Cauliflower

There are three distinct groups of cauliflowers, and these are each classified by their cropping dates, e.g. spring, summer and autumn.

Each group require similar conditions, although spring varieties prefer lighter well drained soil.

Idealy do not plant out in an area that has had any other member of the brassica family grown in it within the the last two years.

Cauliflowers like a sunny site and good fertile soil.

Prepare the beds in advance, preferably the previous autumn, by digging in liberal amounts of well rotted farmyard manure or compost.

With autumn and spring varieties transplant in an area that has been manured for a previous crop. e.g. early potatoes.

Check pH prior to planting out.

If the soil is acidic (below pH7) liming may be needed to increase the pH to around 7-7.5 such a pH can help suppress club root.

Do not apply lime to newly applied farmyard manure in case they chemically react to the detriment of the plants.

I have found that applying the lime at planting out time seems to deter slugs and nails attacking the young seedlings.

Although I am not qualified to say I think the slug/snails do not like crossing over the lime, perhaps the lime has an affect on their underbelly, who knows? but it seems to work for me!

Two weeks before setting out the young plants, rake in a top dressing of general fertiliser at 75 gm (3oz) per sq metre.

Keep the plants well watered during the growing season.

A light dressing of nitrate of soda or nitro-chalk once or twice during the growing season is beneficial and improves the quality of the curds.

Cultivation:

Summer cropping varieties:

Week 13: Sow seeds in pots or trays of seed compost and germinate at a temperature of 16°C (60°F).

Germination should take around seven days.

Week 14: When the seedlings show their first pair of true leaves, prick them out into 75mm (3") pots of the potting compost and grow on at the same temperature, in a light position.

Week 16: Move plants into coldframe to harden off.

Germinated Seedlings

Ready for Prickng Out

In Coldframe

Planted out



Week 21: Plant out seedlings 500mm (18") apart each way, planting them slightly deeper than they were in when in the pot.

Fitting proprietary discs at this stage will deter root fly.

As seen in this Planting Out slide show I find soaking the rootball at the planting out stage with a product such as Armillatox (to manufacturers specification) seems to deter the fly laying its eggs at the base of the plants, thus cancelling the need to fit collars.

My guess is, the smell of the Armillatox confuses the fly and they avoid any plant/s treated in this manner.

I also think that collars can offer a good hiding place for slugs to dwell during the day, hence my need to find an alternative deterrent.

Close-mesh netting set over the crop will deter pigeons, rabbits and egg-laying cabbage white butterflies.

Canes topped with plastic drinking cups or pots make excellent supports.

Throughout the growing season keep the plants free from weeds and ensure that they do not dry out.

If watering is required:

It is better to water well rather than often!

If too little water is applied, this will only moisten the upper layers of the soil and it will not get down to the root system where it is needed, necessitating further watering a short time after.

If in doubt, check by digging a hole with a trowel / spade to see how far the water has percolated down.

Water only to an area consistent with the plants optimum spread.

Watering out with this area will encourage weeds and create a moist surface that is suited to slugs and snails.

Various stages of growth

Curds forming



circa Week 27: As the plants are reaching maturity bright sun can discolour curds.

To prevent this, break the ribs of a few inner leaves and bend these over the curds to shade them.

circa Week 28: Commence harvesting.

Cut mature curds regularly and certainly before the florets begin to open up - excess heads can be pickled or frozen.

Alternatively, pull up the whole plant, including roots, cover the curd with tissue-paper, and suspended upside-down in a cool shed.

The curds should keep fresh for up to three weeks.

Curd Protection

Ready for harvesting

The harvest



Autumn cropping varieties:

Week 24: Sow seeds in pots or trays of seed compost and germinate at a temperature of 13°C (55°F).

Germination should take around five to seven days.

Week 26-27: When the seedlings show their first pair of true leaves, prick them out into 75mm (3") pots of the seed compost and grow on at the same temperature, in a light position.

Week 29: Give the young plants a thorough soaking and set the plants 500mm (18") apart each way, and slightly deeper than they were in the pots.

Fitting proprietary discs at this stage will deter root fly.(see note week 21 in summer varieties)

Close-mesh netting set over the crop will deter pigeons, rabbits and egg-laying cabbage white butterflies.

Canes topped with plastic drinking cups or pots make excellent supports.

Spring cropping varieties:

Spring cropping cauliflower need a fertile soil that is not too high in nutrients.

Over rich soil can induce the plants to produce very soft leaves which can be damaged by harsh winter weather.

Similarly the soil must be sufficiently well drained to cope with winter rain and thawing snow.

Week 30: Sow seeds in pots or trays of seed compost and germinate at a temperature of 13°C (55°F).

Germination should take around seven days.

When the seedlings show their first pair of true leaves, prick them out into 75mm (3") pots of the seed compost and grow on at the same temperature, in a light position.

Week 37: Give the young plants a thorough soaking and set the plants 500mm (18") apart each way, and slightly deeper than they were in the pots.

It is advisable to cover the plants with close-mesh netting to deter pigeons, rabbits and foraging animals eating the plants during the winter months.

Canes topped with plastic drinking cups or pots make excellent supports.

Week 5: If not done previously; cover plants from birds by covering them with netting, or proprietary humming lines.

Week 12: Remove discoloured foliage and hoe around the plants.

Boost growth by hoeing in either sulphate of ammonia or nitro-chalk at a rate of 1oz (30g) per sq m.

Alternatively: use 3oz (90g) per sq m of growmore or similar.

Protect the developing curds from frost by breaking a leaf or two over them.





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