Growing cauliflower organically in home garden is not that easy as it seems. Cauliflower is among the temperamental vegetables that requires careful maintenance and care. It is a cool-season crop and can’t tolerate heat or excessive cold. Cauliflower is generally grown commercially mainly because of it’s temperature requirements. And it is not considered as best crop for the beginner gardeners.
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) is one of the most popular winter vegetable throughout the world. It is tasty, flavorful and enriched with lots of nutrients. Raw cauliflower is enriched in calories, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein and low amount of fat. It is also a great source of vitamin C, and moderate amount of vitamin B and vitamin K.
Cauliflower is a very healthy vegetable and you can enjoy it in many different ways including soups, stews, stir-fries, steamed, in salad or raw. However, just like growing cabbage in home garden, cauliflower also require lots of care and maintenance for proper growth and good yield.
How to Grow Cauliflower in Home Garden
As we have mentioned above, growing cauliflower in home garden is not too easy. Especially it is very difficult for the beginners. Although you can grow it successfully in your home garden if you follow these growing steps carefully. Here we are describing about all the steps for growing cauliflower organically in your home garden.
Choose a Variety
First of all, choose a good cauliflower variety for growing in your home garden. There are actually many different types of cauliflower available throughout the world. And these varieties are categorized based on their size, shape, color and growing regions. There are 4 major groups of cauliflower namely Asian, Italian, Northern European Annuals and Northwest European Biennial.
Within these groups, there are many different color varieties. Some common colors of the cauliflower includes Green, Orange, Purple and White. Among these color varieties, the white variety is the most common and widely cultivated throughout the world.
You have to choose a variety depending on it’s availability in your area. You can consult with some other existing home gardener in your area for having better recommendation for choosing the right variety. Some good and most popular cauliflower varieties are Orange, Snowball, Snow Crown F1 and F2, Cheddar F1, Green Goddess F1, Clapton, Graffiti and Skywalker.
Purchase Seeds or Transplants
After choosing the right variety, you have to purchase seeds. Cauliflower is very common throughout the world. So, you will probably be able to easily purchase seeds from any of your nearest seed supply stores. Always try to purchase good quality and new seeds.
You can purchase cauliflower transplants if you don’t want to have the hassles of planting seeds. Transplants should be available in your local nurseries during the growing season.
Best Time for Growing Cauliflower
Cauliflower is a cool-season crop and it grows well in colder climates with moist atmospheres. Although today there are some varieties available that can be grown as a summer or fall crop. But fall crop will produce more quality cauliflower than a summer crop.
Most of the cauliflower varieties require between 1.5 and 3 months of consistently cool weather for maturing properly. Start the seeds 8-12 weeks before the first fall frost if you live in the areas with cool climates. On the other hand you can plant the seeds in autumn if you are living in warm climates with frost-free winters.
Preparing the Soil for Growing Cauliflower
Cauliflower grows well in loamy or sandy-loamy soil with the availability of full sun. The soil also needs to be very fertile and rich in organic matter. So you have to prepare the soil perfectly before planting cauliflower seeds or transplants. Till the soil and add well-rotted aged manure or homemade compost 1-2 weeks before planting.
You can plant either seeds or transplants for growing cauliflower in your home garden. If you want to grow from seeds, then start the seeds 4-5 weeks before the plants are needed. Plant the seeds in rows 3-6 inches apart and up to half an inch deep. Water the seeds regularly during their germination and growth period. Once they grow and become seedlings, transplant them to the prepared soil in the garden.
For home gardener, growing cauliflower from seeds is not recommended. Rather, you can start from transplants. While planting space the transplants 1.5 to 2 feet apart with about 2.5 feet between rows. Plant the transplants during afternoon, use a starter fertilizer when planting and then water well.
Additional maintenance and caring is a must for growing cauliflower in home garden. Here are the common steps for caring cauliflower.
Cauliflower plants are heavy feeders and they require lots of nutrients to grow properly. So, applying additional fertilizers is a must. You can use well-rotted and aged manure or homemade compost for this purpose.
Consistent soil moisture is required for growing cauliflower. You need to apply 1-1.5 inches of water each week.
Mulching is not only good for retaining moisture in the soil but also helps to prevent most of the weeds. Mulch between the rows with grass clippings, dried leaves, hay or straw. You can also use organic compost.
Weeds consume nutrients from the soil and as a result your cauliflower plants will suffer. You can hoe between the rows and mulch heavily for avoiding weeds.
In most cases, the cauliflower will start out as a loose head and it will take time for the head to form fully. Depending on the variety, it will take between 75 and 85 days from planting the transplants to form the head. Tie the outer leaves together over the head with something (such as tape, rubber band or twine), when the curd is about 2-3 inches in diameter. This is called balancing and it protects the head from the sun and helps you get the desired white color.
Pests and Diseases
Cauliflower plants are susceptible to some common pests and diseases. And it’s a great challenge for growing cauliflower in home garden. Common pests of the cauliflower plants include loopers, cabbage maggots, aphids, moths, flea beetles, cabbage worms etc. If you notice any of these pests in your home garden, apply organic pesticides or destroy the affected leaves or plants.
Black leg, black rot, cult root, black leaf spot and downy mildew are some common diseases of the cauliflower plants. Crop rotating and destroying the affected plants are the good ways for preventing all these diseases.
You can start harvesting when the cauliflower is mature, heads appear as clear white, compact and 6-8 inches in diameter. For harvesting, cut the heads off the plant with a large knife. Leave some of the leaves around the head for keeping the cauliflower protected.
That’s all for growing cauliflower organically in home garden. Good luck!