Family: Brassicaceae

Countries: Asia, China, England, Europe, France, Scotland, Spain, United Kingdom, Wales

Cauliflowers (also known by their botanical name Brassica oleracea) are vegetables that thrive in rich fertile soils; these crops flourish when given regular waterings.  Cauliflowers aren’t the easiest vegetable to grow: you will need to have fertile soil, that’s free of Club Root to succeed and grow lovely big cauliflowers.  But in good conditions, cauliflowers are very rewarding to grow; gardeners can grow purple, lilac, yellow, orange, green, or white coloured cauliflowers!  Cauliflowers vary from variety to variety, (so check individual seed packs for more info) but generally, cauliflower seeds can be sown in a glasshouse from mid-January to March.  While outside, cauliflowers can be sown from March to June.  Sow small amounts of seed at regular intervals to grow a regular harvest of cauliflowers, throughout the year.

I’ve found that cauliflowers grow especially well when they’re planted in a trench.  Cauliflower trenches can be prepared in a similar way to runner bean trenches: dig a trench, add compost and vegetable peelings, along with shredded newspapers that have been pre-soaked in a bucket of water.  You could also add well-rotted manure, if you wish.

Ensure your cauliflowers are planted along the deepest part of your trench, so they’re in a lower and slightly sheltered position.  Firm your plants in well as you plant them, as cauliflowers like to be securely planted.  This will make it easier to water the cauliflower plants; as water will naturally collect and run into the trench – rather than running away – as it would if you tried to water plants growing along a raised ridge.  Cauliflowers will need watering in dry weather or the plants will suffer and fail.

Cabbage White Butterflies lay their eggs on many brassicas, including cauliflowers.  It’s advisable to cover cauliflowers with enviromesh or netting to prevent the butterflies from being able to lay their eggs on your plants.  Ensure your netting extends outside the outer leaves, as if a leaf is in contact with the netting, a Cabbage White Butterfly will lay its eggs on the leaf and your plants will be damaged by caterpillars.  The netting will also shield your cauliflowers from pigeons and birds, who peck at and damage both seedlings and older plants.

Cauliflowers can be susceptible to an infection called Club Root.  Club Root affects many brassicas, including cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, turnips and swedes; causing their roots to become swollen and deformed and the plant to become stunted and weakened.  It’s a serious problem, which lessens harvests and often kills infected plants.  Some brassica varieties have a greater resistance than others to Club Root.

If your soil contains Club Root spores there isn’t a lot you can do: you could try liming the soil or creating raised beds – add lots of compost as an additional layer on top of the contaminated soil.  Sowing seeds and starting brassica plants off in containers can also reduce the effects your plants experience.  If your soil contains Club Root spores, it’s wise to grow plants other than brassicas; as this is a long term affliction that lasts for twenty years or more – it isn’t easily resolved.  Avoid contaminating soil with Club Root by thoroughly cleaning and sterilising your tools (and boots) before working in another garden or allotment.  Don’t lift or share plants that have been grown in contaminated ground to avoid spreading Club Root spores to new areas.

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