Cauliflowers for Exhibition
23rd Jul 2003
For many years I used to be very successful at growing Cauliflowers for exhibition which, in the days when I used to compete regularly in the collections for 6 kinds of vegetables, were invaluable. Cauliflowers are not easy to grow well and can very often be a disappointment when they are ready too early or even too late. To get a really good selection you therefore need to plant quite a few and sown at different times as well. To grow to their optimum they do need a plenty of room between the plants in the rows as well as between each row.
I was fortunate for many years to have a very good farmer friend who use to let me have a corner of a field where he himself used to grow quite a few different types of vegetables. In those days I would plant up to four different types and well over a hundred plants in total. Today however I plant less than half that amount and they are catered for in my own garden. Of course to do this I had to alter the way I approached the growing and in the end I decided that they would grow where the onions used to be, inside the polytunnel.
In my case I have usually finished harvesting my large exhibition onions as well as the once for the under 250 gram class. This means that the Cauliflowers need to be potted on right up to a 6 inch pot size and are planted through the onion planting holes in the black and white polythene.
The variety that I am growing this year is Virgin which is the one winning at most National shows. Sadly however Virgin will no longer be available for 2004 and will not be listed in my Catalogue. However I do have a small stock of seed left if any grower is interested in purchasing a few packets. The new variety to replace it, according to the breeder should be even better with superb quality heads that mature slightly earlier than Virgin.
The seed was broadcast sown on my return from Chelsea and pricked out into 3 inch pots and from these to a 5 inch pot. Prior to planting them through the polythene I did work into the soil with a had trowel some slow release nutrients to keep the Cauliflowers growing to their optimum. (picture attached) This year I will be able to plant most of the cauliflower around the middle of July as both my onion beds have been a bit of a disaster again this year. One thing is certain, the soil within the beds of both the onions and leeks definitely need to be thoroughly exposed to the winter elements.
This can be achieved in two ways, and both ways do the job and both are as difficult as each other, but in different ways. The first way is to wheelbarrow out to soil from the beds and leave it stacked up outside the polytunnel so that the winter rains, and hopefully some snow, will wash out any impurities and clean it thorough. The other way is to remove the polythene from the tunnel, rough dig the beds and leave the Winter elements do their job. In my case the latter is the best option as I can remove the polythene away form the roof as it is fitted in a special holder with grooves. As it happens the polythene has been on for five years so, I mat well remove the whole lot this time and completely renew it during March next year. Another thing that I will have to carry out early next year is a full analysis of the soil after the soil has been washed clean.
The Cauliflowers will be planted as deep as I can in the bed and then the seeping hoses, they are already underneath the black and white polythene, will be left on for a couple of hours to thoroughly bed the plants in. A few slug pellets will be scattered around the each plant as a preventative owing to the warm damp and dark conditions underneath the polythene. Another problem that I discovered I had this year was a severe infestation of Ants underneath the polythene. When I walked into the tunnel everything looked fine, but as soon as I touched the onions or the polythene they would crawl out all over place. On reflection I don't think they have done my onions any favours either. The best way I have found of dealing with them is to thoroughly soak the surface of the bed with a double dose of Armillatox. This product is still available and will encapsulate the ant sapping it of any oxygen and naturally, without oxygen you have no life.
Cabbage White Moth
Once the Cauliflowers are planted, keep your eyes open for the Cabbage White Moth which can cause havoc if allowed to settle on the plant sand can completely defoliate them in a matter of days. Lat year I spent a considerable amount of time walking through the plants looking underneath each leaf for the clusters of eggs. These were then rubbed off with my finger and thumb, a messy job that was quite time consuming. This year I am reverting to using a suitable pesticide to do the control for me, Bug clear and Polysect Ready to use, both from Scotts should do the job effectively.
As you know chemicals arte being withdrawn all the time and find it extremely difficult to offer advice on what is available. If you have access to the Internet there is an excellent site available which gives you the various pesticides available for particular functions type in WWW.gardencareproducts.org.uk