Cauliflower

If you like cauliflower but avoid planting it because you think it’s too much work-think about giving it a try. Cauliflower is no harder to grow than most other vegetables. In fact, if you can grow cabbage, you’ll have no trouble with cauliflower. The best known are the Snowball varieties . Burpeeanna and Snow Crown are good varieties. There is a purple head cauliflower that has the advantage of not requiring blanching, but many people say that it tastes more like broccoli than cauliflower. Cauliflower grows best during periods of cool temperatures. There are several reasons why cauliflower can be tricky to grow in a home garden - most of them due to environmental factors. Too much heat prevents the cauliflower head from forming. Cauliflower must be grown at a continuous, steady rate through it entire life, from seedling to harvest. Anything which slows or stops its growth, such as insects, lack of water, or excessive heat or cold, causes them to pout and may prevent development of the head. So the secret is in the timing. You can grow it either as a spring or fall crop, but in most areas of the country, you’ll have better success if you plant it during midsummer for early fall ripening. Cauliflower likes a free draining and heavily manured soil which has been limed. You can directly sow cauliflower seeds into their bed or into seed starting mix. Seedlings are transplanted out into the garden after they've got their first two true leaves. Harden-off the transplants before planting them in the garden. About 5 days to a week before planting, set them outside in the shade and gradually expose them to longer periods of sun. Plant the young transplants in the garden on a cool, cloudy day or late in the afternoon. Cauliflowers take up a lot of space so leave at least two feet between plants. Cauliflowers need the same garden care as their brassica brothers, the cabbage and broccoli. Cauliflower has very demanding nutritional needs so feed them every two weeks with a manure tea. Keep the plants well watered, especially if things start warming up. A thick mulch will help maintain soil moisture. Remember to water the soil,  avoiding the white head. Never let anyone tell you that it's impossible to grow cauliflowers in containers. You can because I’ve done it in the past. Just make sure you use a mini cauliflower variety, and give them plenty of space for their roots. When the white cauliflower head starts developing you'll need to protect it from the sun and rain. Tie two leaves together using rubber bands or clothes pins. This will blanche the head. Otherwise it goes brown. Tie bigger leaves together as the head grows. When it comes to pests watch for caterpillars and spray every 10-14 days with Bt (Bacillus Thuringienis - Kurstaki). Don't forget to reapply if it rains. It usually takes around 3-4 months for a cauliflower to reach maturity. Harvest the head around 8 inches. heads bigger than this may discolor and lose their firmness. Pull the whole plant from the ground. Some plants may produce heads prematurely on relatively small plants. This occurrence, called "buttoning", is frustrating to gardeners. It is caused by any type of stress that interrupts the plants growth. It often occurs when large transplants, or those crowded in cell packs and flats, are planted into the garden. Setting cauliflower plants outdoors when temperatures are still cold may also be a problem. To avoid "buttoning", plant small, healthy transplants two weeks before the average last frost date in your area. In young cauliflower plants, there is a fine balance between vegetative and reproductive growth. Any stress tips the balance toward button formation. Use of resistant varieties and crop rotation are the best ways to avoid diseases. Cauliflower is related to broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kohlrabi, so rotate around the garden so you don’t plant in the same place for at least three seasons. Cauliflower may be frozen or pickled. To freeze trim off leaves and cut head into pieces about 1 inch across. To remove insects, soak for 30 minutes in solution of salt and water (4 teaspoons salt per gallon water). Drain. Water blanch for 3 minutes in water containing 4 teaspoons salt per gallon water. Cool promptly drain and package, leaving no head space. Seal and freeze. Cauliflower also may turn dark in response to iron in the water or utensils. If you have problems with frozen cauliflower turning brown, add two to three tablespoons of lemon juice to every gallon of water used for blanching. 

Saving seeds can be tricky as, in most areas, cauliflower won’t live over in the ground where winters are cold, and it doesn’t keep in the root cellar either. Yet, like other biennials, it does need exposure to cool weather to induce seed-stalk formation. If you are determined to produce your own seed, plant the seeds in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse in early fall, no later than October. The young plants that make it through the winter can be set out 2 feet apart after the last spring frost. The yellow flowers that develop from the cauliflower head are cross pollinated by insects. Since cauliflower will cross with other members of the family, separate by at least 200 feet. Pick the seedpods when they turn brown in the fall.

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How to water

*Water as infrequently as possible. Constant moistening of the upper layer of soil encourages plant roots to remain closest to the surface where they are vulnerable to prolonged drought and also to hoeing damage.

*Water thoroughly when you do water. Give the plants a steady soaking, enough to make the soil wet four to six inches down. Allow 2 to 4 gallons of water per square yard of growing surface (640 gallons delivered to 1,000 square feet amounts to one inch of water.)

*Get the water to the roots

*Increase the humus contents of your soil to improve its water-retaining capacity.

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A freebie worth its weight in compost are those disposable chopsticks you get at Asian restaurants. You can use these handy recycles as markers when planting bulbs. Stick one in the ground over a newly planted daffodil or tulip bulb. When you plant over the bulbs with annuals, you will have a good idea how the finished bed will look. Or another use for them is planting sweet pea seeds. The diameter is just right and the seeds will tumble down a chopstick hole and settle in well. As a transplanting tool, they are unsurpassed. Use them to lift newly germinated seedlings out of the flats, and then make holes in the prepared potting mix for the small plants.You can write on them with a waterproof marker to make identification tags. How's that for versatile? I am guilty of embarrassing my friends and family at Asian restaurants by taking all the chopsticks off the plates at the end of the meal. Hey, they are just going to throw them away anyway!

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Herbs

Bergamot

prefers rich moist light soil in sun or partial shade, mulched in dry seasons. Sow in spring, or divide mature plants every 2-3 years ins spring. Caution: bergamot may cause photosensitivity in some people. Also called bee balm, Oswego tea, horsemint.

Bog Myrtle

grow in damp acid soils in shade, and prune in winter. Propagate in autumn from seeds sown outdoors, or from cuttings, layers or division. Also called sweet gale and sweet willow.

Sweet Cicily

divide roots in spring or autumn, or sow seeds in autumn in trays outside or where plants are to grow (frost is needed for germination). Transplant while young to deep, rich, shady soil in moist location; plants self seed freely and may be invasive in heavy soils. Also called myrrh.

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Brandie

"Whether a three-acre farm or a downtown window box, a garden is a miraculous place - and hopefully, a joyful one."

 

 

 

 
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