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Harvest now, plant in the fall – backyard cauliflower

Harvest now, plant in the fall – backyard cauliflower

Harvest now, plant in the fall – backyard cauliflower

an image of a hand holding a clump of white cauliflower
Backyard Cauliflower – ready to use!

The cauliflower has a long history of cultivation in the Old World but is now a worldwide favorite amongst Cole crops.  All Cole crops – cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards and kale – originated from one plant – Brassica oleracea and are easy to grow.  Have you tried growing cauliflower (aka: Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) in your backyard?

First, cauliflower is now available in an array of colors beyond the traditional and well-known white varieties.  While a white cultivar called ‘Snow Crown’ is recommended variety, a yellow-orange type called ‘Cheddar’, and the deep purple heading ‘Graffiti’, offer a unique diversion for the eyes.  Another different looking cauliflower is called Romanesco cauliflower.  Romanesco offers a light-greenish head with a unique compact whorl of peaked spirals.  You may have to check gardening catalogs and on-line sources for many of the fancy colors, but white-headed cauliflower seed and transplants are generally readily available at most local garden centers.

Fall is the time to plant cauliflower.  To grow your own transplants, start seeds four to six weeks prior to planting out in the garden.  Your garden should receive full-sun (8-hours) and have well-drained soil enriched with organic matter.  At planting time, apply three to four pounds of 5-10-5 granular fertilizer (or its equivalent) per one-hundred square feet of garden.  This should be followed with about two pounds of 5-10-5 per one-hundred square feet per month as the plants grow.  Cauliflower plants can grow large, so provide enough space between plants and rows – something like eighteen to twenty-four inches between plants and twenty-four inches between rows.

An easy way to keep the cauliflower’s number one pest at bay – the cutworm – is the erect a cutworm collar.   Make the four-inch-tall cutworm collar out of carboard (or some other material) around the base of each transplant to provide a mechanical barrier which deflects this nocturnal marauding caterpillar that would otherwise mow down these tender transplants.

Depending on the cauliflower cultivar, fifty to seventy days from transplants, or seventy-five to ninety days from seed to harvest should be expected.  So, be patient as you begin to see the rosette of large leaves develop.  While some cauliflower are called “self-blanching”, and have leaves that normally curl around the developing head to keep the sun out and the head white, some types do need you to wrap several of the top leaves over the teacup-sized underdeveloped head and hold them together with an elastic band.  This type of blanching is not needed on the more exotic types.

Once your see the cauliflower heads reach about eight inches in diameter, harvest them.  Cauliflower plants only give you one head, so once harvested, simply remove and compost the old plant. Cauliflower cannot tolerate heat, so this vegetable is limited to the early fall/late winter garden.    You can always plant successions of new transplants to keep subsequent crops coming on through the winter.  I just started harvesting my cauliflower in January.  They were transplanted into the garden just after Hurricane Ian and are coming in one or two at a time – delicious!

I also grow cabbage, broccoli, collards and kale at this time of year, but cauliflower is a different taste-treat worth waiting for!  For more information on growing vegetables in our area year-round, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov .  Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco

Resources:
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2023) Cauliflower.  The University of Florida, IFAS.
Brown, S. P., Treadwell, Stephens, D., J. M. & Susan Webb (2021) Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide. The University of Florida, IFAS.
Florkowska, M. & Westerfield, R. (2022) Home Garden Cauliflower.  UGA Cooperative Extension.
Cauliflower – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cauliflower.

by Ralph Mitchell

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.

 

 

 

 

 

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