Cauliflower Growing Guide
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Cauliflower Growing Guide

What’s So Cool About Cauliflower

There are descriptions of cauliflower from as early as the 1st century A.D.. Cauliflower has been grown and eaten across Europe since the 1500s but did not start growing in the United States until the 1900s. Cauliflower is related to other brassica vegetables including broccoli, turnips, rutabaga, radish, wasabi, kale, cabbage, arugula, collard greens, and kohlrabi. Cauliflower remains white due to protective leaves growing around the head. The leaves shield the head from the sun, preventing the formation of chlorophyll, and keeping the head from turning green. Though usually white, cauliflower does come in purple and yellow varieties. Cauliflower can be a bit of a challenge for beginner gardeners because it requires consistently cool temperatures in the 60°Fs. Otherwise, it may prematurely “button”—form small, button-size heads—rather than forming a single, large head.

When To Plant Cauliflower

Cauliflower is cool-season crop, so it should be started in early to mid-spring for an early summer crop, or in late summer for a fall crop. Heat can affect the cauliflower’s development, so the goal is to get cauliflower to mature before or after high temperatures are expected. Cauliflower seeds are capable of germinating in soil as cool as 40°F (4°C), but warmer soil is preferred and will greatly speed up development. For transplants, plant them 50-60 days before first fall frost.

For spring plantings, cauliflower may be started indoors 4 to 5 weeks before your last frost date or outdoors 2 to 4 weeks before your last frost date. For fall plantings, sow seeds 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost date but after daytime temperatures are regularly below 75°F.

Cauliflower needs to be transplanted not direct seeded in the garden. Cauliflower should be started in greenhouse or under a grow light. It normally takes 4-6 weeks to grow out a transplant from seed.

Did you know?

As with many brassica varieties, cauliflower is dense with nutrients. Cauliflower is packed with vitamins C, K, and B6. Cauliflower also has folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and fiber. Cauliflower is high in antioxidants and is a great low-carb alternative to beans and legumes.

Our Favorite Cauliflower To Grow

Cauliflower Plant Spacing

In-Ground Planting

Row Spacing - 30 to 36 inches

Plant Spacing - 12 inches

Planting Depth - Transplant at soil level

Raised Bed Planting

Row Spacing - 2 feet

Plant Spacing - 12 inches

Planting Depth - Transplant at soil level

Cauliflower Soil, Irrigation, & Fertilizer

Soil Requirements To Grow Cauliflower

  • Loose, well-draining soil
  • pH between 6.0 and 7.0
  • Rich in organic materials
  • Good quality compost added to the soil

If possible, plant where you have not grown related crops such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard, turnip, or rutabaga for the past four years.

Cauliflower Irrigation Requirements

Cauliflower plants need at least 1 inch of water per week. Using drip irrigation is always recommended to be sure that your cauliflower plants are getting moisture directly to their root system. If you’re using conventional overhead watering techniques, try and use something like the Dramm Watering Can and water and fertilize at the base of the plant to keep moisture off the leaves.

Raised Bed Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.0 – 7.0, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Sidedress 2 cups of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

Every 7 Days (After 3rd Week Planting)

Mix 1 tablet each of Dr. Joe All Purpose and 1 tablet of Dr. Joe Nutri Bubble into 1 gallon of water. Apply as a drench per 4 plants.

In-Ground Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.0 – 7.0, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Using the Hoss Fertilizer Injector, Mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium 20-20-20 Fertilizer -AND -1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

Alternate Every 14 Days

Mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium Calcium Nitrate -AND -1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

Cauliflower Pest & Disease Protection

Insects

Organic Controls

Garden Insect Spray
Thrips, Horn Worms, Cabbage Looper

Horticulture Oil
Aphids, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies

Bug Buster-O
Aphids, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies

Monterey BT
Hornworms, Cabbage Looper

Take Down Garden Spray
Aphids, Horn Worms, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies

Diatomaceous Earth
Cutworms

Neem Oil
Whiteflies, Aphids

Non-Organic

Bug buster II
Aphids, Horn Worms, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies, Cabbage Looper

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Common Diseases

Organic Controls

Complete Disease Control (Drench)
Pythium Damping-Off

Liquid Copper Fungicide
Black rot, Alternaria, Downy Mildew

Garden Phos
Pythium Damping-Off, Downey Mildew, Powdery Mildew, Alternaria

Non-Organic

Vegetable, Flower, Fruit and Ornamental Fungicide
Alternaria, Ring Spot, Leaf spot, Downey Mildew

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Harvesting, Preserving, and Storing Cauliflower

Blanching Cauliflower

Cauliflower needs to be blanched to protect the heads as they mature. This isn’t the same thing as the process of dunking them in boiling water before plunging them into an ice bath that you’re probably familiar with. Without blanching, the color and taste can be greatly affected. The only type that Hoss sells that will blanch itself is twister cauliflower.

To start, choose a large leaf with which to begin. Gently bend the leaf inward over the center of the plant. Hold the leaf in place. Grasp a second leaf and fold it over to meet the first, over the center of the plant. Hold the tops of both leaves together in one hand. Use your other hand to gently bend a third leaf inward to meet the first two. Grasp all three leaves together in one hand, over the center of the plant. If necessary, bend a fourth leaf inward to meet the other three, to effectively hide the developing head. Use twine, rubber bands, or clothes pins to loosely bind the leaves you are grasping together. Secure them either at the top or around the middle, so they go over and around the head, completely covering it.

When & How To Harvest Cauliflower

Cauliflower heads are usually ready to harvest in about 50 to 100 days, depending on variety, or 7 to 12 days after wrapping/blanching. When the heads are compact, white, and firm, then it is time to harvest them. Ideally, the heads will grow to 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Cut the heads off the plant with a large knife. Be sure to leave some of the leaves around the head to keep it protected. If the heads are too small, but have already started to open up, they will not improve and should be harvested immediately. If the cauliflower has a coarse appearance, it is past maturity and should be tossed.

Storing & Keeping Cauliflower

Store heads in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should last for about a week. For long-term storage, you can also freeze or pickle the heads. To freeze, cut into 1-inch-bite pieces. Blanch for 3 minutes in lightly salted water. Cool in an ice bath for 3 minutes, drain, and package. Seal and freeze.

Come See Our Cauliflower!

Cauliflower Growing Tips & Tricks

Careful When Cooking

Cauliflower can be reactive with certain metals. The vegetable contains sulfur compounds, which will react with aluminum and iron resulting in a discolored cauliflower, so be extra careful when choosing cookware for cooking cauliflower.

Not Too Much Water

Mildew can cause yellow spots on leaves if there is moist weather, so try to keep leaves as dry as possible and avoid watering the heads. Do not get developing cauliflower heads wet when watering, as it can encourage rot.

Color Is a Warning

Of course, for yellow or purple varieties, their bright colors are a good sign. For white varieties, however, color can be a sign that your plants need better conditions. Pink heads can indicate too much sun exposure or temperature fluctuations. Purple hues can be due to stress or low soil fertility.

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