AllotmentCauliflower Surprise

Cauliflower has a reputation for being difficult to grow - but not so in this case.

Back in April, I sowed a dozen or so Cauliflower Igloo seeds in the greenhouse at the old plot. They had a fairly slow start, in part due to the extremely poor weather we had around that time of year, but eventually started growing on strongly. Then came the plot move and they ended up getting somewhat bashed – and left in their original pots far longer than I would have planned. I hardened them off at the new plot, but by this time the weather was entirely the opposite – practically bone dry and too hot for plant pots. By the time I had a piece of ground prepared, I was in two minds whether or not to plant them or simply add to the compose heap as I had already done so with a few other things.

Unlike the now-composted plants though, the cauliflower plants, other than being bone-dry, looked healthy – so I figured I’d put them in and give them a few weeks to see how they get on. Other than digging over and raking the soil, nothing else was added – and this was soil that, in theory, should have been starved of nutrients. Whilst I *really* wanted to grow cauliflower this year – I use quite a lot of it – I was also aware of it’s reputation as being a tricky crop to grow. For that reason, I didn’t want to convince myself that I was ‘making an effort’ – that would come next year.

Being under the impression Igloo was a ‘miniature’ cauliflower, I covered them with a small net tunnel – only 70cm and 50cm tall. Until a few weeks ago, that had proved sufficient. When it became clear that the foliage was outgrowing the netting, I removed it and took a peek. By this stage the foliage was easily 80cm high, which I wasn’t at all prepared for – but there wasn’t a single curd in sight. I ‘gave up’ at this stage, but was not at all surprised – after all, the soil wasn’t great, the weather far too hot and the watering far too little (in fact, I think I gave the entire row a single watering can worth in all the time they’ve been there!). Rather than lift the plants and add to the compost, I left them in place but didn’t put the net tunnel back on – they were providing some shelter to other crops either side of them.

A few days ago, I noticed the formation of curds – no bigger than a golf ball, but there all the same. Today, I harvested 2 of the plants – each about the size of a shop-bought cauliflower. The growth rate in a matter of days has surprised me, though with no previous cauliflower-growing experience, I have nothing to compare against. The remaining plants are still in place and growing strongly – and still unprotected. The leaves have certainly had a few ‘nibbles’, but the curds themselves look (and taste) absolutely fine. Any harvest from these this year is a bonus, given the complete lack of attention and unfavourable conditions they’ve experienced.

It leaves me wondering what kind of crop I could get if I actually make an effort though!

Lee Bailey

Founder and Editor, ForkMojo. Organic Allotmenteer, Husband, Father & Programmer.

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