Cauliflower is one of the most common vegetables that can be grown all year round. However, the process of growing cauliflowers is not as easy as some other vegetables.
Cauliflower plants need quite a bit of space to mature healthily. Also, they need rich, fertile soil and plenty of watering during summer.
Don’t worry though. We have made the process easier by breaking it down into multiple steps.
Starting from sowing to growing and harvesting, every detail has been explained in this article. Also, some recommended cauliflower varieties and a few tips on how to treat common problems have been covered.
So are you planning to plant fresh and delicious cauliflowers at home? Then, simply follow our step-by-step guide and grow cauliflowers like a pro.
Table of Contents
Though the creamy white cauliflowers are the most common ones you see in supermarkets, it is possible to grow other varieties such as the yellow, green and purple ones if you find the appropriate seeds. Here are some varieties that are suitable for growing in the UK climate.
Galleon AGM (Our Favourite!)
It is a spring growing cauliflower that’s very reliable for growing at home. Galleon cauliflowers mature from the end of April to early May. The taste of this variant is exceptionally good and it can be overwintered easily. You can identify the cauliflowers by the densely packed heads and the deep green sturdy stems.
Also known as the Christmas cauliflower, this variant can be identified by the pure white heads that remain densely packed and protected by green, strong foliage. Though the cauliflowers are ideal for Christmas time, they can stand well till January.
It is a well-bred variety that produces deep white heads of cauliflowers in early spring. The cauliflowers are tolerant of harsh winter as the foliage is extremely protective. The leaf growth of this variety is quite vigorous.
One of the best summer cauliflowers, Nessie needs about 40 weeks to mature from the day of sowing. The blue-green leaves of this plant protect the white heads well.
Candid Charm AGM
This variety matures very quickly and becomes ready for early summer harvest. You can place the plants close to expect vigorous and tightly packed deep white heads.
This variety produces high-quality heads throughout summer if you sow seeds in February. The crops are upright and they retain the white colour for quite a long time.
It is an ideal variant if you prefer exhibiting because of the plant’s resistance to pinking. The variety grows well even in stressful weather conditions.
Moby Dick AGM
This variant grows in late autumn and early winter when you sow correctly. The crisp, white heads of this plant remain protected from early frosts by the strong foliage.
This is a reliable cultivar because of the excellent club root resistance of the plants. You can expect the plants to become ready for harvest from summer to late autumn.
This hybrid variety of cauliflower can be identified by the bright and stunning purple shaded heads. The medium to large-sized cauliflowers grow well in humid weather.
This one is a Romanesco type plant that produces beautiful volcanoes like florets of lime green colour. The green colour of the cauliflowers retains well after cooking.
This cultivar produces deep yellow or orange curds that taste well when you eat raw. The plants of sunset cauliflowers are quite sturdy and compact.
Cauliflower or brassica oleracea var is a cool-season crop that requires consistently cool temperatures if you want the best nutty flavour. To plant cole crops, first you need to sow seeds. Then, you must maintain the quality of the plants as they grow. Finally, you can harvest the most delicious crops and enjoy them.
In a seedbed, you need to sow cauliflower seeds 2cm deep thinly. For mini cauliflowers, the final gap between rows should be 15cm whereas it should be 60cm for larger variants when you thin the seedlings. To get the best results, you can sow in a cell tray and use multipurpose compost. Cauliflowers tend to grow in a rush and hence planting too many of them at a time won’t be a good idea. Though the sowing time of different cultivars may vary, the best time to sow seeds is from March to May. You can also sow the seeds under glass in winter or in a greenhouse in autumn.
Cauliflowers grow well in fertile soil and hence you need to dig in a bucketful of organic manner or well rotted manure before sowing. As they grow, you need to rake using a high potassium general fertiliser. Also, you can firm the soil through treading before sowing seeds. If growth is hampered, you will see small, deformed heads getting produced from the plants.
To prepare the seedlings for transplanting, you need to water them well the day before and dig a deep hole so that the plants stand well. Also, fill the hole with water the day before transplanting as it will help you to keep the soil moist. Make sure you firm the moist soil excellently against the roots. Checking soil pH through soil test is another way of encouraging plant growth.
Spacing the summer and autumn harvesting cultivars 60cm apart and the winter cultivars 75cm apart will help you get larger crops. However, if you space the plants only 30-45cm apart, you will get mini curds that are perfect for one person. In dry weather, watering is essential so that the plant roots remain wet. To boost growth further, you can apply a high nitrogen fertiliser such as ammonia or sulphate at a rate of 30g per square metre.
Cauliflowers can be harvested throughout the year if you plant different types of seasonal cultivars. Harvesting cauliflowers also depends on when you sow seeds. Usually, most cultivars mature within three to five months from the sowing time. According to the weather conditions and cultivars, the growth rates may slightly vary.
Checking the seed packet before harvesting is essential if you want to get the best-recommended size. The heads should be compact and firm at the time of harvest. Otherwise, if the heads start to separate, it is a sign that the fall crop has passed its best. The crop will taste bitter when you harvest at this time. Also, the white varieties should be harvested before the colour of the heads turns yellow.
The cauliflower head is the main crop that we eat after harvesting. It contains tightly packed flower buds that are usually white but can also be yellow, purple or green if you cultivate coloured varieties in your vegetable garden. To harvest cauliflowers, you can use a sharp knife and cut the heads along with the foliage and a bunch of leaves beneath the heads.
Common Problems & Remedies
Insects such as flea beetles, cabbage worms and cabbage root maggots are usual cabbage loopers that can harm cauliflower plants as well. Diseases such as black rot can affect the growth of cabbage root and cause other problems if not checked. Another threat to cauliflower plants is weed growth in the garden, which can be controlled through raking. For the insects, you can use organic pest control or try similar methods using home ingredients.
Here are some common problems that you may face as you plant cauliflower. However, there are solutions to these problems that you can ensure by reading the following section.
This is a common disease that can even cause a cauliflower plant to die. Young plants and seedlings are usually affected by club root, which makes the roots swollen and distorted. Sometimes, the leaves also become yellow and pale due to club root.
Plants from the brassica family such as brussels sprouts get harmed by club root. To prevent club root, you can add lime to the soil and make it more alkaline. Also, you need to improve drainage by using well-drained soil. Growing new cauliflowers in affected soil should be avoided.
Cabbage white caterpillars feed on brassica plants and make holes in the plant leaves. The worst thing they do is boring through the cauliflower and cabbage heads.
If the attack is mild, you can simply pick the caterpillars off using your fingers. Make sure you wear a rubber glove before touching them. If the number of caterpillars is huge, you need to first clean them and then use fine netting or insect-proof mesh so that the caterpillars do not lay eggs.
Pigeons and other birds can create problems in your vegetable garden as they tend to eat seedlings, leaves, fruits, buds and vegetables.
To prevent heads from getting affected by birds, you can cover the plants with netting or fleece. Bird scaring mechanisms such as scarecrows may work but won’t prevent birds completely. Hence, the best way to deal with this problem is to use horticultural fleece.