Learn How To Grow Cauliflower The Right Way

On our previous guide we learned how to grow broccoli, and this time we will learn how to grow cauliflower. And that you’re probably no beginner as this is one of the most finicky plants to grow. 

How To Grow Cauliflower

Maybe you’re looking for something more challenging to prove just how skilled you’ve become when it comes to gardening. That or you just know how nutritious and tasty this vegetable really is that you would want to grow one in your own garden. 

And trust me, I am not throwing the word ‘nutritious’ lightly.

First of all, to prove just how nutritious cauliflowers are, you need to know that it placed 24th on the list of “Powerhouse fruits and vegetables” in an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) back in 2014. 

One cup of cauliflower weighing around 107 grams will provide 77% of your daily vitamin C needs. Not only that, but it will also provide 20% of your daily vitamin K needs and 10% of your daily needs for vitamin B 6 and folate.

All that benefits in just one serving of cauliflower. But it doesn’t stop there. Cauliflower is also an excellent source of iron, calcium, and fiber. It is also scientifically suggested to have a cancer-preventing effect. 

The Choline found in cauliflowers helps with sleep, memory, and learning as well.

Oh, and did I mention it’s a flexible vegetable to have in your kitchen? There are so many innovative ways to use cauliflowers and I’m sure you’ve heard some of them.

Does cauliflower rice ring any bells? There was such a buzz around this vegetable in the past couple of years that there was a phase of cauliflower-everything. From cauliflower casserole to cauliflower bread, everyone wanted to use this vegetable instead of carbs 

But for me, the OG cauliflower rice is still the best. I just add some carrots and peas and voila a healthy, hearty meal is complete! 

Okay, this is getting too long. I guess I’m just really excited to share how to grow cauliflowers with you guys! This one’s just a little difficult but it is so rewarding once you get the hang of it. 

Let me guide you on how to grow cauliflower from the comfort of your own home. Just continue reading for the complete guide on how to grow cauliflowers. 

Grow Cauliflower – Difficulty Level, Maintenance, And Other Advantages

As mentioned at the start of this article, this cool-season crop is difficult to grow. 

Grow Cauliflower Difficulty Level, Maintenance, And Other Advantages

If you’re a beginner, I suggest you try growing some of the more beginner-friendly plants on this site first. I know there’s one that would fit perfectly in your garden that you could grow with ease in your level. 

However, if you think you are up for this challenge, then I’m not stopping you. Although you need to know that this is quite a high maintenance crop. Cauliflowers are very sensitive to heat. They can go to bolt or cause their curds to be stunted in a prolonged period of high temperature. 

Be sure to keep an eye on your plant when you do decide to grow cauliflowers. 

But there’s no need to get nervous! With proper guidance and tools, you can grow cauliflowers successfully.  And once you’ve reached that harvest period, you’ll see the yield is worth the effort. 

And you have me! I will do my best to help you from planting, growing and harvesting! 

So just relax, I’ve got your back. I’ve made you a detailed guide to growing cauliflowers at home. All the information you’ll ever need will be compiled here in one place.

All you need to do now is continue reading. 
Good luck gardeners!

Planting Cauliflower

When is the best time to plant cauliflower?

When it comes to cauliflowers timing is very vital since this is one of the most temperamental of the brassicas to grow in your home garden. It is very sensitive to temperature changes, especially when it comes to prolonged hot temperatures.

This cool-weather vegetable is best to plant out the cauliflower transplant by mid-July for a fall harvest or by two to four weeks before your local average frost date in the spring. 

If you’re not familiar with frost date (though I highly doubt that if you’re growing this challenging plant), it’s basically the average date of the first or last light frost occurring in spring or fall.

You need to give this part its needed attention because you don’t want to transplant your cauliflower either too soon or too late—just at the right time. 

Should I use a cauliflower seed, seedlings or transplants? 

You can start cauliflowers from seeds or from transplants. Although you get to try and experiment with more varieties of cauliflowers by growing them from seeds, it is best to start this vegetable from transplants. 

Should I use a cauliflower seed, seedlings or transplants

It’s much safer and easier to start this way. You just have more control this way, given the difficulty of growing this vegetable, you need to have all the help you can get.

You can get your own cauliflower transplants at your local garden center or try at your local farm. This is a great way to support the local farmers and get to know the nearby gardening community. 

Who knows, you might even score some tips and freebies if you play your cards right. 

What is the best container to use when planting cauliflower?

Once you have a healthy cauliflower transplant, you’ll be needing a proper place to plant them in. Since you need more space than you think when growing cauliflowers, I don’t recommend growing them if you have a very limited garden. 

You can put them out directly into your garden or in your raised bed. 

How do I prepare the soil for planting the cauliflower?

Cauliflowers grow the best in a well-draining loamy soil. See to it that the soil you use is rich in organic matter. You may work  2-4 inches of organically-rich compost or properly aged manure into it to improve your soil quality and ensure a fertile soil for your transplants. 

Did you know that you can test your soil through your local cooperative extension office? This is to assure you that your soil pH is between 6.5 and 6.8. Check that your soil pH is within this range for optimum growth. 

