Cauliflower can be difficult to grow however, the proper preparation will minimize failure. Soil, location of the vegetable bed (which determines the amount of sunshine the crop will receive), the time of year it is planted and how it is cared for once cultivation begins all play an important part in whether you reap big healthy heads of cauliflower or ‘button’ heads (very small crops). The most basic rules are always ensure soil is deep and rich, observe each type’s growing season and water regularly but, more is required.
From the onset, identify a spot that will serve as your vegetable bed, it should be one that gets full sunshine. Make sure that soil is evenly moist, well-drained and healthy. Using the remains or fruits and vegetables for compose is a good organic start to health soil. Simply leave them to rot in the bed them mix the mush into the soil. Store bought organic and non-organic fertilizers or soil mixes can be used if preferred. The soil’s pH balance should range from 6.0 to 7.0.
For early varieties, start indoors approximately one month before the time the last frost is anticipated. Once 6 inches tall, move them to the bed or garden, be sure that the external environment is 50°F. When transplanting, all of the plant should be covered just before their bottom leaves are reached. Use the soil to build a ‘saucer-like’ structure of soil around each; this will help to seal in moisture.
For a fall harvest seeds must be sown directly into their permanent place. Seeds should be planted in clusters of four with each cluster set two feet apart. Watch as each seedling sprouts and remove anything except the sturdiest one from the group.
Caring for the Cauliflower Plants
Cauliflower plants require an estimated 1 inch of water weekly especially when small so that soil can be kept evenly moist. Where rainfall occurs to provide this water, avoid watering again to avoid sogging or water logged plants. Once the flower head (referred to as a button or curd) reaches egg size, start blanching. Blanching is a process used to protect the heads from the sunlight and moisture which will result in them being pure white. If the process is not done then heads will have a yellowish-green discoloration.
There are two blanching options. You can either pull the outer leaves over the head and bound them with an elastic band or loop soft or heavy twine around the leaves and tie them over the head after gently lifting them to cover it. Neither head nor foliage should be wet when blanching since the locked in moisture can rot the plant.
The time it takes cauliflower to grow will depend on the type that was planted. As a rule, harvest them once they are full however, this must be done before the sections start to loosen up. Careful observation once heads grow to 3 or 4 inches in width is necessary.
If you grow other plant, another tip that can result in a great harvest is a three year crop rotation especially if peas and beans where grown in the soil before since such soil is bound to be nutrient rich.