Growing and Harvesting Cauliflower in the Fall Garden

Growing and Harvesting Cauliflower in the Fall Garden
Growing and Harvesting Cauliflower in the Fall Garden

Cauliflower is best grown as a fall crop. It can be grown in the spring, but that is not recommended. Cauliflower needs cool temperatures to grow best.

It requires deep rich soil, plenty of organic material, cool temperatures and plenty of water and fertilizer.

Planting Cauliflower:

Planting as a spring crop: Plant outdoors around January 15. Be sure to keep an eye out for any freezing weather, and protect the young crop with row covers and mulch.

Planting as a fall crop: plan for harvesting at the first fall frost date (Dec. 15 in Zone 9). Check your seed package for days to maturity, and count backwards from the first frost date to determine when to plant. A fall crop has the advantage of being outside the time when the cabbage worm is active.

Plant the seeds or plants 12-18 inches apart. That seems to be a lot of space between the plants, but when they grow to maturity, they will take up all that space.

Cauliflower has a shallow root system, so be careful when weeding. I use a hay mulch around the plants to keep the weeds down. Any weeds that make it through the mulch are long and stringy, and easy to pull.

Insect Pests:

One of the enemies of Cauliflower is the Cabbage Worm. The Cabbage Worm moth is small and white. The eggs are very small and white, and are laid on the underside of the leaves. The worms eat the leaves of cruciferous plants (Cabbage, Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cucumber) until there is nothing left but stems and large veins.

Stop this pest at the larval stage by spraying in the morning or evening with Bt insecticide * every couple of weeks. You can also get Nematodes to attack the larva or grubs in the soil. You can pick the worms off the underside of the leaves. Look carefully, as they start out small and are the same color green as the leaves.

Companion Planting:

Companion plant with hyssop, peppermint, rosemary, sage, thyme and southernwood to deter the moth from laying her eggs.

You can also plant Mustard as a trap crop for Cabbage Worm. The moths are attracted more to the mustard than the cauliflower. Once the mustard has been taken over, you can pull and destroy the plant.

Grow plants that attract beneficial insects. Braconid wasps attack the cabbage worms, and are drawn to nectar plants like yarrow, daisies and alyssum. Trichogramma wasps also feed on the worms.

Another tactic is to spray with garlic water. To make this, combine 1% garlic juice, 1% fish oil and 98% water. Spray the leaves.

Harvesting Cauliflower:

Look down into the plant leaves at the stem to see the Cauliflower head forming. When the Cauliflower head is about 2″ in diameter, you should cover it so it stays white. Otherwise, it will turn yellow, or have a spotted appearance. I can’t tell any difference in taste, just the color. This process is called “blanching.” To blanch, take the leaves and bend them over the head. Secure with a rubber band or twine so the head is hidden from the sun.

Harvest the head about 4-10 days after you have blanched them. Don’t delay the harvest, thinking the head will get bigger. It will begin to loosen, and the head is then called “ricey” and is past its prime. Cauliflower will only grow one head, unlike Broccoli which will produce secondary heads. Once you harvest the head, you can pull the plant.

Have you ever grown Cauliflower? Let me and the community know of your Cauliflower growing experiences in the comment section below.

* Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You don’t have to purchase them through my links, but if you do, you will help support StraightWay, Inc., a non-profit rehabilitation program that works with whole families as well as single moms and dads, and single guys and gals.

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