Cauliflower is certainly a time honored home gardening treat and popular throughout New Jersey and here in Passaic County. But, it is difficult to direct seed cauliflower here in growing zone 6. Cauliflower starts out well but early hot weather can cause it to yellow, brown or bolt and become completely unpalatable.
It is far better to start cauliflower indoors and transplant vigorous plants into the plot as early as possible. Here in north New Jersey transplants can be started up to 8 weeks before transplanting, and transplanted between 4 weeks before to 2 weeks after the last anticipated frost date. The last frost date is generally in late April so the time to start cauliflower is now.
Sow cauliflower seeds in large pots ½ deep in potting soil. Grow them in a greenhouse or sunny window ledge; seedlings should emerge in 7 days or so. Keep the young plants moist but not soaking and turn the pots one quarter turn daily to vary exposure to the sun.
When the soil can be worked add compost or humus and just a small amount of general purpose fertilizer. Cauliflower thrives in well-drained soil so a raised bed is best, and optimal head development requires full sunlight
Choose a variety of cauliflower seed which is reported to produce edible heads in 80 days or less, some varieties now mature in as few as 50 days. This means that plants may already carry small heads when transplanted, making for a very early crop indeed. Such fast development virtually negates any possibility of crop loss due to heat stress.
The gardener is no longer limited to the familiar snowy white head; yellow, orange, green and even violet varieties are now widely available. Whichever type that you may choose, get those seed orders out now for a fine and early cauliflower harvest!
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