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Growing Cauliflower: A Guide for Australian Gardeners

Cauliflower prefers a nice sunny spot in the garden and rich, fertile soil.

Growing cauliflowers is quite exciting as you watch for the heads to form and develop to maturity. This can take around 2 to 4 months, so you will have to be patient.

Apart from the traditional white cauliflowers, there are also varieties that have purple and green heads just for something different.

I’ve successfully grown cauliflower here in Victoria and love watching them develop. The main problem I’ve come across is the cabbage white butterfly that lays its eggs on any type of brassica plant.

I’ve overcome this problem by covering the plants with an insect cloth right from the beginning.

When to plant cauliflower in Australia

No matter where you live in Australia, cauliflower should be planted in autumn. In temperate and cool regions, you can plant them in April and they should be ready to harvest around July. You can even make successive plantings right up until the end of May.

Cauliflower seedling in soil | Fruit & Vegetables

In warmer areas including tropical and sub-tropical regions, you can plant your cauliflowers as early as March and have them ready for harvest in June. Successive plantings can be made until May.

How to plant cauliflower 

Cauliflower prefers nice, rich, and fertile soil that has a good amount of depth. The cauliflower root system is massive and the roots go down a fair way into the soil. I’ve found that growing this hearty vegetable in raised beds is ideal because you can add lots of compost and organic material before planting.

The soil should also be free-draining with a pH of around 6.5 to 7.0. If your soil is too acidic, you’ll need to add a handful of lime to raise the alkalinity. Remember that adding compost and organic matter can lower the pH, so test the soil after you’ve done this. It’s not that difficult to just add a handful or two of lime before you plant your cauliflower.

Choose a sunny spot in the garden as cauliflower needs at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.

Cauliflower seedlings in soil | Fruit & Vegetables

Although cauliflower is somewhat frost-tolerant, the plants should not be exposed to heavy frosts. So, avoid growing your plants in low-lying areas. Covering them with the insect cloth that I previously mentioned should also protect these plants from frost.

You can grow cauliflower either from seed or purchased seedlings. 

How to grow cauliflower from seed

Cauliflower seeds are readily available and you can find some interesting varieties if you want to grow them this way.

Cauliflower seeds | Fruit & Vegetables

You can sow the seeds straight into the soil at a depth of around 1cm. Try to sow two or three seeds together in case one fails to germinate.

Space your seeds around 30 cm apart as cauliflower does need a fair bit of space to grow. It will take around 7 to 10 days for the seeds to germinate. Seasol recommends that you apply a diluted solution of their liquid seaweed concentrate at planting time in order to help with germination. Dilute 30ml of Seasol concentrate in 9 litres of water.

Once the tiny seedlings have emerged, you want to thin them out so that you have one plant every 60 cm. Just remove the weakest seedlings. If you have room and dig these out carefully, you can even transplant them into another spot in the garden.

How to plant cauliflower using seedlings

You can buy established seedlings from any garden centre or nursery.

Cauliflower seedling | Fruit & Vegetables

These can be planted straight into your garden and should be spaced around 60 cm apart.

Make sure you keep your young seedlings well-watered.

How to care for cauliflower plants

Once your plants are growing happily in your garden, they need regular watering and feeding.

cauliflower plant | Fruit & Vegetables

Ensure that the soil isn’t allowed to dry out completely by checking it every day. It’s also important to water your plants at the root level and avoid getting the leaves wet. 

That’s why I like to use a soaker hose around my vegetable garden. I have this connected to a timer on the tap and can turn it on for around 15 to 30 minutes every day if needed. A drip system is also ideal for this.

Cauliflowers are heavy feeders so keep this in mind when caring for them. You can either apply an organic liquid fertiliser once a fortnight as part of your watering regime or apply some controlled-release fertiliser pellets such as Dynamic Lifter once a month during the growing season.

Once you see the cauliflower heads start to form, wrap some of the outer leaves around them as this protects them from the sun and stops them from becoming discoloured. You can secure the leaves gently with some garden twine.

How long does cauliflower take to grow?

Young cauliflower heads should be ready for harvest in around two to three months from when the seeds were sown. If you planted seedlings, you should be able to harvest fresh cauliflower heads after two months.

Cauliflower harvest 2 | Fruit & Vegetables

When to harvest cauliflower

Once the cauliflower heads are firm and about the size of your hand, they are ready to be harvested. 

How to harvest cauliflower

You can harvest your cauliflower heads by just cutting the stalk below the head and a few of the uppermost leaves.

Cauliflower harvest 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

Once you’ve done this, you can remove the rest of the plant because it won’t produce any more heads.

Cauliflower pests and diseases

The major pest you’re going to come across is the green caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly.

cabbage white butterfly caterpillar | Fruit & Vegetables

The best way to protect your plants is to cover them with an insect cloth. Just create a frame above your garden bed and drape the cloth over this ensuring there are no gaps.

Cauliflower companion plants

Cauliflowers can be planted with a variety of other vegetables. The best companion plants include:

  • Beans
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Silverbeet
  • Spinach

‌Types of cauliflower varieties to try

  • Snowball – has compact white heads that are ready around 100 days from planting
  • Violet Sicilian – produces large purple heads in around 120 days
  • Green Macerata – has gorgeous lime green heads in around 90 days

What to do about flowering or sprouting cauliflower plants

Once your cauliflower heads start to flower, it means that they are over-mature. At this stage, although they are still edible, they may start to taste a little bitter.

This is referred to as bolting, where the plant wants to ensure its survival by flowering and producing seeds. You can avoid this from happening by keeping your plants well-watered and fed.

Applying a thick layer of straw-type mulch over the surface of the soil will also help as it will keep the soil cooler.

FAQ

How many heads of cauliflower do you get off one plant?

Each cauliflower plant will only produce one head.

Does cauliflower regrow after cutting?

No, once you harvest a cauliflower head, the plant will not produce any more.

Can I eat cauliflower leaves?

Yes, all parts of the cauliflower plant are edible including the leaves and stems.

Why is my cauliflower not forming heads?

If your cauliflower hasn’t formed any heads within 2 to 3 months, it could be due to a number of reasons. It’s either not cold enough for the heads to form or your plant has been stressed by a lack of water. It’s also important to give your plant plenty of nutrients for heads to form successfully.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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