Cauliflower can be challenging to grow in our area, but can be done easily with a few essential steps.
When cauliflower does not form a head, it could have been exposed to extreme cold temperatures, to little water, old transplants, to hot of temperatures or little sunlight.
Most people will plant cauliflower at the same time as cabbage and broccoli, but it is more sensitive to chilly conditions, so planting just a little later by two to three weeks is generally enough to get past the “danger” zone. While cauliflower can withstand freezing temperatures, anything below 25 degrees seems to cause withering and damage to the plant.
Plant cauliflower where it will get plenty of sunshine. At least eight hours a day and in hotter climates, afternoon sun would be best.
Planting direct sow seed is easily done and ensures you get a plant that hasn’t set in its transplant pot to long. We generally start seeds right into the ground around February 15th (zone 8) in well-amended and fertilized soil. Once seeds have germinated, we thin to one foot to 16′ apart. If very cold or snowy weather moves in we cover with a frost blanket to protect our babies from and damage from extreme frost. Be sure to give the frost blanket support so it does not crush or break the new little stems.
Transplants can work well as long as they are not old and root bound. Older plants tend to be stressed and do not perform as well as actively growing seedlings. Look for young and tender transplants. While you certainly will need to be more careful, it will be well worth it! Harden plants carefully by gradually increasing cold before transplanting out, especially if the transplants were purchase right out of a greenhouse. Plant cauliflower transplant into well-amended soil, dig a hole slightly deeper than the plants exciting soil level, add a tablespoon of organic fertilizer, cover hole and slightly firm in plant. Water. Keep moist.
Watering is critical! Cauliflower does not produce well, if at all in dry soil. Keep moist from the time it goes into the ground, until you cut the head!
Blanching. When you start to see a small head forming through the leaves it’s time to “blanch” your cauliflower. Gather the outer leaves and fold over the to the center. This generally breaks the vein a bit, but it still remains viable. This would be my lazy gardner method! Or you can tie up with a string or rubber band. This prevents yellowing of the curd from sunlight. The flavor is better, it looks beuatiful and the overall quality of the cauliflower head is better.