Growing Cauliflower from Seeds: The Ultimate Guide

Hey folks! If you’re looking to grow your own cauliflower from seeds, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been growing cauliflower in my vegetable garden for years and want to share everything I’ve learned about successfully cultivating this tasty brassica from seed to harvest.

Growing your own cauliflower is so rewarding and way better than buying it from the supermarket.

The curds are fresher, you get exciting colors and varieties you can’t find in stores, and there’s nothing like picking your own homegrown cauliflower to eat or cook with.

So let’s dive in and explore how to grow cauliflower from seeds! I’ll walk you through when to plant, starting seeds indoors, transplanting seedlings, caring for your cauliflower as it grows, and harvesting those beautiful dense white, orange, or purple heads.

We’ll also chat about which varieties to choose and some tips to maximize your cauliflower success.

Growing Cauliflower from Seeds

When to Start Cauliflower Seeds

Cauliflower takes about 2-3 months to mature from when seedlings are transplanted outdoors, so it’s key to time your planting right. Here in the UK, it’s best to get cauliflower seeds started indoors in late winter to early spring.

February to March is the prime seed starting time for planting out in May or June.

You can also direct sow cauliflower seeds in the garden around late April to mid May.

I like to start some seeds indoors and also direct sow a bit later for a staggered harvest. A second crop can be planted in mid-summer for harvesting in the fall.

If you want cauliflower curds through the winter, try some hardy overwintering varieties sown in mid to late summer. Playing around with planting times lets you enjoy fresh cauliflower for months on end!

Choosing Your Cauliflower Varieties

Growing Cauliflower from Seeds 90 day

One of the fun parts about growing cauliflower from seed is selecting which varieties to grow!

For early season harvests, I recommend quick-maturing hybrid types like ‘Snow Crown’ or ‘Avalanche’. These take about 60-70 days from transplant to produce nice sized curds.

Midseason varieties like the classic ‘Snowball’ and popular orange cauliflower ‘Cheddar’ mature in 80-90 days.

I love growing purple cauliflower like ‘Graffiti’ and romanesco cauliflower with its cool spiraled heads.

For late harvests, go for long-season cauliflower that can stay in the garden for 100 or more days like the heat tolerant ‘Veronica’ or the mini cauliflower ‘Coco’.

Mini cauliflowers are great for small gardens and containers. If you live in a really hot climate, look for heat-resistant types.

And check disease resistance on seed packets – some cauliflower varieties handle pests and diseases better than others.

With so many awesome cauliflower seed varieties, why not try a few this year and see which you like best for flavor, yield, and your growing conditions?

Starting Cauliflower Seeds Indoors

Starting cauliflower from seeds indoors gives the plants a head start on the growing season. It’s easy to do with a little preparation.

I start my seeds in seed trays or pots about 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date. Make sure to use fresh seed starting mix for the best results.

Cauliflower needs consistent moisture to germinate, so water the soil, cover with plastic to retain moisture, and place somewhere warm – I use a heat mat to get my seeds going.

In 7-12 days, the seedlings will pop up! Keep the soil moist but not soggy and provide plenty of light.

Thin seedlings after they develop 2-3 true leaves. When they have 4-6 true leaves, it’s time to harden off and transplant outdoors.

I know starting seeds inside sounds like a pain, but it really improves transplant success so you end up with a lush cauliflower patch! Those nursery 6-packs work too if you want to skip seed starting.

Transplanting Cauliflower Seedlings

Growing Cauliflower from Seeds - Transplanting Cauliflower Seedlings

Once your cauliflower seedlings are around 4-6 weeks old, it’s time to transplant them into the garden!

First, be sure to harden off the seedlings for 7-10 days before transplanting. This just means setting them outdoors in partial sun during the day to gradually get them used to real weather conditions.

Bring them back inside at night. Hardening off toughens up the seedlings and prevents transplant shock.

For transplanting, prepare your garden soil with compost and fertilizer for nutrients. Space cauliflower plants 18-24 inches apart in an area that gets full sun.

Dig holes for each plant, fill with water, then plant seedlings gently into the mounds. Water well after transplanting and provide shade if temperatures will be very hot.

Setting the cauliflower transplants a bit deeper with just a few leaves sticking out can help anchor the base and prevent problems later on.

Just don’t bury the leaves! Proper transplanting gives your cauliflower babies the best start.

Caring For Your Cauliflower

Growing Cauliflower from Seeds_Caring For Your Cauliflower

Cauliflower needs consistent care and attention from transplanting until harvest. Here are my top tips for taking care of your cauliflower so you get beautiful curds:

  • Water regularly – Cauliflower needs around 1-2 inches of water per week from rain or irrigation. Inconsistent water leads to problems like buttoning.
  • Fertilize monthly – Use a balanced vegetable fertilizer to keep cauliflower well fed. Lack of nutrients shows up in stunted plants.
  • Watch for pests – Cabbage worms, aphids, and cutworms like to munch on cauliflower. Check undersides of leaves and remove by hand or use organic sprays if needed.
  • Hill around stems – When heads start forming, gradually mound soil up around the cauliflower stems to stabilize plants.
  • Shade curds – When heads size up, loosely tie leaves over them to prevent sun scalding which turns curds yellow.
  • Monitor soil health – Test pH yearly and amend soil to keep around 6.5-7. Rotate planting areas to prevent disease buildup.
  • Protect from temperature swings – Use row covers or cloches to shield cauliflower if temps dip below 60°F or rise over 80°F.

