Cauliflower - Care
For best development cauliflower must have a large amount of available nitrogen. This is best supplied by making at least three side-dressings with nitrate of soda. Make the first application after the plants have been in the field about 3 weeks and then two more applications 2 weeks apart. Each application should be one tablespoon per plant, one pound for 150 feet of row, or 200 pounds per acre. Make the application on top of the ground out about 3 inches from the plant. A circle around each plant is a good method if only a few plants are grown in the home garden. If a nitrogen fertilizer is not available, work a quart of fresh chicken manure into the soil around each plant 3 weeks after setting out the plants.
Cultivate only to control weeds and then be sure that the cultivation is very shallow. In order to be good, cauliflower must be kept snowy white. This is done by tying the leaves together over the heads. This tying should be done when the heads are slightly smaller than a door knob. It must always be done, however, before any sunlight gets to the heads. The heads should be examined from time to time to see when they are ready to cut. If they are let go too long, the heads get loose and ricey, and lose much of their tenderness. It will usually be about one week from the time they are tied until they are ready to use.
Check cauliflower every day as it approaches maturity. Leave the head to grow as long as it is small and very compact until it reaches about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. However, if the head begins to open up, cut it from the plant at the base of the head no matter how small it is because it will only get looser and loose its characteristic texture. The head should keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks. Cauliflower is a challenge to grow in many parts of the country because it is sensitive to temperature fluctuations.
The cabbage root maggot is a small fly that deposits eggs at the base of the cauliflower plant and in cracks in the soil nearby. The eggs hatch in about one week and the maggots feed on the stem and roots. Other foliage feeding insects that are problems for cabbage are the Cabbage looper, imported cabbage worm, aphids and Harlequin bug.
Ordinarily worms and aphids are most troublesome, with the harlequin bug of more importance in the southern part of the state. Make twice-weekly examinations of the cauliflower plants for the first appearance of insects. Dusting or spraying does not need to begin until insects or insect eggs are found on the plants. Be certain to examine the undersides of the lower leaves.
Clubroot is a disease which causes overgrowths or swellings of the underground stem and roots of cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc. Once the organism responsible for this disease is introduced into a field or garden, it will remain troublesome for 3 to 7 years even though no cruciferous crops are grown during the period. The swellings or "clubs" on the roots interfere with the ability of the plant to take up food from the soil and as a result such plants never produce a crop. Contact your local county Extension office for current pest control recommendations.