Cauliflower can be expensive at the produce counter, but it can be a staple of the kitchen garden with cool weather and regular water. Cauliflower requires two months of cool weather to reach harvest. Protected from frost it is a good choice in the spring and autumn gardens. (Tips on cooking cauliflower, click here.)
Cauliflower Planting Calendar. Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable that that require from 90 to 120 days to mature and reach harvest. During the cauliflower growing season temperatures should range between 55ºF and 80ºF (13-27ºC). Cauliflower grown in hot or dry conditions can form loose, “ricey” heads. Conversely cauliflower also does not do well in very cold weather.
• Spring crop. Cauliflower needs two cool months in which to mature. For a spring crop plant set out transplants 4 to 6 weeks before the average date of the last frost in your area. Sow seed 6 weeks before your outdoor planting date.
• Autumn and winter crop. Sow cauliflower seed 90 to 120 days before the first frost in your region, or plant to protect plants that mature after the first frost in autumn. Plastic tunnels will protect cauliflower after the first frost. Plant cauliflower for a winter crop if your winters are mild. (Tips on planting the autumn garden, click here.)
Succession planting. Plant just a few heads at a time. For succession crops, plant seeds and transplants at the same time for succession crops, or plant early and midseason varieties at the same time.
Site. Cauliflower prefers full sun but will grow in light shade.
Soil. Plant cauliflower in well-drained soil high in organic matter. Add compost to the soil at planting time. A soil pH within the 6.5 to 7.5 range will discourage disease and allow plants to make the most of soil nutrients.
Spacing Cauliflower. Cauliflower is usually grown from transplants except where there is a long cool period in which case seed can be sown directly in the garden. Sow cauliflower seed ½ inch deep about 3 inches apart. When seedlings are 4 to 6 weeks old with 4 to 5 true leaves transplant seedlings from 18 to 26 inches apart in beds or blocks. Set rows 24 to 36 inches apart. Transplants that are leggy or have crooked stems can be set deeply up to their first leaves so that they do not grow top heavy.
Container Growing Cauliflower. Cauliflower can be grown in a container. A single plant will do well in an eight-inch pot. In a large container, allow18 inches around for each plant.
Water. Cauliflower grows best in moist, not wet soil. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Mulch to keep soil cool and moist. If growth is interrupted by heat, cold, or lack of water the heads will not form properly.
Feed. Work plenty of compost into the soil at planting time. Side dress cauliflower with compost at midseason or more often.
Suggested Cauliflower Varieties. Super Snowball (55 days); Snowball Imperial (58 days); Earli-Light (58 days); Snowball M (59 days); Snow King (60 days); White Contessa (62 days); Majestic (66 days); Self-Blanche (70 days); Greenball (95 days); Royal Purple (95 days).
More tips: How to Grow Cauliflower.