A well-prepared soil does wonders for your plants, so be sure to give proper attention to this stage. 

How do I plant out my cauliflower transplants?

How do I plant out my cauliflower transplants

Assuming you’ve already prepared the soil as instructed above, follow this short guideline on how to plant out your cauliflower transplants;

  1. See to it that you plant out the cauliflower transplants on a cloudy or foggy day. (You can also opt to transplant during the early evening hours)
  2. Dig small holes depth with least six inches of depth using a garden trowel
  3. Place the transplants 24 inches apart from each other in the row
  4. There should be 30 inches of space between the rows
  5. Fill the soil around the transplants
  6. Apply a liquid starter fertilizer (the one that is high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen and potassium) to aid in establishing the transplant
  7. Apply a row cover, if you have one
  8. Apply mulch to aid in moisture conservation and reduce weeding

Congratulations! You’re done with the planting part.

Check over your work. Cauliflower plants need plenty of space to grow so that each plant doesn’t have to compete with each other for light, water, and nutrients. This also gives them enough room to reach their full size. 

Growing Cauliflower

How and when do I thin my cauliflower plant?

Since we started the cauliflower plant from transplant there is no need for thinning especially if you’ve followed the proper spacing mentioned above.

thin cauliflower plant

How can I properly water my cauliflower plant? 

Cauliflower thrives in good consistently moist soil. In order to produce solid and rich-flavored cauliflower heads, see to it that the plants do not experience water stress. This stress from lack of water can cause your plant to bolt or bud. 

Your plant needs 2 inches of water each week. Water deeply, make sure that it is soaking 6 to 8 inches into the soil. Aim at the soil over the roots. If possible, I suggest you use drip irrigation in order to conserve water. Gardening tip! Mulch around the plant to keep soil moisture. 

Your watering plus rainfall should amount to 1 to 2 inches of water a week. 

Water your cauliflower plants in the morning or evening because the temperatures are at their coolest during this time. 

Consistent and adequate water creates a healthy cauliflower plant. 

Which fertilizer should I use and when do I use it? 

During the transplanting stage, we’ve used a liquid starter fertilizer to promote the establishment of the transplant. I got mine from Amazon and it was such a great help especially during the early stages where the baby plants need all the boost they can get. 

Check the label directions of the fertilizer and follow them and prepare your fertilizer properly. 

About two to three weeks after transplanting, when the cauliflowers are well-established, side-dress the plants with a nitrogen application of about 0.75 pounds of urea (46-0-0) per 100 feet of row. This will encourage the plant to produce a high-quality curd. 

Unless you see your cauliflower plants showing symptoms of deficiency, I do not see the need to require you to add micronutrients such as boron, manganese or zinc

How much sun does my cauliflower plant need?

Cauliflower grows the best in full sun but a little bit of partial shade can prevent the plants from bolting or budding in warmer weather. By budding I mean, when it starts to form small, button-sized heads. 

How much sun does my cauliflower plant need

Like most vegetables, cauliflower needs about six hours of sunlight per day. However, as said earlier, prolonged exposure to high temperatures, especially in warmer weather, triggers them to bolt and bud. 

Which climate better suits a cauliflower plant? (Best Hardiness Zones)

Your cauliflower plants will not grow well in areas with hot or severely cold temperatures. It grows best in climates with average temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees F.

Cauliflower plants are a half-hardy biennial cool-season vegetable. For those who don’t know what biennial means, it is a plant that needs ‘two growing seasons to complete its life-cycle’ or mature. 

However, cauliflowers are usually grown as an annual crop in the United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 2 through 11. This happens if the cauliflower gets the cool weather it needs and produces a flower head in just one season. It becomes an annual crop. 

Half-hardy, on the other hand, refers to plants that are able to withstand some frost. In this case, the leaves of the cauliflower may “burn,” but a maturing curd or flower head may continue to grow. 

Since this is one temperamental plant, temperature fluctuation (like sudden cold spells) may cause a plant to bolt. When a cauliflower goes to bolt, its lifecycle is finished prematurely resulting in an inedible crop.

How long does it take to grow a cauliflower plant?

Many varieties of the cauliflower take at least 75 to 85 days from transplant to grow. You really need to be patient while growing this vegetable. 

How long does it take to grow a cauliflower plant

When you see the curd (the white head part of the cauliflower plant) is already about two to three inches in diameter it is time for blanching. Blanching is a method used to protect the cauliflower head from the sun. In addition, it helps your plant create a beautiful white hue. 

In order to blanch the plant, tie the outer leaves of the cauliflower together over its head using any available rubber band, tape or twine. 

7 to 12 days after blanching, your cauliflower plants are usually ready for harvest.

What are the common diseases and pests that could ruin my cauliflower plant and how do I avoid it?

As you watch your cauliflower plant grow, I understand that anxious feeling you get worrying about the pests or other diseases that might attack your plant. 

However, one of the perks of starting cauliflowers from transplants is that you get to skip out on the pests that love to eat tiny seedlings. 

Cabbage worms

But I’m not saying cauliflower plants come with no problem at all. Listed below are some of the common diseases and pests you might encounter while growing cauliflowers. I’ve also included some ways to prevent or control them. 

