Cauliflowers are considered fussy vegetables to grow. This is because they require a rich soil, careful planting, regular water and pest control or else they will fail to produce anything other than tiny button heads.
It took me a while to successfully grow cauliflowers. My first attempt was damaged in the sun and turned yellow, and my next attempt grew small and spindly due to not receiving enough water.
You can choose from summer, autumn and winter cauliflower varieties. Summer varieties can be sown under glass in January ready for transplanting in late march or early autumn and are ready to harvest June/July. Alternatively, plant outdoors in early April and transplant in June for a August/September crop.
Autumn varieties can be sown outdoors between mid April and May, transplanting in June, and are ready to harvest mid September to end November. Winter varieties can be sown outdoors in May, transplanting in late July, and are ready to harvest late February till May.
Dig over the bed in autumn/early winter and add plenty of well rotted manure or compost. Allow several months to pass between digging and planting to ensure the soil is well consolidated. In spring add a general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore. Do not fork over the surface of the bed prior to planting but instead just tread down gently and rake.
Sowing cauliflower direct into a seed bed
Sow the seeds very thinly in drills 1.5 cm deep, in rows spaced 15 cm apart. Cover gently with soil and water Seeds will germinate in 7-12 days. Thin the seedlings within the rows to 7 cm apart to prevent then becoming spindly and weak.
When the seedlings have established 5 or 6 leaves they are ready for transplanting. Water well the day before and carefully lift the plants ensuring you retain as much soil around the roots as possible.
Sowing cauliflower into pots
Fill a seed tray with John Innes seed and cutting compost, tapping the tray to settle the compost. Level gently with a flat piece of wood but avoid compacting the soil. Set out the cauliflower seeds individually within the tray, approximately 25 seeds in total. Lightly cover with compost using a sieve. Place the tray in a larger tray holding 2cm of water until the soil is moist and the surface of the compost turns from light to dark brown.
Plant firmly ensuring the seedlings are set at the same level as in the seed bed or pot. Space at 60 cm apart. Water gently.
During the growing season hoe regularly to remove any competing weeds. Water regularly, especially when young, as a shortage of water will mean very small heads develop. You will need to protect the crop from birds so hang a few Cd's or similar around the plot. During the summer protect the cauliflower heads from the sun by covering it with a few bent leaves. During the winter protect the cauliflower heads from the snow in the same way.
When harvesting your cauliflowers cut early in the morning when the heads have dew on them, or midday if frosty weather in the morning. Lift the plants and hang upside down in a shed to keep for up to three weeks.
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