The white to ivory-colored cauliflower dominates the vegetable patch scene in German kitchen gardens. No wonder, because whenever the tasty vitamin dispenser is on the table, the whole family grabs it heartily. In view of this motivation, hobby gardeners are by no means irritated by the high level at which plants, care and harvest take place. With a little practice, in connection with the knowledge of the central aspects of cultivation, the delicious cauliflower sprouts are already on the menu in the first year of cultivation. With the help of a clever combination of summer, autumn and late varieties, knowledgeable gardeners can ensure a long-lasting harvest season from June until well into winter.

Preparation of the soil

As a heavy feeder, cauliflower requires the best quality bedding soil. For this reason, experienced allotment gardeners prepare the soil clod appropriately in the year before planting.

  • Thoroughly rake the intended vegetable patch in the previous fall.
  • Work in a good portion of manure or garden compost.
  • Alternatively, sow a green manure in advance, such as clover grass.
  • Lime with stone flour at the same time to get a pH of around 7.

As part of this work, an experienced hobby gardener also examines the humus supply on site. Cauliflower thrives all the more splendidly the more fertile the soil is. The question of which previous crops were cultivated also plays a role here. If these left a large amount of harvest residues on the potting soil, the biological matter already made a valuable contribution to soil fertility by rotting. Leek, beans, carrots, onions or zucchini are suitable.

Note: Unsuitable previous crops for cauliflower are other types of cabbage as well as spinach or mustard.

site conditions

Soil fertility is an important aspect when choosing a location; however, the following additional requirements should not be disregarded:

  • Sunny, warm and wind-protected location.
  • Light, fine-grained topsoil with a low moisture content.
  • Good water holding power due to an adequate proportion of clay.
  • Nevertheless permeable soil without waterlogging.

If the bed has so far proved to be largely free of spores, viruses or pests and only offers critical weeds little space, then all the essential selection criteria have been met.

cultivation in the house

Early in the year, well-stocked garden centers offer pre-cultivated cauliflower plants for private cultivation at low prices. On the other hand, if you don’t want to miss out on the joy of seeing how a magnificent cauliflower develops from a tiny seed in a short time, you can opt for cultivation indoors or in a heated greenhouse.

  • Sow summer varieties from March in pots or trays with high-quality seed compost.
  • Sieve the seeds over twice the grain strength with the substrate and press down.
  • Spray the seeds with water and then cover them with glass or foil.
  • Keep constantly moist in a bright, not full sun and warm window seat.

Experience has shown that germination starts quickly, so that the seedlings are pricked out to 5 cm when the first true leaves unfold. After 4 weeks the young plants are strong enough to be planted outdoors from the beginning/mid of April.

Cultivation in the cold frame or foil tunnel

If the garden lover does not have a greenhouse or if there is simply not enough space in the house to accommodate the seed containers, allotment gardeners fall back on a cold frame or manure bed. This is a culture surface surrounded by a wooden or metal frame and covered with a glass surface that can be raised. A manure pack made of horse manure, which is placed under the growing soil, provides the necessary warmth.

A modern alternative is the foil tunnel, which is less complicated to handle and more mobile in use. The actual process of sowing and pricking out is no different from growing indoors. The only thing to consider is the danger of ground frost in spring. If the meteorologists announce icy temperatures, the prudent hobby gardener covers the cold frame with blankets or straw and makes sure to keep the foil tunnel closed at night.

Direct sowing not recommended

The local weather conditions only allow the summer varieties of cauliflower to be sown under sheltered conditions. The situation is different for the cultivation of autumn and late varieties:

  • Autumn varieties: Sow in May – plant in June/July – harvest from August.
  • Late varieties: sowing mid/end of June – planting at the end of July – harvest from the end of September.

Depending on the geographical location, these key data are flexibly adapted to local conditions. It follows that sowing cauliflowers for crops from late summer onwards could, in principle, be done directly in the seedbed. In this case, however, there is concern about the danger of voracious predators who attack seeds and seedlings. Since a hard-working hobby gardener invests a considerable amount of his scarce free time in the cultivation of cauliflower, it is advisable to sow later under glass or to provide the seedbed with protective devices such as foil or fleece.

plant

Ideally, cauliflower should be grown in the home garden according to the staggered schedule presented. Otherwise, planting is based on a uniform scheme:

  • Thoroughly rake and weed the planting bed prepared in autumn.
  • Soak the still potted young plants in a container with water.
  • In the meantime, dig planting holes at a distance of 50 cm x 50 cm.
  • Fill in a handful of algae lime or rock flour at the sole.
  • Unpot the cauliflower plants, bury them and water them well.

