Winter cauliflower

Not a lot of people know this, but there are actually two sorts of cauli – Winter cauliflowers used to be called ‘heading broccoli’ which explains the difference, they weren’t developed from summer cauliflower but from hardy sprouting broccoli. There are many crosses between the two which give curds (or heads) like summer broccoli but will survive a moderate British winter. The way to tell the difference by eye (and it takes practice) is that they hybrids and winter cauli will probably rise to more of a point, while the true or summer cauliflower is a perfect hemisphere or half-ball shape.

To grow winter cauliflower you need to either protect them or live in a mild climate in the UK. There are advantages to growing them in winter, notably that the don’t get the caterpillar and slug infestations that happens with the summer varieties unless you’re very lucky. The bad news is that cauliflower can be bloody difficult beasts – they will only form heads in a deep rich soil, they need regular feeding and definitely watering and if they get a frost that slows their growth then they may not set heads at all.

Sow seeds in drills, six inches apart, and if there is any risk of a frost, protect by covering them.

When the seedlings have five or six leaves you can transplant them to their permanent homes, giving them a good watering the night before so they lift easily. Set them thirty inches apart and protect them from autumn birds which are more of a pest than you’d believe on seedling cauliflower (at least they are round here!). Use canes and string or a bit of mesh to foil their evil ways.

Cover the plants if there is a frost risk. When you have harvested a curd, lift the stem and dispose of it, do not compost because brassica diseases do not get destroyed in composting.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not related to this particular post sorry, however, two weekends ago I hung four hanging containers on the retaining wall over my vegetable garden and planted two varieties of strawberries. I've just come back from watering them this morning and have noted that the uppermost basket (about six feet off the ground) has four big bits of possum poo in it! No damage has been done to the small plants, but do you think they'll eat the fruit when the plants are producing?

Also (actually, don't even know if you have possum problems in the UK :) ) I don't fancy tangling with possums, and like animals so am not going to shoot them, thus, any notions on how to keep them out.

(By the way, I live by the sea, and in partial bush, and am inundated by rodents: rates ate out the entire wiring on my car headlights four weeks ago. Luckily on your advice I've not been putting meat or pasties in the compost, so no problems there, yet, although, always a downside, it would appear :)

Mark Hubbard

September 6, 2007 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Nope, we don't have possums and yes you will have problems! Possums are either like large squirrels (ring tailed possum) or like large dogs! (bush tailed possum) and have similar agility and eating patterns to squirrels. In many parts of the antipodes there are rules about shooting or trapping, even humane trapping, as moving them much more than 500 yards from their home territory just leads to them being attacked by other possums and usually killed.

Your options are a bit limited I'm afraid - You can:

give them a home to keep them out of your trees (buy a possum house in other words) and trim any branches that may be providing easy
access to the roof. Consider installing a possum disc on the service line on your house. Possum bands on tree trunks can protect trees that are being overgrazed, these are sheet iron or perspex wrapped around the trunk of the tree to prevent
the possum climbing - the sheet should be at least 600mm wide. The tree must also be pruned well clear of any other trees or buildings as possums can jump a long way.

You can try planting some miniature onions or ornamental alliums around the edges of your basket - possums tend not to like the smell - but once they know the fruit is there, your only hope is to put a wire mesh cone over it and harvest what you can every day - little possum paws will still get all the fruit at the edge of the basket though!

September 11, 2007 at 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers for that.


September 11, 2007 at 1:20 PM  

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