Growing Cauliflower in Western Australia
Delicious and versatile. This cool season crop can be a little fussy, but with the right care, they’ll thrive in your winter garden. If it’s your first time growing veggies, then cauliflower probably isn’t the right plant to start with. Cauliflower plants are particularly sensitive to temperature, so planting them at the right time in crucial. The Western Australian spring is too short and warm for a spring planting. They do best when planted in late summer to autumn, but may still struggle if the weather is warmer or cooler than expected.
Don’t be discouraged if you have a poor harvest. It may take a couple of tries to get cauliflower growing well and even the most experienced gardeners have bad seasons and unexpected weather changes. Some of the newer hybrid varieties are less sensitive to warm weather. You could try a hybrid or a mini cauliflower you’re new to cauliflower growing.
Don’t let your cauliflower plants go thirsty. If they feel stressed, they may only produce very small heads. This is known as buttoning.
Like other brassicas, cauliflower is a heavy feeder, so work in some compost and well-rotted manure before you plant your seedlings. They’ll also benefit from some extra lime in the soil. If your soil in boron-deficient, then also add boron to your soil before planting. Boron is widely available at nurseries. Simply follow the instructions on the packet when applying it to your soil and be careful not to add too much.
Seeds can be started in trays to transplanted into the garden later. Start them in summer so that they are established and ready to be transplanted as soon as the cool weather arrives.
Sow your seeds into trays or pots. Be sure to keep the soil moist while they germinate. Once they’re up, they’ll need plenty of light. Put them in a bright spot, but make sure they don’t get too hot in the summer sun. If they don’t get enough light, they’ll be weak and leggy.
Make sure to space your plants well. If you’ve never grown cauliflower before, you’ll be surprised by how big these plants are. Place a little bone meal into each hole before planting to give your seedlings a real boost and help them develop strong root systems. If they are a bit leggy, you can plant them deeper than their original planting in the pots or trays. Keep them well watered while they settle into the garden. Plants that experience stress when they are transplanted often don’t recover and produce poor harvests.
If you want white heads, you’ll need to blanch them. Once the cauliflower heads appear, tie two large leaves together above the head (you can use an elastic band) This blanches the head and stops it from being damaged by the sun.
The cool, wet, Western Australian winters may mean that you don’t need to water too often once the rains start. Cauliflower likes wet soil though, so make sure they don’t dry out, especially once the weather starts to warm up.
Feed regularly with a balanced organic fertilizer. Don't add to much nitrogen. Cauliflowers are heavy feeders and like a rich soil, but too much nitrogen will encourage them to grow beautiful big leaves and not produce good sized heads. They love a regular feeding of compost tea.
Use a thick layer of organic mulch to keep the roots cool and moist and protect your plants from any cold snaps in winter. Straw, lucerne or sugar cane are good options.
Harvest when the heads have a diameter of around 20 cm. Cut the head off with a sharp knife and remove the whole plant. If the plant is healthy it can be added to your compost.
Snails and slugs
Lay down grit, like eggshells or silica sand or create barriers around your plants. Remove any slugs or snails that you see.
If you see the eggs or caterpillars appear on the plants, remove them by hand. Spraying with horticultural soap will also be helpful.
What to do about Snails and slugs?
What to do about Caterpillars?