Crop Profile: Cauliflower

Add sophistication to your garden with this brassica crop.

by Samantha Johnson
Courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock

According to Mark Twain, “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”

Perhaps it’s this element of superiority that makes cauliflower a bit more difficult to grow than some of its brassica relatives. Cauliflower requires rich soil in order to thrive—light shade is beneficial in warm weather but can slow maturity in cooler temperatures; cool, damp conditions are also important criteria to consider because excessively hot or dry conditions can prevent cauliflower heads from
forming properly.

Cauliflower is semi-hardy and can withstand a minor frost, but a hard frost is likely too severe for it to withstand.

In addition to the common white varieties, explore the stunning purple-headed varieties of cauliflower—the heirloom Purple of Sicily variety is popular for its color as well as its resistance to bug infestation.

Start your cauliflower seeds indoors, 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep, 3 inches apart, and then transplant outdoors at approximately 6 weeks of age, planting 18 inches apart with 30 inches between rows.

To retain your cauliflower heads’ snowy whiteness, blanch them when the heads are approximately 2 inches in diameter (slightly smaller than a doorknob) before sunlight reaches the heads. To blanch them, tie or pin the leaves closed over the cauliflower heads; harvest 7 to 14 days later. (Some varieties of cauliflower are self-blanching, and the leaves naturally grow to cover the head, rendering additional blanching unnecessary.)

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Read more about growing brassicas.

About the Author: Samantha Johnson is the author of several books, including a forthcoming book on gardening for children. She raises purebred Welsh Mountain Ponies in northern Wisconsin.

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