Cauliflowers are not the easiest vegetable to grow, putting many gardeners off the idea of even attempting to grow this crop. The main cause for disappointment is when the cauliflower produces a very small head or ‘Button Head’ instead of the huge pure white curd promised on the seed packet. This is usually caused by the plants experiencing a check in their growth.
Soil Preparation for Cauliflowers.
Cauliflowers need a rich, firm soil, so all preparation takes place in autumn. Dig in plenty of well rotted manure or compost, Check the pH of the soil (a range of 6.5 – 7.5 is ideal) and apply lime if needed a few months after digging.
A week before planting apply a good general fertilizer and lightly rake in. Don’t fork over the surface.
Sowing Cauliflower Seed.
Summer varieties: Can be started off in January in the greenhouse, grown on and these will produce a crop in June-July. Later sowings can be made outside from early April and transplanted in June, for a crop in August-September.
Autumn varieties: Sow outdoors in mid April to mid May and transplant in late June, for a crop at the end of October to November.
Winter varieties: Sow outdoors in May and transplant in late July, this will give a crop in early March until May the following year.
Seedlings are ready to transplant when they have 5 or 6 leaves. Make sure the plants are well watered before transplanting, if grown outdoors lift with as much soil around the roots a possible.
Spacing is all dependent on the final size of the cauliflower, but as a general rule summer and autumn varieties need 2ft winter varieties need 2½ft.
If a number of curds appear to be ready at the same time and they are not all required at once, break the midribs of two or three of the centre leaves on each plant that is not needed so that they cover the curd like an umbrella and protect it for a few days until they are required. The cauliflower will keep however for about three weeks if it is pulled up, including roots, and hung upside down in a dry shed.