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Growing Cauliflower from Seedlings

Growing Cauliflower Successfully from Seedlings

Though it can be commercially grown from seed, most commercial farmers in South Africa propagate cauliflower from nursery-grown seedlings. Growing directly from seed often causes inconsistencies in the crop, especially because weather conditions can delay the plants’ proper establishment. Cauliflower seedlings from well-known and reputable nurseries are cultivated in controlled greenhouse environments, ensuring good establishment when transplanted to the prepared fields. Such plants are protected against pests and the weather, which could otherwise lead to early damage. The plants are delivered in trays directly to farms across South Africa when they are ready for transplanting and have strong roots and properly established foliage.


Its scientific name is Brassica oleracea var. botrytis. It is from the same plant family as cabbage, broccoli, and kale. Cauliflower is believed to have originated in the south-western parts of Asia. Though it is related to cabbage – and is noted as descendant from a wild cultivar of cabbage – the plant has changed considerably over time. It has a tight ball of florets called the curd and this is the main part of the plant that is used in dishes. The head is surrounded by dark-green leaves. The vegetable is rich in vitamins B and C, in addition to potassium and fibre. The florets can be eaten raw, steamed, or boiled.

Best Soil Conditions

Cauliflower seedlings should be transplanted to sandy loam soil that is enriched with organic materials. Make sure the soil can drain well and that the pH is between 6,5 and 7. Soil preparation should be done about four weeks before transplanting the seedlings to give the organic content time to incorporate with the surrounding soil. Soil analysis should be done to determine whether lime must be added to gain the right pH level or whether manure or compost must be added to increase the nutrient level.

Spacing Requirements

The cauliflower seedlings should be planted in rows that are 60 cm apart and the individual plants should be spaced 50 cm apart within the rows. Optimal crop management ensures about 30 000 plants on a hectare if planted according to this spacing method. Many commercial farmers plant the crop in ridges, giving more access between every pair of rows.

Best Time to Transplant

Cauliflower seedlings can be transplanted at any time of the year, as both summer and winter varieties are available from commercial nurseries.

Period to Harvest

The time the crop takes to mature varies according to cultivar and weather conditions. Plants can be ready within six weeks to two months. Some cultivars take longer and weather can play a role, so it is possible for a crop to take as long as three months before it is ready for harvesting.

Irrigation Practices

The soil must be irrigated well before transplanting the cauliflower seedlings. Once they have been transplanted, the plants must be irrigated to help them become established. Over-irrigation should be avoided, as nutrients around the roots can be leached, reducing the nutrients the plant is able to take up. Irrigation before and after transplanting should be enough to help the plants settle. The farmer can then irrigate them weekly in moderate weather conditions. In areas where high temperatures are experienced, irrigation should be increased.

Climate Requirements

The plant is quite tolerant in terms of its temperature range but temperatures between 14 and 25 °C are preferred. It does not perform well in temperatures below 6 °C and experiences heat stress when exposed to temperatures of more than 30 °C for prolonged periods. Curd formation is severely affected in both instances.

Cultivar Options

It is a challenge to grow, but the vegetable is a financially rewarding crop for the commercial farmer in South Africa. Many cultivars are available today, enabling farmers across the country to grow from cauliflower seedlings. What is important is to ensure that quality seedlings are bought from respected commercial nurseries, providing pest-free and chemically treated plants of uniform character. To this end, farmers appreciate the quality of plants available from Hishtil SA, who also provides technical advice and support.

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