Soil and Site for
All cauliflowers need a neutral or slightly alkaline soil to do
well. If the soil is too acidic, the plants will be unable to obtain all
trace elements they need, and may develop whiptail.
On the other hand, soils which are too limey or chalky can lead to stunted
discoloured cauliflower. Leave at least six weeks
between liming and manuring. As with all brassicas, avoid using a
plot on which a brassica crop was grown within the past two years.
Cauliflowers will definitely suffer if they are grown on the same plot
for two or more years in a row.
Summer cauliflower is grown quickly and requires an enormous
supply of nutrients to make this rapid growth. The soil should be as
rich as possible. Work on the permanent bed should be done in the
autumn, so the soil has time to settle before spring planting. Dig the
soil to a sufficient depth to take a good layer of manure or garden
compost. About a week before planting summer cauliflower, apply a
compound of fertilizer at the rate of 120 g per sq m (4 oz per sq
The best site for planting summer cauliflowers varies
according o the time of year. Early crops should have a site in full sun
and one which is sheltered from winds. It must not be in a frost
pocket or low lying ground. It must also be well away from any
overhanging tree or tall hedges, or the plants will be poor.
If you want cauliflower crops three or four weeks
earlier, use a small poly-tunnel or cloche. Simply place the poly-tunnel
in position two weeks before sowing (to warm up the soil), then sow the
seed three or four weeks earlier than normal.
to buy a poly-tunnel or cloche from GardenAction's preferred
Winter cauliflowers are much more tolerant of soil
conditions, and will grow on most types of soil, as long as there is no
water-logging. Because they grow slowly over a longer period of
time, and have to face winter conditions, the one thing you want to
avoid is lush, rapid and therefore vulnerable growth. If plenty of
manure has been dug in, there is no need for additional fertilizers,
prior to planting out winter cauliflowers. They need a sheltered, rather
than exposed site, and one with some protection from north and east
winds. They do better in sun rather than in the shade.
Cauliflower varieties are divided into four groups, according
to the time of harvesting, and the time of sowing is related to this.
Seed packets have a date on them, do not sow earlier than this date or
the plants may bolt.
Group one contains the earliest summer
cauliflowers, which are intended to be harvested in late spring and
early summer. They should be sown under glass in boxes from early
autumn to mid-winter and will require a constant temperature of 10-16
degrees C(50-60 degrees F) while germinating, but while growing through
the winter a lower temperature of 7-10 degrees C (45-45 degrees F) is
sufficient. They produce a minimum of small, light green leaves
which give little protection to the curd.
Group two is made up of the second earlies,
consisting of rather hardier varieties for harvesting in mid-summer.
These should be sown in boxes, trays or pots under glass at the same
time as group one cauliflowers. A second sowing may be made
outdoors in early spring, although this should be protected by cloches
against night frosts and chilly daytime weather. The plants come
to maturity a month or two later than those sown and brought on under
Group three contains the maincrops, these
are larger and hardier varieties of cauliflower, for harvesting from
late summer to mid-autumn. Sow in an outdoor seed-bed in mid-spring,
giving some protection against night frosts. Sow in drills 1.2 cm (half
an inch) deep in rows22-30cm (9-12") apart, depending on the
Group four Sown at the same time and in the
same manner as those in group three, they come to maturity rather later
and will tolerate a moderate amount of autumn frost. They have a compact
high quality, uniform curds, protected by tightly in-curling leaves.
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