A few years ago, everyone suddenly realized just how good cauliflower was to eat. This is a versatile vegetable that can be roasted, pureed, and even eaten raw. If you want all the health benefits of cauliflower, keep reading to find out when is the best time to plant it.
When to plant cauliflower: Cauliflower is a cousin to cabbage and broccoli and holds a ton of nutrients inside its core. You can plant cauliflower in either the spring or the fall as it prefers cool temperatures. While you can try to plant seeds directly in your garden, you will have more luck with seedlings. In the spring, plant just before the last frost date. As for the fall, plant about six weeks before the first frost date. Make sure the soil is nice and fertile by adding plenty of compost or fertilizer. Even if it rains, you will still have to water your cauliflower as it prefers moist soil. After around 80 days, your cauliflower will be ready for harvest.
Planting Cauliflower in Different Climates
Cauliflower is a cool crop and so a tropical climate will not be cold enough for the vegetable.
A dry climate does not offer enough soil moisture for cauliflower.
A temperate climate is ideal for cauliflower. You can start early in the spring or grow later in the fall as the winters will be cool but shorter in duration.
The cold winters of a continental climate are great for cauliflower. Just watch the frost dates and be prepared to insulate your plants if the temperatures dip too extreme in the fall.
A polar climate cannot sustain cauliflower.
Choosing Cauliflower Seeds
Roasted cauliflower covered in cheese sauce is a popular side dish, so perhaps it isn’t a surprise that the orange cauliflower of this variety is a popular option. It is ready in 60 to 70 days and has a mild, sweet taste to it.
Early White Caulflower
If you can’t wait for your cauliflower to be ready, you might want to consider this variety. It is mature in just 52 days and is a cold-hardy option.
It can be hard to find purple vegetables but if you’re trying to “eat the rainbow” then this variety is a great addition to your plate. With light purple color, it will bring a bit of whimsy to your dinner and might even inspire your kids to try it.
Veronica Romanesco Hybrid
We’re including this variety as an option mainly because it is so interesting to look at. Instead of the rounded shape of traditional cauliflower, this hybrid variety has sharp cones. Don’t let its appearance fool you, though, as it is edible and has a mildly sweet flavor with a touch of nuttiness to it.
How to Plant Cauliflower Seeds
We have it in our head that spring is the time for planting but there are many crops that actually do well in the fall. Cauliflower is one of them.
You can definitely still grow cauliflower in the spring but fall planting is a nice option if you want to make the most usage out of your garden.
For spring planting, you can either start seeds indoors four weeks before the last frost date, or you can plant seedlings into the ground two weeks before the last frost date.
For fall planting, get your seedlings into the ground six weeks before the last frost date. However, you want to wait until the temperature during the day is below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Before you plant anything, ensure your soil is nice and rich. Take the time to add in aged manure or compost and turn the soil over.
If you don’t have an organic matter on hand, you can use fertilizer. Stick to a 5-10-10 fertilizer mixture for the best results.
Sunlight and Shade
Cauliflower needs sunlight to grow but you should be careful about too much sun in the fall. Some climates will have warm falls, so if you have a burst of hot temperatures, be sure to shade your cauliflower from the hot sun.
While you can start out with planting seeds, they don’t always work out well. Instead, either start your seeds indoors or simply head to the local gardening store and purchase cauliflower seedlings.
Cauliflower will grow pretty large, so make sure there is ample spacing. There should be 18 to 24 inches between your plants and if you have rows, make sure there are 30 inches between these rows.
How to Water Cauliflower
Cauliflower is a type of plant that needs a lot of water. Even if you have rainfall, you will still need to supplement with water.
Aim to water your cauliflowers every two or three days, depending on the rain. In total, your plants should get about 2 inches of water each week.
How to Grow Cauliflower
Protect from the weather
Cauliflower is a cold-hardy crop but you still need to protect it. If there are sudden deviations in the weather, you can ruin the plant’s growth.
If you plant in the spring, you want to get your cauliflower in the ground just before the last frost date. However, if there is a sudden dip in temperatures, you can cover the new plant with a plastic milk jug to keep it insulated overnight.
Cauliflower needs moist soil. To help the soil retain moisture, add a layer of bark mulch around the growing area.
While you want to create the best soil conditions from the beginning, you can also add extra fertilizer to your cauliflower. About two to four weeks after planting, add fertilizer powder around the plants and then give it a good watering to soak into the soil.
Watch for brown heads
Cauliflower needs a lot of nutrients to grow and if you find your white-headed variety has brown on it, this is a sign the plant is deficient in boron.
There is a simple solution, however. Place one tablespoon of borax in one gallon of water. Then, spread the mixture over the soil but be careful not to get any on the plant.
You can also add a liquid seaweed extract around the soil. While you can remedy brown spots, be sure to add more compost to your soil the next time you want to plant cauliflower.
Get ready for harvest
About 10 days before your cauliflower is ready for harvest, there is one final step to take. This is called blanching and can seem more intricate a task than it is.
Wait until the head of your cauliflower is 2 to 3 inches wide in diameter. Wrap the outer leaves around the head so that you block out any sunlight.
Then, use a rubber band or string to tie everything together. Keep it this way for 10 days and then it will be ready for harvest.
Blanching is not needed if you have cauliflower that is a colored variety or if it is a type of plant that will self-blanch.
Because of the long growing season, there is ample time for pests to take over your cauliflower. Make it a habit to inspect your plants for any signs of unwanted guests.
Aphids are common and if your cauliflower has yellow leaves, this is a sign. Spray them off with water. You can also add orange peels around your plants to deter them.
Cabbageworms are another pest that you might encounter. These insects will quickly eat their way through the leaves on your plants.
If you see holes, look all over the plant, including the undersides of leaves. Handpick them off and plant thyme around your cauliflower to deter them.
How long does Cauliflower take to grow?
There are many different varieties of cauliflower and the average time it takes to grow is between 60 and 80 days. This is quite a while, so you need to be patient.
Be careful when growing your cauliflower. The heads on the plant can be quite loose at first so you don’t want to disturb them and cause them to fall off before they are ready.
What is the best month to plant cauliflower?
There are two times in the year that you can grow cauliflower, in the spring and the fall. While the fall is usually preferable you can still get a good crop in the spring.
For spring planting, get your seedlings into the ground two weeks before the last frost date. Depending on where you live that may be late March or early April.
For fall planting, get your seedlings into the ground six weeks before the first frost date. Depending on where you live, that can be early to mid-September.
Cauliflower may be a cousin to wild cabbage but it is a much-preferred alternative. You can grow cauliflower in the spring or the fall as it is a cold-hardy vegetable. While it can take up to 80 days to grow, it is a crop that is worthwhile.