10 Tips for Growing - Cauliflower
I’ll admit, I’ve never been a big fan of Cauilflower, steaming or adding to stir frys seemed the only way to eat this somewhat boring vegie. However with the resurgence of things like the Paleo Way (not that I’m a strict Paleo consumer, as I’ll eat anything fresh) Cauilflower rice has become my go to rice, and I’m a BIG fan of curries so this works perfectly for me. Because of this, Cauilflower has become my new bestie and is in season for all zones of Australia in February to start sowing. Here are my simple top 10 tips when growing from seed:
- Sowing the Seed: Cauilflower does like the cooler months, but don’t let it fool you that we’re talking about this while still in Summer. The weeks will soon fly by and your seedlings will be ready to plant out in the garden by the time the days start getting cooler. Refer to our 'Sow' page for Planting Spacing, Depth, Maturity days etc.
- Right Spot for Planting: Now we know Cauilflowers don’t particularly like heat, however ironically they like sunlight. Make sure the spot you choose in your garden receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. And remember the sun will get lower in the sky leading into the cooler months so if planning this now take this fact into consideration.
- Soil: Choose a spot in your garden with rich, moisture retaining soil. For a good cauliflower crop, the plant's growth must be completely uninterrupted. This means that the plant must receive consistent moisture and have access to sufficient nutrients as it matures. A good soil makes meeting both of these requirements much easier. To enhance the soil’s ability to hold moisture make sure to use good organic matter.
- Nitrogen and Crop Rotation: Cauliflowers also need the right amount of nutrients in the soil to help development. I’m not a fan of any store bought fertilizer but instead I’m always experimenting with crop rotation. Crop Rotation helps create the right environment (nutrients included) for your plants to grow. A great place to grow Cauilflowers is in the bed that peas and beans grew in previously. Peas and beans produce Nitogren for the soil, Cauils love Nitogren! If you don’t have a current crop of peas and beans, don’t worry as you can also plant peas and beans after harvest to fix the nitrogen levels ready for the next crop.
- Watering: Cauil’s love water! In rainfall terms, approx. 1 to 1.5 inches per week. They also love consistency for watering. They need to have consistent access to moisture and if your soil is moist and they have access to nutrients (refer item # 3) this will go a long way towards that moisture. Rainfall will obviously also contribute to this so you may not have to water as much during these time but just make sure that the soil is consistently damp (but not waterlogged).
- Bugs: Pests are always going to try and attack (eat) your young freshly planted seedling. As you know I am simply not a fan of pesticides so that means I’m always prepared to lose some plants (just not all of them pleeease dear bugs!). A good way to keep the critters away in the early days is to cut a milk jug in half and place over the seedling like a closh. It’s not a fool proof way, but it does deter them. It also acts as a little hot house if needed, but be careful it doesn’t get to damn hot and burn your babies.
- Companion Planting: Another way to help deter critters is companion planting. This will help keep away the cauil eating bugs and attract the cauil loving bugs. Love up matches for Cauliflower are: Beetroot, Spuds, Celery, Oregano, Sage, Mint, Dill and Rosemary.
- Helping them Grow Beautiful and White Curd (that’s the name for the Cauli head): Blanch the Cauli head when it has formed. This means to use the leaves of the plant to wrap the head around to protect it from the light. You can use clothes pegs or a string but just ensure the leaves are pulled up over the curd and tied off. Doing this will ensure the curd stays a beautiful white and doesn’t brown in the sun. However a good tip is to make sure the cauliflower is dry before you blanch it as trapped moisture can cause the plant to rot. Also don’t bind the leave to tight around the head that air cannot reach it.
- Harvesting: Harvest when heads are large, white, and firm. After blanching, continue caring for the plant as normal, occasionally removing the leaves around the head to monitor its growth and allow moisture to escape after watering. When the head is large (roughly 15 cm across), white, and firm, it is ready to be harvested. This can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after blanching, depending on your climate (growth is generally faster in warm weather). Cut the head from the base of the plant with a knife, leaving a few leaves attached to protect the head. Rinse, dry, remove the leaves, and enjoy.
- Tip when Harvesting: When the florets start to spread, or loosen up, harvest the head immediately. When it starts to loosen up the plant is preparing itself to seed – you don’t want this if the plant is for eating. Harvest it at the first sign of spreading because the plant is at its sweetest. From here on it starts to get bitter.
Eating this delish dish: Like all things garden, fresh is best! That’s why we grow them right! There are a number of ways to eat Cauliflower, the traditional ways of steaming and stir frys or the ‘newer’ ways of cauliflower rice and tortillas. Head over to my ‘Eats’ page where I share a few of my favourites.