It’s Time to Start the Cauliflower

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Where did winter go?

Yes, it really is time for cauliflower, if you are a gardener in Zone 6 or points south. Not time to go out and hack through the ice covering the raised beds and sow some seeds, hardly that, but time to think about starting cauliflower plants in doors.

Cauliflower is one of those plants which react very badly to heat, and often putting in seeds around the last frost date can cause the plants to be in trouble just about when their heads were starting to look good and develop some size. What the gardener may end up with are malformed, browned and dry florets, virtually inedible and not in the least desirable.

But by starting the plants indoors the canny planter can steal a march on time and weather, and almost guarantee a delicious, cosmetically appealing crop.

Start the Cauliflower (Photo: NellieBly)

Finding a starting point:

If we consult our gardening literature we find that cauliflower can be transplanted to the garden 4 weeks before until 2 weeks after the last frost date. Zone 6 to cite an example has an anticipated last frost of April 20th, let us split the difference and go for a transplant date about one week before that date, or around April 14th.

We can start the seeds 6 to 8 weeks before planting, with an additional seven days for germination. If we back off 8 weeks from April 14th we are already at February 15th. Obviously, the moment is upon us. Have you ordered your seeds?

When you have your seeds in hand plant 3 or 4 of them in each pot that you are using, in ordinary potting soil. Peat pots are fine, but so are food container thoroughly washed out and with holes poked in the bottom for drainage. Fill the pots to the top, tap gently to slightly firm the soil.

Plant the seeds just about ½” deep.

[By the way keep all leftover seeds, they will be viable next year and can be planted later in the year for a second crop, directly seeded this time if you prefer. Just count back 12 weeks from the first anticipated fall frost date.]

Keep the soil – and the seedlings when they emerge – damp but not wet. Expose them to all the sunlight you can. Thin to one healthy seedling per pot.

When transplanting, make sure that the plants are no closer than 18” on center.

Why we love cauliflower:

Now, back just a second to ordering seeds. Keep in mind that when you do you have wealth of varieties to choose from, with various growing maturation times, head size and colors. Colors now include traditional white, yellow, orange, green and purple.

Cauliflower is rich in good things like vitamins C, K, B-6, pantothenic acid, choline and folate and has many other vitamins and minerals in lesser amounts. Other phytonutrients are important detoxifiers, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Cauliflower has been shown to be an important supplier of compounds which aid the fight against diabetes, cardio vascular disease, obesity and digestive ailments.

Orange cauliflower possesses 25 times the beta carotene of the white variety, and purple heads have many times the amount of that group of overall beneficial compounds, the anthocyanins.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable which tastes good, is good for your health and needs to be started early.

What are you waiting for?

Mac Pike

Mac writes about gardening, cultivation, and sometimes produces uniquely humorous articles from Zone 6. Mac enjoys finding new and interesting ways to accomplish growing and competing with bears in wooded Northern New Jersey.

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