mesh) can prevent egg-laying.

Cauliflower Varieties

Cauliflower Varieties to try

  • Aalsmeer Cauliflower
    • Early vigorous variety with excellent curds that are well protected. Creamy white heads of good depth and weight. Frost hardy.

  • All The Year Round Cauliflower
    • Good old standby variety. Highly reliable. Sow October in a cold frame, plant out in March, cut in June. Sow February to April, cut late June to September.
  • Autumn Giant Cauliflower
    • Large solid white heads well protected from the weather.
  • Aviron F1 Cauliflower
    • Superb deep large curds with strong leaf growth for light frost protection. Ideal for poorer soils and low nitrogen cultivation..
  • Barcelona F1 Cauliflower
    • A very early variety of cauliflower that is ideally suited to an October sowing, this variety produces white curds of exceptional quality and makes for an ideal replacement for Alpha 7 Jubro.
  • Belot F1 Cauliflower
    • Produces high quality heads fro cutting October to December. Has excellent deep clean white curds.
  • Candid Charm F1 Cauliflower
    • Candid Charm F1 Cauliflower benefits from large pure white heads covered by dark green leaves. It is very fast to maturity where it will produce brilliant yields of high quality cauliflower to eat.
  • Clapton F1 Cauliflower
    • A cauliflower with good quality white curds carried high off the ground so is kept very clean. Club root resistant.
  •  Goodman F1 Cauliflower
    • Early variety with a vigorous growing habit with well protected, solid, white curds. Matures approximately 80-90 days after transplanting. Organic seed.
  • Graffiti F1 Cauliflower
    • Deepest purple cauliflower curds, perfect for adding colour to any summer or autumn dish, delicious and highly nutritious. Matures within 75-80 days with a good head weight.
  • Green Trevi F1 Cauliflower
    • Something different, delightful pale green heads of medium size and excellent taste. Sow June for October cutting.

  • Igloo Cauliflower
    • An early variety with good, clean, white heads. Can be used as mini-vegetable when grown close together, or at wider spacing for larger heads.
  • Lisbonia F1 Cauliflower
    • A great replacement for Wallaby, very upright foliage and narrow base. Performs best during the September harvest period.
  • Maystar (EWK) Cauliflower
    • Solid curds of pure white, ideal for floret freezing as well as usual cooking.
  • Medallion F1 Cauliflower
    • Sow May or June for cropping late February to early March. Very uniform with deep, round and heavy curds but not suitable for Northern areas
  • Romanesco Cauliflower
    • Highly attractive head of lime green made up of a mass of small conical shaped florets forming a pointed curd not unlike a green cauliflower. Superb flavour and more tender texture than cauliflower. Matures September to October
  • Romanesco Navona F1 Cauliflower
    • Dark green curds with no braces. Excellent flavour. Plant mid June for harvesting late summer/ Autumn.
  • Snow Prince F1 Cauliflower
    • Selected for maturity a little later. Sow in April and May to Harvest from September to October.
  • Snowball Cauliflower
    • Regular favourite that has stood the test of time. Dwarf compact plants can be set closer than others.
  • Sunset F1 Cauliflower
    • Unique orange curds. Great raw in salads or as a cooked vegetable. Semi-upright habit with medium green leaves.

 

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