Planting and Growing Cauliflower

by David Schulze

This page talks about planting and growing cauliflower.  It gives many helpful tips and practical advice based on David's own experiences.

First, read our page on germination tips to get your seeds going.

Cauliflower is best grown in the early spring, fall, and winter. It will grow in winter until the ground freezes. 

Cauliflower is grown for its head, sometimes also called “curd” due to its resemblance to cheese curd. Most varieties produce a white head, but others produce purple, orange, or green. Like many Brassica, cauliflower is a cool-weather crop and performs best in areas with a mild climate. Enjoy this vegetable raw, roasted, fried, and steamed, or as a substitute for potatoes, rice, and wheat flours. 

Cauliflower prefers a very fertile, moist but well-drained soil, high in organic matter and with a pH of 6.0–7.5. Poor soil results in reduced-quality crops. Sandy soils are acceptable but may require more frequent watering. For this reason, a soil with good water-holding capacity is best.

Irrigate regularly, as a consistent supply of moisture is critical; water stress during curd development can cause unmarketable heads. Plant in a location that receives full sun. Supply adequate levels of nitrogen to keep the plants productive over a long season. If your soil is not high in fertility, side dressing may be needed.

Start seeds in early spring, March through April, and transplant as soon as temperatures have moderated. Do not transplant until after the last frost, as cauliflower seedlings have less tolerance to cold than older plants.

For fall harvests: Fall harvests can be achieved in any location, regardless of climate. Start seeds in June through July, depending on your location and transplant approximately 4 weeks later.

In short season northern areas, where the harvest window is shorter, seed early through mid-June.

For winter harvests: Winter harvests are successful in areas where winters are mild, and temperatures rarely go below 32°F. Start seeds in late summer and transplant September through February for harvest in January through April, depending on variety. Cauliflower should be 60 to 75% of their full mature size prior to entering winter; plants are generally more cold hardy when not full grown. Growth will resume in the spring.

Before transplanting to your garden, make sure you follow some sort of hardening process.

Plant one to two seeds in a seed starter cell of some type.  When the first true leave are showing, transplant into a 4 inch pot. Use CowPots for easier transplanting but using the 4 inch black plastic pots is about 1/3 the price and they are reusable. For me, I would use the CowPots since they are easier and better for the transplants.

When plants are six inches tall and the temperature is okay, transplant outside and use a transplant solution. Plant seedlings at least 18 inches apart. Cauliflower leaves can get very large so leave plenty of room for growth.

When you see the white head’s diameter is 2-3 inches, blanch the leaves to get the whitest cauliflower. Cauliflower needs at least 6 hours of full sun per day in order to perform its best.

Use an organic fertilizer and follow the manufacturer's direction.

For pest and disease, contact your local master gardeners or extension service agent. Each county has one.

Harvest the cauliflower when the heads are full and compact, but before they start separating and forming flowers for seed production.

Harvested cauliflower should be eaten within four to seven days. If you are going to freeze it, then do so within 24 to 48 hours to maintain freshness. You will want to blanch the cauliflower before you freeze it.

Frozen cauliflower will last about six months in the freezer. Or you can pickle it using a pressure canner. Pickled cauliflower will last about one year.

Because of the low acid in cauliflower, it cannot be canned like bush beans.

At the end of the season, insect-free and disease-free plants can be put in the compost bin. The best way to accomplish this is to shred the plants. If the plants have insects or disease, put in a plastic bag and throw in the trash can.

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