Growing Mini Cauliflower

Latest Update 14th March 2016.

Mini Cauliflower
  • I grow mini Cauliflowers, because the head is a great size for 2 people.
  • It is firm, pure white and has excellent taste.
  • However, the rest of the plant is almost as bulky as a full sized cauliflower, and they tend to dominate a Garden Ecobed, so I usually only grow 2 at a time.
Details.
  • Binomial Name:                                        Brassica oleracea.
  • Family:                                                    Brassiaceae.
  • Variety:                                                    Mini Cauliflower.
  • Crop rotation group:                                  Heavy feeders. 
  • Garden bed type:                                      Garden Ecobed.
  • Recommended soil pH:                             6.5 - 7.5.
  • Minimum sun per day:                               4 hours.
  • Plant spacings (centres x rows):                300 x 250 mm.
  • Weeks to harvest:                                     18 weeks.
  • Good companions:                                    Bean, tansy, nasturtium.
  • Bad companions:                                     Strawberry.
  • Climate:                                                   Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern hemisphere.
Nutrition.
  • This food is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 
  • It is a good source of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium and phosphorus, and a very good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium and manganese.
  • More from nutrition data.self.com.
Growing Conditions: 
  • They grow best in full sun in cooler months.
  • Cauliflowers prefer firm, well structured soil containing plenty of organic material .
  • The soil must be kept moist at all times.
Soil Preparation. 
  • Clear space for cauliflowers in April and apply a 60mm layer of home made compost followed by a 20mm layer of aged sheep manure and cover with 50mm of fresh straw mulch.
  • Leave the bed for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity before planting the first crop.
Growing Instructions.
  • Sow Cauliflower seeds In March on the surface of an organic seed growing mix in a mini pot, and lightly cover with finely sieved home made compost.
  • Soak the mini pot for an hour in a tray containing 10mm of water (preferably rainwater).  The water will wick up into the soil without flooding it. 
  • Sink the mini pots up to 10mm in an Eco Propagator sand media.  This will keep them moist until the seedlings are ready to transplant.  Protect the seedlings against frost. 
  • After 4 weeks transplant the seedlings individually into potting mix in mini pots and returned to the Mini Ecobed.
  • Remove some mulch in the prepared bed where the seedlings are to be planted.  Only expose as much soil as is necessary and plant them 300mm apart.  Water them in generously.
  • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks with all the other edible plants.
  • Earth up the stems as the cauliflowers grow. 
  • Protect the heavy feeders from excessive sun in high summer by covering the top and northern end of the bed with 75% shadecloth.
Harvesting and Storage. 
  • Cauliflowers can be harvested in August.
  • Cut the stalks at ground level when harvesting your Cauliflowers.  Leave the roots to decompose in the ground.
Organic Pest Control.
  • Slugs and snails.
    • Cauliflowers should be protected against slugs and snails using self adhesive copper tape bonded around the base of your Ecobeds.
    • If these molluscs get into your Ecobed as eggs laid in your compost, kill them with organically approved iron based snail pellets as soon as you discover them.  You should only need to use a small number of pellets.
  • Cabbage white butterfly caterpillars.
    • The best deterrent for caterpillars is exclusion netting.  My Ecobeds have built-in frames and attachments for easy mounting of exclusion netting.
    • If the butterfies get past your defences, spray the crop thoroughly with Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel in Australia)  This natural soil dwelling bacterium once ingested by caterpillars produces toxins which paralyse their digestive sytem causing them to stop feeding.  They die within a few days.
  • Greenhouse whitefly.
    • Aerated compost tea strengthens the plants foliage against whitefly damage.  
    • Exclusion netting is effective against whitefly but they are very small and will occasionally breach your defences, so you will need to check your crop regularly. 
    • Control any infestations by spraying your crop thoroughly with organic neem oil (Eco-neem in Australia).
    • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.
  • Aphids (greenfly).
    • Use the same method as described above for whitefly except use organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia).
  • Root knot nematodes.
    • A 4 year crop rotation plan is the best cure for root knot nematode.  They do not prosper when their host plant is removed to another bed, and after 4 years, their effectiveness as a plant pathogen is substantially reduced.
  • General:
    • Regular applications of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of plants by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  They defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.
    • Exclusion netting stops birds digging up worms in your Ecobed, and takes the edge off hot sunshine with a 20% shade factor.