Guide to Growing Cauliflowers
Guide to Growing Cauliflowers
Cauliflowers – Brassica oleracea botrytis
These are now known as Summer Cauliflowers and the plants for so long identified asare now to be referred to as Winter Cauliflowers. It has long been believed that came from Italy, although a writer in the mid-sixteenth century says; “The seeds of cauliflowers come from Cyprus”. The plant was described as the ‘flourie colewort of which the small stems grow together in the centre, thick set and fast through together’.
This crop will not succeed in soils which dry out or lack fertility. The ground should be enriched with rotted manure orand although it should be well drained, a regular supply of moisture is needed. Bulky manures which increase the humus content greatly help to keep the moisture reserve.
Cauliflowers should not be grown in the same position more than once in three or four years. Prepare the site early leaving the surface rough and dusted with lime, unless the ground is known to be chalky.
The earliest sowings can be made in early autumn using a cold frame, cloches or the cool greenhouse. Make a seed bed, close the frames until growth is seen, after which ventilation should be freely given except during severe weather. This ensures good growth without softness.
If theare thinned to 25 mm apart they will grow into sturdy specimens for in spring. Small quantities of seed can be sown in peat or blocks, making it easy to transplant without root disturbance.
Main sowings are made in warmth, the seedlings being moved later to frames or soil blocks. Seed can also be sown under cold frames. Sow outdoors when soil is workable with subsequent sowings at fortnightly intervals.
Sow thinly in drills 16cm apart; subsequently, thin the seedlings to 10cm apart before placing them in their final positions later. This moving breaks the tap root and results in the formation of many more fibrous roots.
The earliest cauliflowers are rather a fussy crop, needing care. At planting time look out for blind specimens or those without growing points. There are several causes of blindness, including a check in growth, sowing too early, exposure to frosts or severe drought. Blindness and buttoning sometimes occur after planting in the open and are usually caused by checks following cold winds or frosts.
With pot grown plants make sure that the roots are thoroughly moistened at planting time, for if the soil is dry the roots may fail to break out of the pot-shaped ball. Make the holes with a trowel rather than a dibber. The latter may leave air holes at the base which soon fill with water.
Do not plant when the ground is wet, and sticky. Make sure that the main root is actually pointing downwards and is not bent up in any way. Space the earliest varieties 60cm apart each way and allow 68 to 75cm between main crop and late sorts.
In dry weather leave a little depression so that the plants have the benefit of any watering or rain. Keep downby regular hoeing and during drought, water may be necessary, for cauliflowers must never lack moisture or the curds will suffer.
When the plants are in full growth give liquid manure at fortnightly intervals, or a couple of dustings of weathered soot during the growing season will be of help. Dried blood is also valuable if applied at the rate of 2oz to the square metre and watered in.
Cut the curds while they are white. A leaf or two broken over the heads will keep them clean and white for some days, even during hot weather. If heads mature before they can be used, pull them up and hang in a dry, cool, shady place where they will remain in good condition for some time. Cauliflowers remain firm for a longer time if cut while they have dew on them.
Varieties include: Early summer maturing: All the Year Round, Dominant, Focus, Early London, Early Snowball, Le Cert, Pioneer, Remme, Snow King and Snowflake.
Late summer and autumn maturing: Majestic, Novo and Walcheren. There are a number of good Australian varieties which are becoming very popular. These include: South Pacific, Canberra, Barrier Reed Wombat and the Flora Blanca varieties.