The Q&A Archives: No heads on cauliflowers

Question: This past year some of my cauliflowers grew into enormous plants, but no heads formed. What did I do wrong? T.R. Bosiack Staunton, VA

Answer: Long season varieties and some kinds that are grown to overwinter in mild climates can take a long time 100 to 120 days before the head starts to show. But too much nitrogen fertilizer can delay flowering, too, says Greg Welbaum, an Extension vegetable specialist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg. Apply a balanced fertilizer in spring and avoid heavy applications of manure. Side dress cauliflower with one pound of either 5 10 10 or an organic fertilizer such as soybean meal per 20 feet of row at the first sign of head development. Another possibility is that the growing tip was somehow damaged early in the life of the plant by an insect, hail or rough handling. The plant will continue to grow, producing many leaves, but a headwill never form.

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