Cauliflower is an extremely versatile veggie, from making Cauliflower rice to roasting it whole - there are a lot of ways to enjoy it. It can also be super rewarding to grow. Getting it right can mean impressive heads that can serve as the center piece for a fantastic dinner or a lovely addition to super salads.
Starting from Seeds
Cauliflower needs very rich and moist soil so always be sure to pick a high quality seed. If you can, try to go to a good independent gardening center rather than picking up an envelope at a big box store. Depending on your variety of seed, it can be between 90 to 130 days from seed to mature Cauliflower.
When starting your seeds be sure the soil mix contains thoroughly decomposed organic matter, think a good brand of compost.
In your planting rows your seeds should be about three inches apart. After six or seven days the young plants should begin to sprout. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely and when watering take care that the bed is not too wet or water logged. You will want to watch for any diseased plants and be sure to remove them as soon as you see them.
When the plants are about one inch high they are ready to be transplanted to a warm and sheltered area of the garden, and you may want to cover them at night.
These new plants can be set in rows about four inches apart with the plants one and a half to two inches apart in each row. The plants will be be be short and stocky, and not too fragile for handling.
By the time the plants are four or five inches high or when they have two sets of true leaves they are ready to for their final planting. Don’t let them them get too large or transplanting will take a bit more gentle handling.
Preparing to Work with Young Plants
Be sure to have your soil ready when you have your young plants. Turn your soil over to a depth of seven or eight inches and then on the top two or three inches mix in a high quality organic compost. This should all be done before setting out or hardening the young plants.
If you started from seed and are transplanting the young plants this hardening will be important, if you went out and bought young plants from the gardening center they may already be hardened. Hardening a plant is key as it allow the plants time to adjust to the outdoors and the area you plant to put them for their final planting. This usually takes a few days.
Hardening Young Plants
It is best that the plants be set out either just before or immediately after a rain, otherwise start in the evening and be sure that each plant receive a quart of water.
If you can manage it, a cloudy day or generally cloudy weather is the best for setting out your young plants. You can then set these well watered and loosely potted young plants out where they will be eventually permanently planted. Then at the end of the day, return them to a warmer more sheltered area. This should be repeated for several days to about a week.
Placement of Young Plants
Once your plants are hardened you can plant them in rows with each plant about three feet apart. The planting area needs to be frequently cultivated and the ground should be scarified at least every week and after every rainfall.
As soon as the heads of your cauliflower start to form the leaves should be drawn together at the top and loosely tied near their tips with a piece of twine. If the heads are left uncovered they yellow with exposure to the sun and they could have a less mild flavor.
You can examine the head by separating the leaves on the side, and harvesting can be done anytime after the head has reached the size you want. Usually heads between four and six inches in diameter are ideal, but as soon as the head is well rounded up and developed enough to force the leaves outward it is fully matured.