Young plants from the greenhouse are hardened off in a protected corner on the balcony for a few days beforehand. In the worst case, the direct route from sheltered cultivation under glass to outdoors could trigger an irreparable cold shock.

Note: Since cauliflower is sensitive to wind, it makes sense to surround the plants with a 30 cm high wooden frame covered with transparent greenhouse film and open at the top.

maintenance

When the cultivation and planting are successful, the cultivation of cauliflower enters the next phase, which is no less laborious.

  • Weed regularly from the start.
  • Meet the high water requirement with regular, penetrating watering.
  • Mulch repeatedly with grass clippings or nettle leaves.
  • Fertilize every few days with dissolved stable manure to quench the hunger for nitrogen.
  • Alternatively, give liquid fertilizer for vegetable plants at intervals of 2 weeks.

When exposed to sunlight, white cauliflower heads tend to turn yellow. The cause is an increased formation of keratin, which is desired in carrots and vehemently prevented in cauliflower. Even if this ‘sunburn’ does not adversely affect the taste, it does affect the culinary enjoyment considerably. To prevent this, tie the bracts loosely around the head or fold them so that they cross over. With colored cauliflower varieties there is no risk of yellowing.

harvest

On average, cauliflower is ready to harvest after 8 to 12 weeks. Ideally, the head is at least 10 cm in diameter, tight and closed. In contrast to commercial cultivation, an allotment gardener should consider it advantageous that all cauliflower heads are rarely ripe at the same time. Rather, the harvest time extends over about 2 weeks. The best time to harvest has passed when the stunted bud cluster begins to loosen and stretch upwards. Then it won’t be long before yellow flowers form and the value of the cauliflower as a food plant tends towards zero.

  • Pull the cauliflower out of the ground with the stalk.
  • Except for a few leaves, cut out the head with a knife.
  • The leaves remain in the bed as valuable biomass.

The stalk should neither be disposed of in the compost nor left on the bed soil. It is not uncommon for viruses, spores or larvae to be hidden there, waiting to strike. It is therefore advisable to dispose of it in the household waste.

Tip : If the harvest is so rich that not all the heads are eaten within the next few days, cauliflower is ideal for storing in the freezer. Simply blanch the florets briefly in hot water, allow to cool and freeze.

diseases and pests

There is hardly a cauliflower culture that is spared from diseases and pests. A hobby gardener should be particularly well prepared for the following threats:

Clubroot
This is the most important fungal infection affecting cauliflowers worldwide. Effective control measures are not yet known. If the roots wither and the plant dies, it is disposed of as soon as possible. Choosing resistant varieties seems to be the best prevention. Beds in which clubroot has appeared should not be planted with cruciferous vegetables for the next 7 years.

Cabbage fly
In July there is the highest infestation pressure from the pests. Adult insects lay their eggs on the root neck, after which the larvae attack the roots. The following have proven to be effective control measures:

  • Spread a close-meshed insect net over the culture.
  • Plant young plants with a collar made of cardboard.
  • Alternatively, dust the root neck with rock flour.

Kohler flea
The beetles of the genus Phyllotreta are up to mischief from April until well into the summer. The adult specimens feed on the leaves and transmit viruses. The larvae are after the roots. Frequent watering of the cauliflower plants, a thick layer of mulch and repeated loosening of the topsoil drive away the pests.

In addition, experienced allotment gardeners prepare for the usual suspects, such as slugs, whiteflies, aphids, powdery mildew and Fusarium wilt.

Popular Varieties

Appropriate to the seasons, allotment gardeners choose from a wide range of varieties. Cauliflower is far from limited to white heads. Rather, the wide range of colors extends from yellow-green to yellow-orange to violet.

Erfurt dwarf

  • One of the most popular white summer varieties.
  • Easy to care for and durable.
  • Ideal for the small garden
  • Breeding starts in February.

Shannon (Brassica oleracea convar. botrytis var. botrytis)

  • Light green variety with a strong aroma.
  • Striking, pagoda-shaped head.
  • Beautiful autumn variety with harvest in September.

Clapton F 1 (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)

  • Finally a variety with resistance to clubroot.
  • Compact, bright white inflorescence.
  • Long sowing period from February to June.

Cheddar F 1

  • Decorative new breed with an orange head.
  • The color is retained after cooking.
  • Suitable as a summer and autumn plant.

Sicilian Violet (Brassica oleracea ssp. Oleraracea convar. Botrytis)

  • Stunning purple flower sprouts.
  • Unfortunately, when heated, the color changes to green.
  • Planting time extends well into summer.

Breeders all over the world are constantly busy developing more tasty and at the same time resistant strains.

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