When to grow cauliflower in central Texas?
Cauliflower is a cool-season crop. It enjoys temperatures below 75F (25C) during the day, which central Texas reaches around October. However, the last few years, summer has been lingering around till November.
In that case, you are better off delaying the planting or provide shade to the plants. You may use shade for that purpose.
Grow cauliflower from seed vs transplant
The answer to this question depends on how many plants you intend to grow. If you are starting and experimenting, better get a few transplants from a local nursery. If you are an ambitious gardener and want to grow many, it is more cost-effective to start your own seeds.
Growing cauliflower from seed
Starting cauliflower seeds is easy, but first, use the right seed variety for your region. Central Texas weather is unpredictable during the transition seasons. Summer may stay linger through the fall, and it may come earlier in the spring. This happens to the disadvantage of the cool-season crops. The unseasonal heat causes stress on the plants, stunting their growth, or triggering them to bolt.
How to choose cauliflower seeds?
When choosing cauliflower, or any cool-season, look for heat resistance and slow bolting varieties. This will give you some insurance no matter the weather. Some well-known varieties are Snow Crown and Amazing.
When to start seeds?
In the fall, start seeds in late August or early September. Keep seedlings indoors until the weather permits for transplanting.
How to start cauliflower seeds?
- Use clean seed starting cells with drainage holes.
- Fill the cells firmly with premoistened seed starting soil mix.
- Mark three small holes on the surface using a pencil tip.
- Put one seed in each hole.
- Cover the seeds then water gently.
- They should emerge in three to four days.
- Keep the cells under grow-light for stronger seedlings.
- Start fertilizing with a low dose of organic fertilizer, such as seaweed, once the true leaves appear.
- You may thin your seedling if all three emerge. Separate them carefully and plant them in bigger pots, if you wish to keep them all.
When to plant caulifower?
In central Texas, cauliflower grows in the cool season from October through March. Planting time varies every year due to the unstable temperatures. Usually, the first planting takes place in late September. The planting window stays open until Mid January.
Soil requirements to grow cauliflower
Cauliflower requires fertile, well-draining soil that is firm enough to support the plant. Organic compost is a great amendment to fix any kind of soil. It increases moisture retention in sandy soil and improves drainage in clay soil.
How much sun does cauliflower need to grow?
A site with full sun is the one that gets seven to eight hours of direct sunlight. Cauliflower needs that much sun for optimum growth and production. Less sun triggers slow growth and mediocre production.
How much water does cauliflower need?
Water cauliflower regularly if rain is scarce. Do not allow the plants to stay dry too long that stresses them out and stunts their growth. Avoid frequent shallow watering, as it promotes weak root growth.
Does cauliflower need fertilizer?
Cauliflower is a hungry plant and needs regular feeding. You may use a slow-release fertilizer at planting time, followed by a side dressing mid-season.
Also, liquid seaweed is good as a foliar feed or a drench every three weeks.
Do I need to protect cauliflower from the cold?
Cauliflower thrives in cold weather, so you don’t need to protect it from frost or short freeze. Water the plants deeply before the freezing hours unless it rained.
The only time you will need to protect cauliflower is when the hard freeze is lasting for more than 24 hours. The ideal cover is the white row cover. It protects the plants while keeping the sunlight through.
You may use old bedsheets or fleece, but they get heavy when the ice melts. The common dark cover, sold in stores, is also useful, but it will block the light from the plants, and that’s not good for the long run.
Blanching is the process of partially covering a plant to get a bigger white part. If you are growing the white cauliflower variety, you need to blanch it to keep the head white. Skipping this process will result in ahead with a green color shade due to photosynthesis.
To blanch cauliflower, bring the leaves around and tie them together on top of the head. You may keep it covered for a week or two until the head is ready for harvest.
Some varieties do not require this process, they are self-blanching, such as Amazing cauliflower.
When to harvest cauliflower?
Cauliflower is ready for harvest when the head or curd is firm with vibrant color. Use a sharp knife to cut at the base of the head and not the plant.
Growing cauliflower problems
Holes on cauliflower leaves
The main problem facing cauliflower home growers is white moths. They lay eggs on the leaves, which hatch into hungry green worms called Loopers. They feed on the leaves, and if not controlled early on, they can ravage the plant.
The best control is using mesh cover right after planting. Otherwise, spray organic caterpillar killer called BT.
Small cauliflower head
Getting a small head of cauliflower is caused by stress, either by heat or lack of water. The phenomenon is called Buttoning. The plant gets stunted and never grows to its proper size.
Purplish spots on cauliflower head
Discoloration may be caused by frost. That is nothing serious so do not worry about it.
The head is sending shoots of flowers
The cauliflower head is a cluster of flower buds. When the plant is mature or exposed to heat, the buds open up into yellow flowers. This phenomenon is called Bolting. The bees love brassica flowers, so you might leave them for the wildlife.
How to harvest cauliflower seeds?
First, to harvest any seeds make sure that the plant is an heirloom otherwise it won’t produce seeds true to the mother plant. Second, there should not be any flowering plant of the same family nearby. The flowers will cross pollinate resulting in a different seed.
Allow the plant to bloom, and the bees will do their job of pollination. After a while seed pod will form. Leave them on the plant until mature and crisp. Pick the dry pods, open them to get the small dark seeds inside of them.
Keep the seeds in a paper seed packet or a small glass jar. Store them in a dark dry place. Brassica seeds have a good shelf life of about five years.
Nutritional value of cauliflower
Cauliflower is famous among dieters for its low-calorie count. It is also high in vitamins C, B6, and k. There is also a considerable amount of folates and minerals. For more details read here.