Cauliflower is a cool season vegetable that is considered a delicacy by many persons. It is a crop that is exacting in both its soil and climatic requirements. For this reason, it is grown commercially only in the higher altitude areas. It can be grown successfully, however, in home gardens over the entire state if it is planted so that it will mature in the early summer or in the fall.
Snowball Imperial, which matures in 58 days, is a good variety. It harvests over a short period and cuts out a high percentage of heads. Snowball E and Snowball are also good varieties for West Virginia conditions.
When to Plant
Cauliflower is a crop that should have an uninterrupted growth. Any delay in growth will encourage the plants to prematurely form a small head that is of no value. In order to avoid this, the soil should be high in organic matter so that it will hold a lot of moisture. It must also be very fertile and well manured.
Cauliflower demands a sweet soil so be sure the pH is about 6.5. Even though the soil is fertile it must receive a good application of a commercial fertilizer, such as 5-10-10. Broadcast at least 2000 pounds per acre, or 5 pounds for each 100 square feet, and work into the soil about 1 week before the plants are set. This fertilizer should contain some of the minor elements, particularly boron and magnesium. If it does not it would be wise to purchase a small amount of a special minor element mixture and add to your fertilizer according to directions on the container.
Cauliflower plants should be about 6 weeks old when set in the field, figuring 3-4 plants per person per year. Cauliflower plants are grown the same as cabbage plants. Sow the seed 6 weeks before the plants are to be set in the field. This will be about March 1 for most of the state.
Spacing & Depth
Set the plants 18 inches apart in the row and have the rows 30 inches apart. The plants should be set in the spring about 10 days after it is safe to set the earliest cabbage. The plants should be watered when transplanted to prevent wilting. Severe shock to plants at transplanting time often causes poor head development. Watering the plants with a starter solution is helpful. Make a starter solution by adding one cup of 5-10-10 fertilizer to 12 quarts of water. Stir and then let set for a few hours. Use one cup of this solution around the roots when a plant is set out.