How to Plant Cauliflower this Fall
In the winter months, I miss my garden bursting with produce. Last year I grew a couple of things, but decided to branch out and try some new things this year. Last year one of my most successful winter crops was cauliflower. Use the “All Year Round” variety and this tutorial to learn how to plant cauliflower this fall. I substitute cauliflower for potatoes when I’m feeling a little thicker around the middle from more indoor time when it’s cold out. And can I tell you a secret? I may just like the cauliflower better with most things. But don’t tell the potatoes that.
Cauliflower belongs to the cabbage or cole family (Brassica oleracea). Like most cole crops, it requires cool weather and grows best when daytime temperatures are between 65 and 80 F. The trick to growing cauliflower is consistently cool temperatures, so when you plant one in your homestead timing is of the essence to catch the temperature which is most suitable for it to flourish.
Cauliflower grows best in soils rich in organic matter and plenty of calcium. Moist, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 6.8 is required for optimum growth and to discourage clubroot disease.
When to Plant
During fall season, you can direct seed cauliflower in your garden if the soil temperature is between 65°F and 75°F and where the weather will remain cool. Plant cauliflower in autumn for a winter harvest where winters are mild and frost free. The time from planting to harvest is 85 to 130 days for cauliflower grown from seed, and 55 to 100 days for cauliflower grown from transplants.
Site and Spacing
Plant cauliflowers where there is adequate sun. Like most vegetables, cauliflower needs at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Any partial shade will reduce head size.
Sow cauliflower seeds ½ inch deep and set them at least 24 inches apart in the row with 30 inches space between rows.
Cauliflower may also be planted with ‘companion’ plants to help them flourish. Beets, celery, herbs, onions, potatoes. Avoid pole beans, strawberries, tomatoes are suggested.
Water and Fertilizer Needs
Do not let the ground dry out, cauliflowers require an evenly moist ground to grow.
It is best to perform a soil test first to determine fertilizer and lime application. However, in the absence of a soil test, 2 to 3 pounds of 8-16-16 fertilizer applied uniformly over 100 square feet of garden area is suggested. Work the fertilizer thoroughly into the soil about two weeks before planting time.
Blanching is often done as cauliflower plants begin to mature and the head or curd starts to form. This is to protect the heads from rain and too much sun, and to ensure the curd will be white and tender at harvest. Start blanching white cauliflower varieties when the head gets to be about the size of an egg.
How to blanch: draw three or four leaves over the head and secure them with a rubber band. Check regularly. You can untie it to peek and tie it back if needed.
Pest Control and Disease Prevention
Cauliflower can be attacked by cutworms, cabbage loopers, imported cabbage worms, cabbage root maggots, aphids, and flea beetles. Control pests with fine mesh row covers, handpicking, and spraying with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).
Root rotting is a common disease with cauliflowers. Prevent root rots by keeping the garden free of debris and avoiding handling plants when they are wet. Immediately remove and destroy infected plants to prevent it from spreading to other seedlings.
Harvesting and Storing
Knowing when to harvest cauliflower is important. The head is usually ready about a week or so after blanching them. Mature cauliflower heads can range in size from 6 inches to 12 inches across. Harvest when the buds are still tight and unopened. Use or preserve right away.