Cauliflower can be a tricker crop than many to succeed with, but the effort is well rewarded, with beautiful white or purple heads (also known as curds) that taste delicious and leave the shop bought versions behind.
Soil and Aspect
Cauliflowers need a well-consolidated soil which is deep, fertile and moisture retentive, so best to dig several months before planting, incorporating well-rotted manure or garden compost. Alternatively plant after a crop of nitrogen-fixing green manure.
Best planted in an open sunny site, it is important to avoid frost pockets if growing winter varieties.
Sow the seeds of summer varieties in a cool greenhouse in mid-winter for an early crop. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough and harden off for a couple of weeks before planting out in rows 50cm apart with protection in early spring.
Autumn and Winter varieties can be sown outdoors in the late spring. Sow thinly in nursery beds before planting in a permanent site. Thin to 5cm apart and transplant seedlings when they are 10cm tall and bearing 5 to 6 leaves - take care in lifting them. Remember to water in well.
Depending on the variety the final spacing should be 60-70 cm apart.
After planting, mulch the crop with garden compost - quick to produce in a Rollmix Composter.
Water in dry periods with occasional feed and cover with netting to protect from birds - Giant Easy Net Tunnel will help shade from the sun too.
Fold the leaves up around the head to protect from rain and frost. Then use collars around the stems to protect from cabbage root fly.
Harvesting and Storage
Start harvesting when the heads are small so that not all of the crop is taken at the same time. Florets separate or turn brown when they are too mature. So better to opt for smaller specimens than leave it too late.
Cauliflowers can be stored on the stem, hung upside down in a cool dark place for up to three weeks - mist occasionally.
Pests and Diseases
Cauliflowers are susceptible to the issues as cabbages - pick up some tips in our Spring Cabbages Blog.