Cauliflower 'ere


Cauliflower (3rd November)

Never had much success growing cauliflowers which is a shame because cauliflower cheese is very much a 'comfort' food, either as a mains or side dish, on a winter's afternoon. I like to fry up onions, courgettes, sweet peppers, celery, garlic and chilli pepper in oil, add chopped vegetables (carrot, potato, parsnip, sweet potato) 'parboiled' in a microwave, some protein in the form of butter beans, green lentils, red kidney beans, etc before adding a rich creamy sauce made from dried milk, cornflour, vegetable bouillon and water. The cauliflour is steamed separately, laid out in the bottom of a lasagne dish and covered with the saucy vegetable. You can add cheese to the sauce or, as I do, just smother the dish with grated cheese covered with nutritional yeast flakes. Pop in the oven for about 45 minutes at 170 ℃.

Another cauliflower (3rd November 2022)

I was always told you needed well-drained fertile soil to grow cauliflowers and assumed that, in past gardens and allotments, my soil did not meet these criteria.

When we first set out the current kitchen garden some 20 years ago, I had to clear the bramble, dig out 8 4-yard skips of rubbish (bricks, toilets, clay pipes, etc), hand sieve the soil and prepare a raised-bed system that was filled with premium topsoil. Premium topsoil is a good base but lacks the biological activity and biodiversity (i.e. it is rather sterile) that the best soils have. Over the years I have slowly improved the soil by adding my own compost to increase fertility. More recently, I have also been adding biochar to the compost-making process and I suspect this might be an important factor.

About 10 years ago, I did try growing cauliflowers in the kitchen garden but the 'head' never formed and the plants just became compost fodder. This year I decided to give it another go and bought some Cauliflower Trevi F1 seeds from D.T. Brown. The seed was sown in May (polytunnel) and planted outside in June. Progress was a little slow to start with (hot, dry conditions?) but picked up, especially in September and October. Whitefly is a problem, as it always is with my brassicas, but does not seem to affect the cauliflower heads. Thankfully, slug and snail damage is minimal and netting keeps the cabbage white butterflies away.

Yet another cauliflower (3rd November)

Suggested growing conditions given by various websites:

Gardeners WorldCauliflowers do best in a sunny spot with rich, moist, alkaline soil incorporated with plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted horse manure or garden compost.

RHSThey take up quite a bit of space, need rich, deep soil and need plenty of watering, especially in summer. Cauliflowers do best in very fertile soil, and digging in a bucketful of well-rotted manure or organic matter before planting, and raking in a high potassium general fertiliser. Water well in dry weather, watering every 10 days, and apply sufficient water to thoroughly wet the root zone. Once the plants are growing well, add 30g (1oz) per square metre of high nitrogen fertiliser such as sulphate of ammonia to boost growth and curd formation.

QuickcropCauliflower likes cool growing conditions and quite high humidity. They need a deep rich soil and must be kept well watered throughout the season. Any check in their growing cycle will result in tiny heads and a frustrated gardener! In short, they are tricky.

Gardening Know HowThe main thing to remember is that the plant thrives in temperatures around 60-65 F. (16-18 C.) and no higher than 75 F. (24 C.).

My cauliflowers were in a sunny spot and the soil is definitely fertile. However, apart from adding some compost to the planting hole, no extra fertilizer was used and I only watered the brassicas about four times during July and August when it was hottest and driest. On 19 out of 31 days in August, the daily temperature reached 25 ℃ or more.

My conclusion, based on one successful growing season, is that fertile well-drained soil is the key. Other factors may help but may not be essential. I'll be able to tell you more next season!


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