Cauliflower is supposed to be one of the more difficult Brassicas to grow well. Proper planting time and variety choice is the secret to an easy crop in this area.
Cauliflower has no tolerance for a check in growth during the juvenile period. It is also sensitive to trace elemental deficiencies which cause hollow stems and malformed curds.
Cauliflower planted during the first week in October can be harvested in December. The plant likes deep soil amended with organic matter. Add a pre-plant fertilizer, in top 12 inches, high in phosphorus (16 - 20 -0) and side dress with nitrogen fertilizer when half-grown.
Use young transplants from the nursery, or your own, no more than 4 inches tall. If raising your own, start seeds in containers 4-5 weeks before planting in the garden. Seedlings started September 1st in a partially shaded place will grow much faster during this warm period and will not need bottom heat to germinate. Be sure not to let seedlings wilt. Water daily or put on a capillary mat and water from below. Seed will sprout in 5-7 days and four weeks later should be large enough to put in the garden. Plant a little deeper, but do not bury the first set of leaves or compact the soil.
Plant may need cutworm protection with a paper collar wrapped around the stem when transplanting.
Fall planted cauliflower tends to make larger plants so space 18- 20 inches both ways on a staggered pattern in raised beds. Prepare soil ahead of planting with organic matter and composted manure or pre- plant fertilizer high in nitrogen and phosphorus (16 - 20 - 0). If only compost and manure are used, side dress with liquid fish emulsion every 2 weeks until heading begins.
Use self blanching varieties to keep top of the “curd” white or break a leaf or two over the head for shade.
Cauliflower does well under row cover cloth like Reemay and their use eliminates a lot of spraying for the imported cabbage worm and loopers. It also prevents the soil from drying out too rapidly. Follow same recommendations under broccoli for pest control and inspection. When plants reach top of row covers (supported on heavy wire hoops), remove the covers and start a spray program with Bt and insecticidal soap.
Watch heads for maturity. Don’t let them get ricey. Cut whole head off while buds are white and compact. Cauliflower can be stored in a plastic bag for one week in the refrigerator, or frozen.
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