How to grow... Cauliflower
Rocket Growing Guides
Cauliflower falls into the Brassicas category of veg plants that need to be looked after in much the same way. It’s a big category, with calabrese, broccoli, cabbage and kale and there are others too. All these veggies are super nutritious and really good ones to grow in the garden. They are susceptible to several pests and diseases, so it is worth reading up a bit before you plant them so that you can be prepared!
- Growing Tips
- Common Problems
- Chef's Corner
Sunny spot with fertile soil
Full sun or partial shade with fertile & moisture-retentive soil is ideal. Add plenty of compost or organic matter before planting.
Raised beds and traditional plots
Cauliflower needs a bit of space so is better grown in raised beds or a well dug traditional veg patch.
How far apart?
About 50-60cm apart.
Firm in well
When you plant your cauliflower, be sure to firm them in well by pressing the soil down around the base of the plants.
Protect with brassica collar
You can make these easily out of cardboard. Cut a 10cm diameter disc, cut into the centre and make a slit so that you can pop it around the base of the plant. This is to prevent cabbage root fly larvae from hatching by the base of the plant and burying under the soil to eat the roots.
Protect from pigeons and butterflies
Pigeons love brassica plants and will easily destroy a crop of young plants in a morning. Meanwhile, cabbage white butterflies are attracted to brassicas and lay eggs on the leaves. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are quick to nibble away the leaves and strip the plant bare. To protect against both these pests, cover plants with fine netting.
As weather warms up it is important to keep cauliflower cool and to give them enough water. Try to keep the soil consistently moist rather than allowing it to dry out.
Wrap them up
Once heads start to form, it is a good idea to use a couple of leaves to protect them from the sun. All you need to do is bring a leaf around the head and tie it in place.
When to harvest
Harvest once the heads form and reach a sensible size, but before they start to open out.
Pigeons will eat the foliage right down to the ribs/veins. Keep plants netted if you have a lot of pigeons around.
Lots of holes appearing in leaves is a sure sign of caterpillars. They soon grow, and the holes grow too. Check the underside of leaves and you may see tiny eggs – wipe them off with kitchen paper – or caterpillars themselves. Keep plants netted against butterflies.
Protect plants well from slugs, especially when they are young and vulnerable. Beer traps work well.
Cabbage Root Fly
Cabbage flies lay eggs at the base of brassica plants. When the eggs hatch, the larvae bury into the ground and feed on the roots. The plants eventually wilt and die. Prevention is key – use brassica collars (see growing advice section)
This is a fungal disease that leads to the swelling and distortion of roots, and plants will be stunted. Avoid growing brassicas in the same bed for two years consecutively if this happens. Add plenty of organic matter to the soil.
Small or loosely formed head
This is usually a sign that the plant has not had enough water and that it has been too hot.
If the cauliflower head is a bit yellow, this is probably due to sun exposure, or exposure to a harsh frost. To avoid in the future, wrap the leaves around the head – see growing advice section.
Harvest them as you want to eat them – they will store in the fridge for a few days, but are much better cooked fresh.
Ways to cook
Cauliflower Cheese is the usual, but cauliflower is great in curries too, or try mashing into mashed potato.
Roasted cauliflower is delicious, either in florets or you can roast a whole cauliflower head.