The Q&A Archives: General Info On Cauliflower

Question: I live in zone 7 and am a novice vegetable gardener. I would appreciate any information you can give me about growing cauliflower from seed. I've ordered 'First White Hybrid' seeds. When should I sow these seeds in my garden? Or should I start them indoors? I have read that cauliflower likes cool weather -- is it too late for spring planting? If so, when should I sow for fall?

Answer: Like other cabbage family members, cauliflower needs a soil rich in nitrogen and potassium, with enough organic matter to retain moisture. It's not difficult to grow, but it is sensitive to extreme temperatures. Cauliflower is primarily a cool-weather crop and won't produce heads in hot weather. Most cultivars need about two months of cool weather to mature (Burpee states that 'First White Hybrid' should mature 50 days after transplant). Cauliflower requries constant moisture to produce large, tender heads; soil that dries out between waterings will cause heads to open up and become "ricey". Use a thick layer of compost or organic mulch to cut down on evaporation of moisture from the soil, keep weeds at a minimum, and cool the soil. Provide at least one inch of water per week, soaking the soil to a depth of six inches, to wet the entire root mass. When the flower heads are about the size of an egg, blanch them by shading out the sunlight. Otherwise they'll turn yellow. Just bend some of the leaves over the head and secure them with twist ties. Don't tie too tightly - you want to allow room for air circulation and for the heads to grow.

To make sure your cauliflower have plenty of cool weather in the spring, start seedlings indoors in mid-March. You can also sow seeds directly into the soil in July for a fall crop, or start another crop of seedlings in early August. Good luck with your cauliflower!

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