Written by – Kaitlynn from MIgardener
Spring is just around the corner! This is the perfect time of year to brush up on your knowledge of growing techniques. Here at MIgardener, we want to share all of our favorite growing secrets; from our garden to yours. As you read through this post, you’ll find there is nothing simpler than growing organic!
With new dietary requirements on the rise, cauliflower has been one of the most sought after vegetables on the market! It’s mild flavor has always been a favorite to eat fresh or mix into flavorful recipes, but now people are finding innovative new ways to eat cauliflower. It’s versatility makes it the perfect substitute for pizza crust, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and in some cases: meat! Let’s investigate how you can start growing delicious organic cauliflower from your garden. Maybe you can invent a brand new way to serve it!
Let’s get started.
It’s important to prep your soil properly before planting. Soil should be rich with organic material, but loose enough to work with. Add a mixture of one part compost and one part sand to keep soil rich and well drained. Cauliflower is prone to a disease called club root. Club root attacks the root structure and causes it to deform into gnarly knots and nodules, which has a negative effect on the roots ability to uptake water and nutrients.
In order to prevent club root you must compress the soil where you want to plant, this removes air gaps that lead to the disease. Dig a trench approximately 2 inches deep and then lightly compress soil down with your foot or by pressing firmly with your hand. Soil should still be crumbly when moved, but have a noticeable density from the reduced air pockets.
You might not think of it at first, but leaves are the most important part of growth for any cauliflower variety. If you can encourage healthy leaf growth, the florets will follow. Nitrogen rich fertilizer is needed to encourage leaf growth, and cauliflower is a heavy feeder. Add generous amounts of nitrogen rich fertilizer to your soil before planting begins. Although cauliflower is a heavy feeder, over fertilizing can lead to hollow stems. There’s no need to re-apply fertilizer again during the growing season. We use Trifecta+ because it is high in nitrogen but also gives a boost of potassium and phosphorus that will release slowly throughout the season.
Do a soil test to make sure the soil has a ph of 7. If soil is too acidic or alkaline, add more compost to balance out the ph.
Broccoli requires 5-7 hours of sun each day. Full sun allows them to send energy to the production of heads and florets.
The water need of cauliflower are high. Water generously for fast growth, especially because your cauliflower will be getting full sunlight. Apply 1 inch of water per week, or approximately two and a half gallons. If cauliflower becomes dehydrated, it will bolt early. In northern climates, even out water application to a little bit every day so that the soil isn’t overwhelmed by moisture. In dry/hotter climates, give your broccoli larger servings of water two or three times a week.
18-24 inches apart for each plant. The more space you give cauliflower, the better your chances are of avoiding club root.
On the point of pest control, it turns out that broccoli and cauliflower are the favorite snacks of the cabbage moth. Cabbage moths seem to favor broccoli and cauliflower over their namesake! The only way to prevent them from getting into your broccoli is to protect it with netting.
Cauliflower’s cultural requirements are similar to those of broccoli, but you’ll find cauliflower more difficult to grow successfully because of it’s greater sensitivity to environmental stresses. Cauliflower will only bolt when the temperature reaches the 60°f mark, but can tolerate temperatures from 45-85°f. In northern climates, we recommend planting in late summer (July-Early August) because it will bolt quickly without being shocked by the sudden transition from spring to summer. Hot weather may cause buttoning, which is when developing heads enlarge. Summer planted cauliflower will be able to produce curds as the temperatures cool in the fall. Too cool and cauliflower will produce a “ricey” head instead of a compact one. This is still edible, but not as attractive as a head that has developed normally. In climates without a cold winter, we recommend planning for an early spring harvest.
Tip: To get white curds (makes up the head) to form, tie up the leaves around the developing head. This process is called blanching, and it will prevent sunlight from stimulating production of green chlorophyll in curds. If the curds are exposed to sunlight they will still be edible, but their color and flavor will be negatively affected. Blanch cauliflower while the curd is dry to avoid disease. In warm weather, the head will ripen in a few days, so keep an eye open.
Harvest dates vary with the weather. Warm temperatures make the heads ready only a few days after blanching. In cooler weather, heads may take up to two weeks to reach harvest size. For best results, complete harvesting before the first frost; cold temperatures will discolor the heads. Cool the cauliflower immediately to from 32 degrees F to 40 degrees F, and store for up to three weeks.