Cauliflower Crop Farming from Seedlings: Basic Guidelines to Get Started
Commercial farming with cauliflower is mostly from seedlings as purchased from trusted bulk supply nurseries where the seedlings are grown in greenhouse conditions and are also chemically treated before being delivered to the farmers.
Cauliflower is one of the most consumed cruciferous vegetables found in the world. The plant is part of the Brassicaceae family of plants, making it family of another popular vegetable – broccoli. The head consists of several florets packed tightly together. This flower head is also surrounded by large leaves, which help to protect it.
Although farmers do get superb market prices for cauliflower, it is generally one of the more challenging vegetables for anyone to farm. Doing so from disease-free seedlings has its advantages, such as a shorter time between planting and harvesting, and thus lower cost regarding irrigation and a reduced risk period. The plugs are disease-free and uniform in stand, ensuring the farmer starts their crops with quality stock.
The fact that the vegetable is known by many names throughout the world is testimony to its culinary popularity. It is called “blomkool” in Afrikaans, which refers to the edible head being a flower, “gobi” in Urdu, with it being an exceptionally high-in-demand vegetable in India, and “chou fleur” in French, to name only a few.
Many varieties of this vegetable have been developed over the years, making it possible to grow cauliflower from seedlings in various climate regions throughout South Africa. The cultivar that is perhaps the best known in South Africa is the one with a white head. The edible white head is called the curd. This cultivar is a quick grower and has rather good tolerance to light frost conditions.
Being part of the Brassica family, cauliflower seedlings have quite a strong tolerance for cold conditions. The slightly older, yet not matured plants can handle temperatures as low as 0°C for a period not exceeding three days. Although the best growth temperature range for the vegetable has been noted to be between 15°C and 22°C, the plants can handle temperatures up to 30°C, provided proper watering procedures are followed.
Too high temperatures during the growth period can cause the vegetable to grow slower, while prolonged exposure to too cold conditions cause the cauliflower plants to mature too fast. This causes the plants to bolt. Bolting is basically when the plant forms seed stalks before it is mature.
The Best Soil for Optimal Growth
Although farmers can transplant the cauliflower seedlings to sandy loam soil, some varieties do best in nutrient-rich growth media. Early types do well in sandy loam soil while the late season types perform well in loam soil and can grow in clay loam soil conditions. Care should be taken to ensure a soil pH of between 6,5 and 7 to create the best growth conditions. The late season varieties perform best in loamy to clay soil conditions that allow for more water retention.
Looking at Spacing Needs
Using proper spacing practices help farmers to control pests and diseases. Mulching can be applied where there is a risk of frost. The mulching is also useful in creating a barrier between the soil and the plant leaves to reduce the instances of pathogens that are directly under the surface spreading to the plant leaves. Spacing needs differ according to the variety of the cauliflower seedlings. Early varieties require less space in between the plants and rows in comparison with the late season types.
Looking at Watering Needs
The vegetable has a relatively shallow root system. To this end, it is very important to keep the water moisture content sufficient in the upper parts of the soil. Curd formation is hindered if the plant suffers from water stress. That said, overwatering leads to diseases.
Where to Buy Seedlings in South Africa
Hishtil SA is a well-established nursery where the cauliflower seedlings are propagated in greenhouse facilities. These plugs are protected against diseases and pests. Farmers receive strong and disease-free plugs that have also been chemically treated in order to protect them when first transplanted. All farmers are invited to get in touch with Hishtil SA for more information about the varieties available.