Homegrown Cauliflower: How To Plant, Maintain & Harvest
You may have heard that cauliflower is not the easiest of veggies to grow, although true, the feeling of harvesting your own delicious head of cauliflower is greatly rewarding. Cauliflower is an interesting vegetable because of its versatility in cooked meals. It doesn’t have a strong or overwhelming flavor which makes it perfect to use as a substitute in low carb or low calorie meal options. You can make cauliflower rice, cauliflower mashed potatoes and even cauliflower bread. Choosing which variety to grow can be difficult. Here are a few of our favorites.
Our Favorite Varieties:
- Amazing from West Coast Seeds, Baker Creek or Johnny’s Seeds is as its name states, an amazing variety. Its leaves will wrap around the cauliflower head to protect it from the hot sun.
- Graffiti from Johnny’s Seeds is a fun and delicious variety if you want to grow a radiant purple head of cauliflower. This is what we will be planting this season and we can’t wait to watch it grow.
Cauliflower stacked in your local grocery stores are usually white, but cauliflower actually comes in an array of colors such as orange, green and purple. To add color to your garden this fall try one of these. We particularly like Orange Sunset Cauliflower (bright orange) or Puntoverde (light green).
No matter which variety you choose, make sure to order seeds now to plant this fall.
Stages of a Cauliflower Plant
Stage One: Planting
- They do best when transplanted rather than directly sown, so start your seeds (4-5 weeks before transplanting) indoors
- Or buy healthy seedlings to transplant about 6-8 weeks before the first fall frost.
- To directly sow, plant your seeds 3 to 6 inches apart from each other and roughly an inch down.
Stage Two: Care and Maintenance
Watering and Light Requirements
- Once transplanted, water frequently to make sure that your cauliflower is retaining the moisture it needs. Also, add some mulch to retain extra moisture.
- They are sensitive to temperatures and won’t tolerate temps outside of 60-70 F (15-21 C).
- Cauliflower needs full sun, choose a bright spot that receives at least 6 hours of full sun daily.
- Nourish this spot with compost, or any organic matter of your choice.
Pests & Disease
- The most common pests you’ll encounter would include aphids, root maggots, moths, flea beetles and cabbage white butterflies.
- Some common diseases include black rot and downy mildew.
- If your plant has black rot, you’ll notice yellowing on the edges of their leaves. To treat; remove the infected leaves immediately to avoid spreading.
- If your plant has downy mildew, you’ll notice black spots on the head of your cauliflower. To treat, create a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of dish soap and four cups of water. Then spray your plants with this solution weekly.
Stage Three: Harvesting
- Once the head of cauliflower is forming and is 2-3 inches in diameter, take the surrounding, outer leaves and tie it over the head to cover and protect it from the sun, this is called blanching. Do this with rubber bands, tape or anything you have lying around. After 1-2 weeks of blanching, your plants should be ready to harvest!
- At this point your cauliflower plant should be white and have a diameter of 6-8 inches.
- This is subject to vary depending on your variety. Most cauliflower varieties mature to full growth 7-12 weeks after transplanting.
To harvest the cauliflower, firmly hold the head while cutting it off with a sharp knife. Make sure to keep a few leaves to protect the head. Store the head in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week or blanch and freeze pieces for up to a year.