Cabbage & Cauliflower Growing Pains

Some of you may find that your cauliflower and cabbage plants haven’t yet produced anything resembling the nice round cabbage or fluffy white caulifower you were hoping for.

If you planted out early in April/May or early June, then we’d expect to see them beginning to shape up around about now. If you planted after mid June, they may need a little longer.


As a general rule, after planting out there will be about 4-6 weeks of the plant putting out new loose leaves. After this, you can expect to start seeing the leaves in the middle beginning to hold together more as they start to form the heart. This will become more pronounced over the next few weeks until the heart forms quite a large, tight ball as you would hope.


You would normally expect to see the head on your cauliflower plants about 3 months after planting out. So if you planted them back in early May, then you may see a head starting to form by now. If you can see a small head forming, then things are looking good. Once it reaches about 5-8cm in diameter you can tie the outer leaves around the head using an elastic band or twine to hold it in place. This helps to keep the nice white colour rather than seeing the cauliflowers turn a bit yellow. Once you’ve done that you should be expecting to harvest it around 2 weeks later.

If you have lots of small florets instead of a single head, or a loose head, then it is not the end of the world. You can still harvest the little florets and eat them, although they won’t now start to form a ‘proper’ cauliflower head.

Not as expected?

If you think your cabbages should be forming a heart by now, or that your cauliflower should be forming a head, it may be that either the soil is too loose, or that weather has been too hot/dry in your area. We would recommend the following things:

  1. Firm the soil down really well around the base of the plant – they do much better in firm soil, so tread it down with your heel.
  2. Keep the plants well watered – they are cool-loving plants so making sure they are well watered will help to keep the soil cooler for their roots as well as obviously giving them better access to nutrients.
  3. Add a mulch – again, this helps to keep the soil temperature down. It also helps to keep moisture levels in the soil a little more even.
  4. Make sure plants are well spaced – if they are planted too closely together their leaves will shelter each other and prevent rain water from reaching the soil properly. 40-45cm is best. If they are a bit close, it may be worth pulling a few out to give the others space.

Be prepared though, sometimes they just don’t do what they are supposed to. It is the way it goes in the veg patch, and you can always try again next year! In the meantime, you can harvest and eat the looser leaves that these plants supply by shredding them up and treating them like spring greens in your cooking!