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Growing Organic Cauliflower

Posted February 06, 2018

Cauliflower can be a little tricky to grow here in warm desert climates, but with a few tips and tricks, you should be able to produce a nice tasty head right in your garden this spring.  There are some fun colors to choose from besides the typical white, such as the  Romanesco, orange and even purple.  

Cauliflower is a cool season biennial that is grown as an annual crop.  It is more sensitive to heat and drought than any of the other brassica crops (broccoli, cabbage, kale).  So timing is critical!  In warmer climates as ours, the first of February is the best time to get transplants into the ground, otherwise for cooler areas, plant out 2-4 weeks before last average spring frost.  Once temperatures begin to reach the mid 80’s, cauliflower will begin to button, rather than form a tight head.  Choose transplants (weather you grow your own or not), that are young, with 4 or 5 true leaves and definitely not root bound.  Roots should be white and loose as opposed to brown in color and tightly grown around their pot.

Cauliflower should be planted in a sunny location with well drained, fertile soil.  So amend with plenty of compost before planting and in each planting hole, add 1-2 Tablespoons of organic fertilizer such as a Bio-Fish 7-7-2.  If boron is not present in your soil, consider adding 1 Tbs per 100 ft.  Plant 12 to 18 inches apart. I like to plant 12 inches, as this helps to keep moisture in and weeds out!

Cauliflower heads will not develop if soil is allowed to become dry, so keep soil moist but not soggy.  As the plant begins to grow, you can add mulch or more compost around the plants to keep the soil moist and cool.   Cauliflower is not heat or drought tolerant!

Young seedlings are frost tolerant, but it’s a good idea to cover with a frost blanket if temperatures begin to drop below 30 degrees. Every gardener should have frost blanket on hand!

Once heads begin to form you can tie or fold over the mature leaves to protect the heads from sun-scald.  This is particularly important for white cauliflower varieties.

Harvest cauliflower while the curds are still tight.  Check often, every 2-3 days, because they can quickly over-develop turning loose and ricey.  Once harvested, cool quickly to retain their quality.  There’s nothing better than fresh cauliflower.

Spring planted cauliflower grown in warm climates do not usually send up side shoots, so we recommend removing the entire plants and offering it to the compost pile, giving space for a new warm season crop.

Sowing seeds or transplants can be done in the mid-summer for a late fall to early winter harvest. You may find it helpful to use a floating row cover to protect tender transplants from hot summer rays. 

Some pests to watch out for early is the cabbage looper and diamondback moth.  You can control these pest by using a floating row cover or doing a routine spray of Bt or spinosad.  Planting onions, rosemary and/or sage around cauliflower plants will also help repel pests, as well as improve the flavor. 

Find Bt here

Find Spinosad here

Find Frost Blanket here

Find Floating Row Cover here

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