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Of all the Brassicas, Cauliflower are the most difficult to grow in an Amateur setting such as a garden veg patch or Allotment. The strange thing is that they grow quite happily in fields on Farms or Market Gardens without any difficulty or special requirements. There is no scientific evidence to back this up, but we don't know everything yet, not even Scientists and Professionals.


Conventional wisdom has always suggested that the Cauliflower is a hungry feeder with a need for huge amounts of manure and fertilizing. It is probably more to do with them requiring a very open and sunny position and possibly it is a species that doesn't like company of other species. Not happy with companion planting perhaps.


Cauliflowers can be grown successfully in gardens or allotments, although the crop per square metre doesn't make very good use of space. The ground should be prepared in the same way as with all Brassicas. Lime in the Autumn or Winter if the pH is below 6.7 (The ideal pH is 6.7 to 7.0.) straight after digging. Leave on the surface and allow to wash in over Winter. Manure should have been added well in advance of liming. For the previous crop is the best approach. By planting out time, the ground should be firm.


Summer and Autumn Heading Cauliflower have always been called Cauliflower. The Winter and Spring Heading Cauliflower used to be called Heading Broccoli. Genetically Winter Cauliflower has more in common with Broccoli than with Summer Cauliflower. The Summer and Autumn Cauliflowers are not very hardy. The Heading Broccoli (winter cauliflower) is. Summer and Autumn Cauliflowers also have a finer flavour and texture than the Winter and Spring heading Cauliflowers. However most people would not realize the difference and calling them all Cauliflowers does make sense.


Cropping can be 12 months of the year for those Gardeners with enough space. It isn't the best use of space though. Sowing of Summer varieties can be made in a heated greenhouse in January and February or in a Cold Frame during February and March. Sow outdoor from April to June depending on the variety. In the greenhouse, grow them in the same way as bedding plants. In seed beds, sow thinly and plant out to final growing positions when the plants are 8 to 10 cm tall. If sown thinly there will not be any need to transplant to nursery beds. Avoid a check to the plant when planting out. Take a good sized root ball and water the plants well in. Shade the plants temporarily if the planting is done during hot Summer weather.


At planting time rake in a high Nitrogen general fertilizer in the proportions of 4:1:2 (parts by percentage. 20:5:10 would be ideal) or according to recommendation, if a soil test was carried out. Higher nitrogen keeps the plants growing well and prevents premature heading of useless heads. Regular top dressing with Nitro Chalk or High Nitrogen liquid feed is recommended. Suitable organic nitrogen is either Dried Blood or even better Urea. These can also be applied as a liquid feed if preferred. Average rainfall isn't usually enough and irrigation should be given regularly. Not a thumb over the end of a hose for 2 minutes, but proper irrigation left on for several hours. Do this a few times a week if needed. Home made 'organic manure water' is also ideal for liquid feeding Cauliflower - See Brussels Sprouts for how to make it.


Spacing is again dependant on the variety but it is usual to plant Summer and Autumn varieties at 45cm x 45cm and Winter and Spring heading varieties at 60cm x 60cm. Many old varieties are still available and they are good enough, however modern F1 Hybrids are more reliable and predicable , and worth the extra expense.


Control pests in the same way as all other brassicas. Use a Contact Insecticide to control Caterpillars and a soil Pesticide to control Cabbage root fly. A pH of 6.7+ should stop club root being a problem.


Cut the heads before they blow. Many new interesting colours are now available. Purple, Green, Yellow as well as White. Cauliflower does freeze very well, so there is no need to waste any of them by leaving them too long.


When the crop is finished, dug them up and cut up small with a spade, and put onto the compost heap. Any very woody plants can be smashed up with a hammer first to aid decomposition. Any diseased plants should be burnt as with any other plant. There isn't sufficient heat generated in a compost heap to kill the disease.









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