Vegetable Overview: Cauliflower

cauliflower

Discover how to grow cauliflower with instructions on starting seed, transplanting, site selection, care and maintenance, water and fertilization requirements, pests and disease, and harvesting and storage.

Cauliflower Stats at a Glance

Soil Conditions: Well-drained, fertile

Sun:  Full sun

Soil pH Conditions: 6.0-7.5

Planting Instructions

Can I Start Cauliflower from Seed?

To start indoors, fill individual peat pots with a fertile commercial soil starter and moisten.  Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil. Press them lightly into the soil to ensure contact with growing medium. Place in a room with a constant temperature of 70-75°F.  Cover with clear plastic wrap to maintain the soil moisture and temperature.  Keep the soil moist.  When seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap and move to a cool, sunny location of 60°F.

A week prior to planting, harden off seedlings by exposing them to outdoor temperatures a few hours a day, gradually increasing hours of exposure.

When to Start Seeds: 6-8 weeks prior to planting
Time to Germination: 5-10 days
Light/Darkness Requirements: Either
Optimal Temp. for Germination: 80°F

 

When Do I Plant Cauliflower?

In order for proper head development, cauliflower requires consistently cool temperatures (60°F) during the early stages of development.

Transplant hardened seedlings or purchased plants in the garden as soon as the last threat of frost has passed and the soil reaches 60°F.  Transplant when seedlings have 4-5 true leaves.  Larger seedlings may bolt.

Soil Temperature: 60°F

 

Where Do I Plant Cauliflower?

Cauliflower requires well-drained soil.  Incorporating plenty of organic matter can assist with drainage as well as nutrients.  Prefers a neutral soil but will tolerate a soil that is slightly alkaline.  Cabbage will perform best in full sun. Light shade may hinder growth, but may also be beneficial in extremely hot weather.

 

Soil Type: Well-drained, fertile
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil pH: 6.0-7.5

 

How Far Apart Do I Plant Cauliflower?

Set transplants 18” apart in rows at least 30” apart.

Cauliflower Plant Care and Maintenance

How Often Should I Water Cauliflower?

Cauliflower requires a steady supply of water for best performance.  Slow, deep waterings are best.  Adding black plastic or mulch will help to retain soil moisture.

If planting in the summer for fall harvesting, consistent moisture levels are imperative to help the young plants survive the summer heat.

 

Should I Fertilize Cauliflower?

Fertilizing decisions should be based on a soil test.  If a soil test cannot be obtained, cauliflower generally performs well with a 10-10-10 fertilizer worked into the soil one week prior to planting.

Side dress with a nitrogen fertilizer three weeks after planting, followed by two more applications two weeks apart.

Sprinkle fertilizer at least 6” away from the base of the plant and irrigate it into the soil.

Too much nitrogen will result in ricey heads.

 

Additional Tips

Keep the cauliflower rows weed free as weeds compete for nutrients.  Cauliflower has a shallow root system so handpick any weeds in close proximity to the plant to avoid damaging the roots.

When the heads develop to the size of a fist, tie the leaves around the head to shield it from the sun.

Cauliflower Diseases

The most common diseases associated with this plant include black leg, black rot, cabbage yellows, and clubroot.

Cauliflower Pests

The most common pests associated with this plant include aphids, cabbage looper, cabbage root maggot, cutworms, flea beetle, imported cabbage worms, Harlequin bugs, and slugs and snails.

Harvesting and Storing Cauliflower

When Do I Harvest Cauliflower?

Cauliflower is ready to harvest when the heads are 6-8” in diameter just before the flower parts begin to separate.

 

How Do I Harvest Cauliflower?

Use a sharp, sterile knife to cut the stem directly below the head. Leave some leaves intact to protect the head.

 

How Do I Store Cauliflower?

Store cauliflower in a plastic bag in the refrigerator in the vegetable crisper for up to 7 days.

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