Cauliflower

Why Grow Cauliflower?

The first record of cauliflower appears in writings of Arab Muslims back in the 13th century, it was introduced into France in the 16th century and is now a popular vegetable worldwide.

Cauliflowers are usually classified by the season in which they are eaten; Winter, early summer, Summer/Autumn, and the various colours.

Cauliflower is low in fat and carbohydrates, but high in vitamin C and fibre. It is useful in many diets, particularly low carbohydrate diets, where it can be substituted for rice and potatoes as cauliflower contains no starch, but adds bulk in the form of fibre.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Brassica oleracea
Sowing Time : Summer / Autumn:
Sow – April
Transplant – June
Winter:
Sow – May
Transplant – July
Harvest Time : Summer:
June to September
Autumn:
September to November
Winter:
March to May
Hardiness : Winter varieties are hardy.
Position : Full to partial Sun and sheltered from strong winds.
Soil Type : Firm, fertile and rich in organic matter.
Average Plant Height : 30cm / 12in
Spacing : Seedlings:
2cm (1in) thinned to 7cm (3in) between plants | 15cm (6in) between rows.
Transplants:
Summer / Autumn:
60cm (24in) between plants and rows.
Winter:
75cm (30in) between plants and rows
Spread : 60 to 75cm / 24 to 30in
Soil and Preparation

Cauliflower is a cool-season crop, and will tolerate some frost. As it will occupy the site until the next season, it is vital to start with a soil that is rich in organic matter, moisture retentive and has medium nitrogen levels. As with other brassicas, cauliflower requires firm soil to prevent the plants from falling over.

Choose a site that receives reasonable sunshine and deeply dig over in the autumn, incorporating a good amount of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Allow the soil enough time to consolidate and become firm before planting out.

Cauliflower does not perform very well in acidic soils so lime if necessary in the winter. Apply a general fertilizer in the spring but do not fork over the soil again before planting.

Seeds and Sowing

Cauliflowers need to be started off in a seed bed or in plugs or trays, which, although more labour intensive, will offer more protection to the young seedlings until they are grown enough to withstand the attacks from many pests etc. The seedlings should be transplanted to their final position when they have 5 or 6 true leaves. Seeds should be sown 1-2cm / 1/2 – 1in deep into your seed bed during March and April, space them 7cm / 3in apart, leaving 15cm / 6in between rows.

Water your seedlings and the row they will be moved to the day before you transplant them. Lift the seedlings from the seed bed carefully, retaining as much soil around their roots as possible. Using a dibber, make holes in their permanent bed (see quick facts above for spacings). The seedlings should be planted with the lowest leaves just above the soil, to fill the holes use your dibber, inserting it into the bed about 5cm / 2in from the hole and then push it towards the seedling, then fill the dibber hole with loose soil.

Caring for your Crop

During the growing season it is important the plants get enough water, dry conditions will check their growth. Low nitrogen levels during the winter help the plants withstand colder conditions, but they will benefit from liquid feed in the spring. With carefully planned successional sowings of various varieties it is quite possible to have a fresh supply of cauliflower all year round.

Harvesting and Storage

You can begin harvesting some of your cauliflowers while they are still small, this helps you avoid a glut of fully mature cauliflowers later in the season.

Cut your cauliflowers in the morning, unless it is frosty, in which case wait till lunchtime. Using a sharp knife cut the heads off just above the ground, retaining the outer leaves offers the delicate curds some protection from damage until you come to use them.

If you want to store your cauliflowers for a while longer, lift the whole plant, dust the soil off the roots and store upside down in a cool shed. With an occasional misting of water they can keep for up to 3 weeks in this manner.