Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cauliflower (Head) Confinement

I've been talking about tying the leaves up over a growing cauliflower head to keep the sun from hitting it and causing an off-color rather than the snowy white heads that we're used to seeing.

If you want your garden to produce snowy white heads of cauliflower, you have to somehow keep sunlight from hitting the growing heads.   There are varieties of cauliflower that are touted to be "self-blanching" which means the leaves grow in a manner that they naturally curl over the top of the head to form a protective covering.

I've tried that . . . without success.  The heads were not totally covered and developed the undesirable purple-ish/brown off-color so I went back to the method used most often by home gardeners.  And that is to physically tie the leaves over the heads of cauliflower.

In correspondence, Rain over at Rain's Garden commented that she would like to see a picture of the tied up heads to better understand this method.

Here's my remaining bed of cauliflower plants.  I didn't have enough started plants to fill the whole bed so put some marigolds and geraniums at each end.  Looks pretty much a mad jumble, doesn't it. 

Looking closer, here's a shot of a single head.

A cauliflower plant will put out many leaves radiating out from the base of the plant.  The head will start to form in the center of these leaves.  When the head is about 2" across, it's time to cover it to protect direct sunlight from hitting the developing head.  In the picture, I've pulled all but the very bottom layer of leaves up over the head and tied them with string.

You may notice (dang and drat) that the leaves have holes in them.  Yep, I've been invaded by what I'm pretty sure are flea beetles who love to feast on vegetable plant leaves.  They're doing the worst damage on my brassicas with some other veggies being spared.  Papa Pea sprayed with an organic solution which left a white-ish residue on the leaves, but does no harm . . . except to the flea beetles, if all goes well.

Hoping this gives you a clearer picture, Rain, of how cauliflower leaves are tied up over the developing heads. 

As an ending note:  Death to flea beetles!


Rain said...

Hi Mama Pea :)) Thank you for the visual!! Until I saw your photo, I didn't realize the leaves grow that big so I couldn't figure out how you'd tie them, but it makes sense to me now. And I'm glad you mentioned when to tie them too. I'll be keeping this information in mind when I grow mine. I hope I can do that next season, not sure I have the room for it though, I don't know that they would do well in a container...I could only plant a few of them and the container would have to be big I think. Flea beetles! Do you see them or just know it's them from the holes? I'm reading about people losing crops to animals and bugs and just crappy weather this year...makes me want to plan out a yard-wide greenhouse!!! Thanks again :) xx

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

I wonder how commercial growers make sure their cauliflower is bright white? I am having issues with cucumber (squash) beatles. Insecticidal soap does not work on them, I've tried. I think I may order some yellow sticky things to hang close to the plants. -Jenn

Vera said...

Flea beetles? They have been munching their way through all the brassicas I planted earlier on this year, even though I tried several ways to get rid of them. But the best solution was to cut the bottom of an empty 1.5 litre plastic water bottle so that I had a dish, put one dish per plant beside each brassica, then filled the dish with yellow coloured diluted washing up liquid, although plain water also seemed to work. I caught zillions of flea beetles, and was very effective. I also think that the dishes keep butterflies away from the plants, but that remains to be proven. I think it is the bright sun shining on the surface of the water. But I really did kill off a huge amount of beetles!

Mama Pea said...

Rain - You could check out varieties of cauliflower that are suited for container growing. There are lots of varieties of veggies specifically for container gardening.

The flea beetles are really tiny, but when I disturb a plant and/or their leaves, you can see a bunch of the rasty little devils jumping up and away. Grrr!

I think we'd all like to have a BIG greenhouse. But, unfortunately, you can get insect infestations in there, too. :o(

Mama Pea said...

Jenn - That very same thing has crossed my mind . . . how do they raise whole fields of cauliflower. I can't imagine they go through the field tying each and every one up!

I know many folks have battled the squash beetles for years. So far, I've been very lucky not to have them.

I remember hanging those sticky fly strips in our milk room when we had dairy goats. Do you know how many times I would walk right into them and get them stuck in my hair? :o/

Mama Pea said...

Vera - Thank you for that very good tip! Do you mean the dishes of liquid will keep those awful white cabbage moths away, too? That would be wonderful!

Sandy said...

Mama Pea,

Sounds like your cauliflower is going to jail....LOL!!! I'm sure you would like those darn beetles to go instead.
Organic Neem will help with the flea beetles.

Your cauliflower really looks great, wish I could get cauliflower to look like that when I plant the seeds. Mine always looks like a shriveled up brain....not worth harvesting.

Kristina said...

Over the years we have been lucky to not have to tie up our plants, but this year we refrained from growing any cauliflower. I'll have to buy it. We had way too many bugs, and we want their cycle to die off before we plant again next year. Same with broccoli.

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

I love this and I think the geraniums and marigolds look right at home there. I have never grown cauliflower (not a fan) but my family loves it. Maybe I might be persuaded to give it a whirl...

Athanasia said...

Rubber bands.

Our early cauliflower is done already as it is too warm now. And I think we are cooler than you. I will have a new crop going for fall.

Mama Pea said...

Athanasia - Commercial growers really use rubber bands? They must still have to be put on by individuals, right?

Yes, with our warm (hot!) weather finally arriving, I'm not holding out much hope for my second bed of cauliflower doing well. Even at that, I have more put by this year than last!

Mama Pea said...

Sandy - Yep, we've used Neem oil in the past.

Cauliflower is a strange looking plant, isn't it? Maybe that's why so many people think they don't like it!

Mama Pea said...

Kristina - Did you plant the "self-blanching" variety? If so, I'd be interested in knowing which one 'cause there's no doubt tying up the leaves is a tricky little pain in the patoot!

Mama Pea said...

MrsDM - I make a cauliflower-cheddar soup that everyone loves and I think we're going to be able to have it a lot this winter. Buying a head of organic cauliflower with which to make it sets me back around $6 so I don't make it often.

Athanasia said...

Yes, but a lot of them use the self blanching now so some must work better than what you had luck with.