The first time I grew cauliflower, it turned out perfectly. I thought… this is easy! I grew cauliflower again the following year and there were plenty of volunteers for the “what’s wrong with my cauliflower?” pictures. Learn what’s wrong with your cauliflower (and how to fix it!) in this blog post.
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What’s wrong with my cauliflower?
Are you wondering, “What’s wrong with my cauliflower?”
Cauliflower is a cool-weather crop in the Brassica family (which includes cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts). It’s trickier to grow than its relatives because it doesn’t like it too hot … or too cold. It is also very sensitive to moisture and doesn’t like to have soggy roots or dry out.
Discoloration or purple-tinged edges in white varieties of cauliflower
Pink or purple-tinged cauliflower is often caused by exposure to sunlight. To prevent this, cover head by blanching.
To blanch cauliflower:
When head is visible and about 2 inches wide, clip outer leaves together with a clothespin to cover head and keep out of sunlight. Clip together loosely and check occasionally for pests and growth, or to let dry out after a rain.
Bitter tasting cauliflower
Bitter tasting cauliflower can be caused by too much heat or sun. It can also taste bitter from a lack of moisture, uneven watering, waiting too long to harvest, or overcooking.
If bitter cauliflower has been a problem, try growing purple varieties (they tend to be less bitter).
Loose heads or buttoning (very small head or several small heads)
Buttoning cauliflower can be caused by young plants being exposed to several days of freezing temperatures. It can also be caused by a lack of water or nitrogen, or waiting too long to harvest. Remove plant; it will not recover.
To prevent cauliflower buttoning in the future, protect cauliflower from freezing temperatures. Providing regular moisture and fertilizer can also help prevent buttoning cauliflower.
Cauliflower covered in small flowers
When cauliflower is covered in small flowers, it may mean you waited too long to harvest. Cauliflower has bolted and is focused on producing seeds. The plant becomes bitter and inedible. Remove plant; it will not recover.
To prevent cauliflower flowering in the future, harvest sooner.
Bolting happens when the ground reaches a certain temperature (usually too hot). The plant wants to ensure survival, and shifts to producing flowers and seeds rapidly. Remove plant; it will not recover.
To prevent cauliflower bolting in the future, plant later (or earlier) in the season to avoid hot temperatures.
Holes in leaves of cauliflower plants
Holes in the leaves of cauliflower plants are usually caused by cabbage worms or cabbage loopers.
- When you see the holes, handpick caterpillars.
- Cover small plants with floating row cover to prevent moths from landing on leaves and laying eggs.
- Bacillus thuricide (Bt) is helpful when applied correctly.
- Rotate where you plant brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.) each season to help prevent pest and disease problems from building up in the soil.
Read here for more tips to prevent pests and diseases organically in the garden.
Now that you learned what went wrong, learn how to grow cauliflower successfully by reading this post.
Fresh cauliflower from the garden or farmer’s market? Here are my five favorite ways to use fresh cauliflower.
Make a green powder “superfood” with extra leaves from brassicas after harvesting. Learn how in this blog post.