How to Grow Cauliflower

Updated on December 12, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Source

If you are planting a fall garden, cauliflower should be at the top of your list of must-haves. It is a cool-season plant that can be planted in either spring or fall but does best in the fall with its cooler temperatures.

What is cauliflower?

Cauliflower is a member of the brassica family. It is closely related to Brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and collard greens. Collectively, this group of vegetables is known as cole crops.

Specifically, cauliflower is an annual cool season vegetable with a characteristic white “head” that resembles cheese curds. Typically only the head is eaten. Newer cultivars have green, orange or purple heads. The colors do not affect the taste and usually fade when the heads are cooked.

Green Cauliflower
Green Cauliflower | Source

Prepare your garden

You will need a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. The soil should be rich in organic matter and well-drained. Your plants will become stunted if your soil is poor or dries out too quickly. Soil pH should be between 6.5 and 6.8 for optimum growth and to prevent clubroot disease.

Clubroot disease is caused by a fungus in the soil. It affects Brassicas. It infects their roots causing them to swell and become deformed much like a club foot in humans. Infected roots are unable to properly absorb nutrients causing the plants to first grow poorly and then wilt and die.

Growing from seed

Although most gardeners use transplants, cauliflower is easy to grow from seed. You can start your seeds indoors or direct sow them into your garden. Plant your seeds ¼- to ½- inches deep four to six weeks before your last frost. If starting indoors, you may want to use a heat mat to maintain a constant soil temperature of 70⁰F. For fall planting, start your seeds six to eight weeks before your first frost date in the fall.

Harden off your seedlings before transplanting them outdoors and then plant them 18 to 24 inches apart. If you have direct sown your seeds, thin them to 18 to 24 inches apart to give your plants space to grow. Mulch them well to conserve moisture.

In the spring, you will want to have something on hand like a floating row cover or an empty plastic milk jug to use to cover your seedlings to protect them from frosts and cold weather. In the fall, since you are planting during the heat of August, you will need something to shade your plants from the hot sun.

Growing from transplants

If you prefer to purchase transplants instead of starting from seed, you will want to plant them two to four weeks before your last frost date in the spring or six to eight weeks before your first frost date in the fall. In either case, space your transplants 18 to 24 inches apart and mulch well to conserve moisture.

Orange and Purple Cauliflowers
Orange and Purple Cauliflowers | Source

Caring for your plants

Cauliflower needs to be kept moist. Plants require 1 to 1 ½ inches of water every week. If it gets too dry, the plants become stunted. Nutrients are important also. You can side dress your plants with a high nitrogen fertilizer or drench them with fish emulsion every two weeks during the growing season.

When the head is two to three inches across, tie the surrounding leaves over it securing them with string or a rubber band. This will ensure that it remains white. If it is exposed to the sun while growing and developing, it will turn brown. This is called blanching. Blanching is not necessary if you are growing any of the colored varieties.

The heads should be ready for harvest within 7 to 12 days.

Harvesting and Storing

Cauliflower is ready to harvest when the heads are six to eight inches in diameter. Cut the head off at the neck and either use immediately or store in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Alternatively, you can uproot the entire plant and hang it upside down in a cool, dark place. They will keep for up to a month.

In the fall, if you are not able to harvest your cauliflower before the first hard frost, that’s okay. Cauliflower heads can freeze right on the plant. Just don’t allow them to thaw. Instead, harvest them before they thaw and cook them immediately.

Cauliflower has a reputation for being difficult to grow but if you are willing to keep your plants moist, well-fertilized and cool, you will be rewarded with a harvest in the spring and the fall.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Caren White

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

        Caren White 

        9 months ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        It's hard watering just right in a vegetable garden with different plants with differing watering needs. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Farmer Rachel profile image

        Rachel Koski 

        9 months ago from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota

        Great guide! I've struggled with cauliflower head size in the past but I suspect I didn't keep the soil moist enough for them.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)