Cauliflower is one of my favorite things to grow in my winter garden. It’s low maintenance, hardy, and beautiful! Cauliflower comes in so many colors—white, orange, green, and my favorite, purple.
Plus, it even comes in different shapes! Just check out this Romanesco (which might not 100% be characterized as cauliflower…but I am going to in this instance since it grows almost exactly like cauliflower).
Cauliflower is in the brassica family and is chock full of healthy nutrients—fiber, folic acid, and vitamin C, plus it helps fight against cancer and boosts your immunity. There is really no excuse not to eat it, and there is definitely no excuse not to grow it in your winter garden.
This plant is a cold weather loving plant, and in Central Texas it is recommended to plant cauliflower at the beginning of September for your winter garden. You can start these plants from seeds, but my personal recommendation is to save yourself the trouble (it really isn’t easy) and pick up some transplants from your local organic nursery.
Cauliflower needs a bit of space to grow. About 16”x16” is an ideal space in your garden so be sure to think about that as you are planting your transplants. They also have shallow roots so a raised bed is definitely recommended for drainage and soil quality.
When you plant your transplants, be sure to add some good fertilizer to encourage growth. You should also fertilize again about 6 weeks or so after the cauliflower has been planted.
You also need to maintain a consistent watering schedule. I do not water my garden as much in the fall and winter since it is not so hot and it takes longer for the soil to dry out. Maybe about once a week unless it is unusually (I use that word loosely here in Texas) sunny and warm.
Cauliflower and other brassica plants thrive in cooler weather. The heads of cauliflower actually grow larger and more flavorful with colder temps. They will even tolerate some freezing temps. I don’t usually cover my cauliflower plants if it only dips into freezing temps at night but warms up during the day (which is what is common here in Central Texas vs. several days of consistently freezing temps), but if you do get a deep freeze for a series of days definitely cover those guys up!
Some people recommend tying the outer leaves of the cauliflower up around the head soon after it starts to show. This process, also known as blanching, is supposed to help with color as the sun can discolor the cauliflower (especially the white variety). I don’t usually do this step because it doesn’t affect the flavor or other growth habits, but if color is important to you then blanch away!
The head of the cauliflower is ready to harvest when it is about 6-8 inches wide and full and firm. Like mentioned above temperature can affect the growth size so if you notice the head of cauliflower loosening up, harvest it immediately even if it isn’t 6 inches.
I have noticed that cauliflower doesn’t seem as sensitive as broccoli and won’t bolt super quickly. I appreciate that as I have slacked and little and let a good broccoli plant go to bloom before I could get out there and harvest it. But again, if you see those florets of the cauliflower pulling away from each other, pick it right away.
Harvested cauliflower will last in your fridge for a few days, or cut them up and flash-freeze them to save for later. But I have a feeling you will want to eat up that cauliflower right away. Roasting them or making a soup like this Roasted Cauliflower & Cheese Soup I posted earlier this week are my favorite ways to eat this winter veggie.
Once you harvest the head of cauliflower, it is unlikely that more cauliflower will grow from that plant. But don’t lose heart those cauliflower leaves are edible and rather tasty! So once you harvest the head pull off the leaves and use them in salad, sauté them, or make them into delicious cauliflower chips using this recipe Jenni posted last month.
Cauliflower is really so fun and very rewarding to grow in your garden. There is nothing more satisfying then checking on your garden and realizing there is a little baby cauliflower head growing. Plus it will bring so much color to your winter garden with so many varieties to choose from.
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