I’ve grown cauliflower once before – 2 years ago – and they were pretty humongous. Too big really; we couldn’t get through the crop before they bolted (shot up flower stems to produce seed).
This year, my small crop of four plants (Dad’s leftover seedlings) has been largely ignored – hidden under netting all winter. Recent cursory inspection revealed none-too-healthy yellowing leaves, and no obvious large white curds in amongst the leaves. But still I didn’t really have a close look.
Then this week I removed the netting (I figure the butterflies and pigeons can’t do much damage now it’s harvest time) and discovered something peculiar had happened.
Two of the cauli plants had more than one stem, and on top of each was a mini curd. They were in pretty good shape – no pest damage, nice and white and tightly packed – but shrunken.
A quick look at my books and top Google results didn’t throw up the answer to what’s going on. Though on the RHS website it says:
Cauliflowers do best in very fertile soil, and digging in a bucketful of well-rotted manure or organic matter before planting, and raking in 150g per sq m of Growmore or other general purpose fertiliser, will help growth. Firm the soil by treading before planting.
If growth is checked, at any time during growth, they produce small, deformed heads. To avoid problems, plants well the day before transplanting and make a hole deep enough to hold the plant with the lowest leaves at ground level. Fill this hole repeatedly with water. This will fill the hole with soil and ensure the plant is sitting in a large area of moist soil. Firm the soil very well against the roots
Space summer and autumn cropping types 60cm (2ft) apart and winter cultivars 75cm (2.5ft) apart; spacing 30-45cm (12-18in) apart, provides mini, ‘one person’ curds.
I didn’t do much prep for planting – though the area had been manured last season and I did firm the soil. I think the mini-ness must have come from close spacing, but it doesn’t mention the multi-stem effect.
Regardless, I’m very happy with the result. Mini cauli’s are perfect for my little family – one of whom is small, and one of whom is big but not a big fan!
Mini cauli’s mean we eat fresh, and don’t waste any. I must make a note to plant them close next time!