Harvesting Your Cauliflower

One of the most exciting parts of growing cauliflower from seed is getting to harvest and enjoy those homegrown curds!

Start checking your cauliflower plants 2-3 months after transplanting.

Mature heads will be dense, compact, and 6-8 inches across. The curds should be bright white, orange, or purple depending on variety.

For the best flavor and texture, harvest cauliflower when the heads are fully sized but before the curds start to separate and rice.

Use a sharp knife to cut the curds at an angle, removing the leaves but keeping 4-6 inches of stem attached.

I like to harvest in the early morning when heads are coolest. Cut the main central head only – leaving the rest of the plant intact allows for smaller side shoots to develop for a second harvest later on.

Freshly cut cauliflower needs to be chilled immediately after picking to stop development and maintain quality. I bring a cooler to the garden. Store freshly harvested heads in perforated plastic bags in the fridge.

Storing Your Fresh Cauliflower

Proper storage keeps your just-harvested cauliflower tasting great and lasting longer. Follow these tips:

  • Chill heads right after harvesting – get them cooled down quickly.
  • Don’t wash before storing – Washing removes the protective layer that seals in moisture. Only rinse just before using.
  • Use perforated plastic bags – Poke some holes in a plastic produce bag and put the head inside, unwashed. Keeps air circulating.
  • Store in the fridge – The cold, humid environment of the fridge is perfect for cauliflower storage.
  • Use within 1-2 weeks – Cauliflower lasts longer than broccoli but will eventually deteriorate. Use heads within a couple weeks.
  • Freeze for longer storage – Blanch cut florets in boiling water, cool, and freeze in airtight bags or containers. Lasts 6-8 months frozen!

Proper post-harvest handling means you can enjoy your cauliflower for weeks. Let me know if you have any other questions about cauliflower storage and preservation!

Growing Tips for Maximizing Yields

Now that you know the basics of growing cauliflower start to finish, here are some pro tips to help maximize your yields:

  • Choose disease-resistant varieties – Look for cauliflower bred with resistance to diseases like Fusarium and Downy Mildew that can devastate crops.
  • Use crop rotation – Don’t plant cauliflower in the same spot as other brassicas were grown last year. Rotate site each season.
  • Test soil pH – Cauliflower thrives in slightly alkaline soil around 6.5-7.0. Add lime if needed to reach the ideal range.
  • Add organic matter – Work compost into soil before planting to enrich nutrients and moisture retention.
  • Use row covers – Protect young plants with fabric row covers to defend against pests. Ventilate on hot days.
  • Monitor for pests – Be vigilant about checking for cabbage worms, slugs, and other cauliflower-munching bugs.
  • Side dress fertilizer – Give plants a nutrient boost midseason by sprinkling granular fertilizer alongside rows.

Growing Cauliflower from Seeds – Conclusion

There you have it – everything you need to know to grow impressive cauliflower from seeds!

While it takes some time and effort, I promise the reward of harvesting mountains of fresh, homegrown cauliflower curds is well worth it.

There’s nothing better than picking that first perfectly formed head, knowing you grew it yourself.

Cauliflower is so versatile in the kitchen too. You can roast it, steam it, add it to soups and stews, rice it for a low-carb “couscous” – the possibilities are endless.

And the nutty, sweet flavor of freshly harvested cauliflower is incredible.

I hope these tips give you the confidence to start your cauliflower seedlings this season.

Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m always happy to help out my fellow cauliflower-growing friends! Wishing you the best of luck and a bountiful harvest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When should I start cauliflower seeds indoors?

A: Start cauliflower seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last expected frost date. In the UK, aim for February to March.

Q: How much space do cauliflower plants need?

A: Space cauliflower plants 18-24 inches apart in all directions when transplanting.

Q: How do I know when to harvest cauliflower?

A: Check heads 2-3 months after transplanting. Harvest when heads are fully sized, compact, and bright white, orange or purple before florets start to separate.

Q: Why does my cauliflower have small heads or “buttons”?

A: Buttoning is usually caused by inconsistent watering, lack of nutrients, or planting in too-warm temperatures.

Q: What causes the curds to turn yellow or brown?

A: Sun scalding when heads are exposed turns curds yellow. A lack of nutrients can cause browning. Protect maturing heads by tying leaves over them.

Q: Can I grow cauliflower year-round?

A: Yes! Use overwintering varieties for fall and winter harvests. Growing under cover also extends the season.

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