First and Second Sowings of Cauliflowers
30th May 2002
My first sowing of Cauliflowers went in on the 10th May this year in order to try and get them ready for the Welsh Championships at the end of August. Unlike vegetables such as tomatoes, peas and beans, where you have a continuous crop over a fairly extended period, Cauliflowers are a one off crop so timing is paramount. It is all very well to have fantastic curds ready a fortnight before the show or a fortnight after, getting them right on the day is the problem. My first sowing consisted of three different varieties, Amerigo, Memphis and Mexico and were all broadcast sown in some Levington F2S compost. As I have no room for a large amount of Cauliflowers I only sow ten seed of each type and as soon as those were germinated I sowed another batch of ten.
They are now ready to be transplanted into three inch pots using Levington M2 and once they are growing away well and the roots are filling the pot they will be moved on into a five inch pot. These pots will then be removed from the greenhouse and placed on the soil in my leek beds to harden off and grow on. As I no longer have use of the field that I had grown my cauliflowers in for many years and as I also have no spare ground outside in my own garden, they have to be grown in the polytunnel. There's no doubt that they grow really well under covers and I have shown some good specimens over the past few years. Indeed they grow so well that the foliage overhangs into my paths and care has to be taken when walking amongst them not to break of any of the leaves.
This year My leek tunnel has altered drastically as I now have a further 12 barrels, six along each side wall therefore forming an 'U" shape with the already existing barrels for parsnips and short carrots. In front of these there is a two foot wide strip of excellent soil that has been really well manured over many years. These two strips will therefore take 16 cauliflowers and the remainder will, as in previous years, be planted in the other polytunnel and in the planting holes after the large onions have been harvested. They will certainly grow well and will take up any spare nutrients that may be available in the soil and the black and white polythene will also be retained to help conserve moisture in the bed.
In a weeks time I shall also be sowing a second batch hopefully to get them ready for the National Vegetable Society Championships at Malvern on the last weekend of September. Again I shall also do another sowing when the first once have germinated in order to try and ensure that I shall have some heads ready on the day. The varieties for the later show will be Virgin, Memphis and Lateman. There's no doubt that Lateman is an exceptionally good Cauliflower and as it"s a non hybrid it's particularly useful as the heads will not all develop at the same time.
Undoubtedly Cauliflowers appreciate good fertile ground with plenty of nutrients in it to sustain growth for the duration of the plant. One of the top cauliflower growers who has won many awards at the highest level is Bob Herbert from Mossbrough. When I was talking to him recently he gave me good tip in order to get some really solid and heavy hearts. After you have selected the cauliflowers and after tying the foliage together to preserve the whiteness of the curd, give them a strong feed. Bob uses a 2 gallon watering can and adds a level tablespoon of Phostrogen well mixed in and each plant is then given a pint. As the leaves are generally tied together when the curds are anywhere between 2 and 3 inches across, this feed is therefore there to harden and solidify the curd over the next week or so prior to harvesting.
There are no points for solidity as a criteria as it come under 'Condition' which has a total points value of 6, it is however mentioned three times in the NVS Judges Guide book. Under ‘Merits' it clearly states that ‘heads that have solid curds, white, free of pest and other damage' Later on under ‘Judging Hints' it says that judges should ‘Check for solidity' and in the following paragraph it goes on to say ‘You are looking for solid white curds of good size'.Even in the RHS Horticultural show Handbook the word Solidity is covered specifically as a criteria under ‘Condition including solidity' and under Meritorious it says ‘Heads with symmetrical, close, solid, white curd'