How to Grow Cauliflower From Seeds or Transplants
Cauliflower is a cool-weather crop, which means it prefers temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It needs cool temperatures to grow large, crisp heads. It can also tolerate a light frost and even withstand some freezing temperatures.
When growing cauliflower, start with either seeds or transplants. Here’s how to grow cauliflower using each method.
If you’re starting with seeds, sow them indoors about 4–5 weeks before the last expected frost. Then, transplant the seedlings into your garden about 2–3 weeks before the last frost.
What if you want to harvest cauliflower in the fall? Plant it 6–8 weeks before the first frost in late summer. The temperatures should be consistently below 75°F.
Cauliflower seedlings are readily available at most garden centers. When transplanting, be sure to handle the young plants carefully. Plant them outdoors about 2 weeks before the last frost. Gently loosen the roots and plant them at the same depth they were growing in the container. Space them 12–18 inches apart in rows that are 24–36 inches apart.
Water and Fertilizer Needs
Cauliflower is a heavy feeder and needs consistent moisture to grow well. Water the plants deeply and regularly, especially during dry spells. 2 inches of water per square foot (1.24 gallons) per week are ideal. Apply a layer of compost or organic mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Fertilize cauliflower plants 3–4 weeks after transplanting with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as blood meal or fish emulsion. Reapply every few weeks until heads begin to form.
Common Cauliflower Pests and Diseases
Now you know how to grow cauliflower from seeds or transplants. But how to ensure that it stays healthy? Cauliflower is susceptible to a few pests and diseases. Watch out for:
- aphids, which can cause the plant leaves to curl;
- cabbage loopers, which are caterpillars that eat the leaves;
- cutworms, which cut off the young plants at ground level; and
- root maggots, which tunnel into the roots and eat them.
To prevent or control these pests, start with clean transplants and practice crop rotation. You can also use floating row covers to keep pests from getting to the plants. If you see any of these pests on your cauliflower, remove them by hand or use an approved pesticide.
There are a few diseases that can affect cauliflower plants as well. These include black rot, downy mildew, and white rust. These diseases can cause the plant leaves to turn yellow, brown, or black. They can also cause the heads to rot. To prevent these diseases, water early in the day so the leaves have time to dry out before nightfall. Avoid overhead watering, which can spread disease.
How Long Does It Take Cauliflower to Grow?
Knowing how to grow cauliflower, you can enjoy this delicious cruciferous vegetable in many different dishes! But how long does it take cauliflower to grow? It takes about 3-5 months for cauliflower seeds to germinate and mature into harvestable heads. Transplants can be ready in just 55 days, which is another reason to choose them over seeds.
When Is Cauliflower Ready to Harvest?
You’ll know it’s time to harvest cauliflower when the heads are firm and white (or the color you selected). The leaves should be green and fresh-looking. Don’t wait too long to harvest, or the heads will start to loosen and separate into curds. Use a sharp knife to cut the stem about an inch below the head.
How to Store Cauliflower
You can store freshly harvested cauliflower in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Wrap the heads in a damp paper towel and store them in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer. You can also blanch and freeze cauliflower for longer-term storage.
There you have it! Now you know how to grow cauliflower and how to store it, so you can enjoy it in many delicious dishes. Try growing cauliflower in your garden this year and see how much you enjoy this healthy and delicious vegetable!