  1. Leaf miners
    Leaf miner larvae typically burrow inside the leaves and create nasty tan patches or lightly-colored blotches. If you see one, pick and destroy the affected foliage. One thing to do to avoid this is by keeping your garden clean of leaf debris.

    Young cauliflower plants are vulnerable to this. To protect young cauliflower plants from leaf miners, use floating row covers but make sure first that the temperatures are moderate.

    After your cauliflower harvest, make sure you turn your planting bed in order to destroy the larvae present in the soil. 

  2. Cabbage worms
    These slow-moving worms are green in color. It is hairy with a velvet-like appearance; it may have light yellow to orange stripes down on its back. They leave large ragged holes in your cauliflower leaves. Sometimes they are bored into the head.

    As soon as you see one, pick it out. Scrap the eggs away from leaves prior to hatching if there are any.

    To avoid this problem, plant cauliflowers near dwarf zinnias. Zinnias lure in ladybugs and other pests away from your cauliflowers that help to protect it from cabbage worms.

  3. Cabbage root flies
    These nasty critters attack almost all members of the Brassica family and may cause your entire plant to collapse. It lands very close to the base of your plant and lays eggs into the soil.

    When these eggs hatch, they will migrate onto the roots of your plant. Sadly, you may know about them too late just when your entire plant collapses. Pulling an infected plant, you will see how its entire root system will just be infested with maggots. 

    A very simple way to prevent this is by placing a plant collar on your cauliflowers. These plant collars are 10-15 cm round that has a slit in them that you place around each plant. This creates a physical barrier between the flies and your plant.

    Without a place for it to lay its eggs, the flies will move on to other unsuspecting plants, leaving yours to be safe. You can buy these plant collars online, they’re quite inexpensive. There are these cheap ones on Amazon. 

    If you can’t wait for your order to arrive, or you simply have no time for it, you can always create one yourself. Plant collars are very easy to make. 
  4. Downy mildew
    You can spot this disease when you observe yellow spots on leaf surfaces and patches of mold on the underside. This nasty problem occurs during very wet weather. Avoid this disease by planting resistant cultivars.
  5. Powdery mildew
    You can spot this disease when you start seeing a white, powdery growth on the upper surface of the leaves. This leads to reduced yield and sadly, poor fruit quality.

    To fight this, always be on the lookout for weeds. Mulch your plants to reduce weeding. 
cauliflower diseases

For all the gardeners out there, I hope you approach each problem with a calmer attitude. I know I’ve had my own share of panicking when I just started gardening. I’m grateful that over these mistakes, I’ve learned to pay more attention to my plants.

I’ve also come to terms that I will always encounter a problem with my garden and that fortunately, there’s always a solution waiting from other fellow gardeners! Don’t be a stranger and mingle with the gardening community.

What other crops could I plant together with my cauliflower to maximize my garden space?

Are you familiar with companion planting? It’s a form of polyculture used by fellow gardeners and farmers that is believed to produce mutual benefits for certain crops planted next to each other.

The idea is these companion plants can help each other grow while maximizing your garden space. Score! Some of the benefits include natural pest control, higher crop yield and shade protection for sun-sensitive plants.

For example, like what I’ve suggested earlier; to prevent cabbage worms plant zinnias together with your cauliflowers. It attracts the critters away acting like natural pest control. Here are some of the best companion plants for your cauliflowers:

  1. Onions
  2. Celery
  3. Beans
  4. Radish
  5. Corn
  6. Cucumber
  7. Spinach
  8. Broccoli
  9. Beets
  10. Brussels sprouts

What are the crops that will not go well with cauliflower?

While cauliflower has a number of great companion plants we should be thankful for, there are just some crops that will never go well with this vegetable. 

Here are some of the cauliflower’s bad neighbors:

  1. Peas
  2. Strawberries
  3. Tomatoes

Harvesting Cauliflower

How do I harvest cauliflower and when is the best time to do it?

Finally! You’ve reached the stage where you can taste the sweet sweet victory after weeks of effort. It’s harvest time! Pat yourself on the back because you’ve just proven you’re a master gardener.

Harvesting Cauliflower

Growing cauliflowers up to this stage is no easy feat and you should definitely be proud of yourself. 

Cauliflower is usually ready to harvest in about 45 to 75 days from transplant or 7 to 12 days after blanching. Start harvesting when you see your cauliflower plants’ heads are compact, white, and firm. By this time, the heads will grow typically to 6 to 8 inches in diameter.

Just cut the head above soil level and remove the leaves wrapped around the head.

Make sure you don’t leave curds on the plant for too long, or else they will become loose, especially in spring plantings. Harvest the cauliflower heads that have already started to open up since they will no longer improve.

What is the best way to store the cauliflower that I have harvested?

Store your cauliflowers on the refrigerator (32°F to 40°F), it will keep for up to three weeks. In order to prevent wilting, a high humidity of at least 95 percent is required. Cauliflowers can also be pickled. 

Featured Table

Botanical Name Brassica oleracea
Plant Type Vegetable
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH Slightly Acidic to Neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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