Or­ganic feed helps grow bumper caulis

Central Otago Mirror - - CLASSIFIEDS -

Cauliflow­ers are fickle plants. Of all the bras­si­cas, they’re the trick­i­est to grow. They may pro­duce a head, they may not. It de­pends, to some de­gree, on the weather – and how good you are at wa­ter­ing. Th­ese ed­i­ble flow­ers are sen­si­tive to hot and cold at cer­tain stages of growth. If tem­per­a­tures are ex­treme they’re un­likely to pro­duce a head. If frosts oc­cur while plants are still in the seedling stage, they may not sur­vive. Late sum­mer/early au­tumn and spring are the best times to plant cauliflow­ers. But they need to grow quickly. If growth is checked (not enough food or water to keep them grow­ing, for ex­am­ple) heads may be small, or they won’t form at all. A month or so ago I picked the big­gest cau­li­flower heads I’ve ever grown. I wa­tered them ev­ery day and fed them with an or­ganic fer­tiliser. I used Ki­wicare’s Nour­ish All-Pur­pose Or­ganic Fer­tiliser, which con­tain­ers a mix of sea­weed, fish­meal, nat­u­ral salts, and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly mi­croflora. Sea­weed may have been the key to healthy growth. Be­sides ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus and potas­sium, sea­weed con­tains many mi­cronu­tri­ents, in­clud­ing boron and molyb­de­num. Both of th­ese are ideal for cau­li­flower growth, as a boron de­fi­ciency may cause cauliflow­ers to be­come stunted and have hol­low stems, a molyb­de­num de­fi­ciency may re­sult in whip­tail, where the grow­ing point be­comes de­formed and the leaves are nar­row and twisted. A molyb­de­num de­fi­ciency is much more likely in sandy soils or soils with a pH of less than 5.8, as the trace el­e­ment be­comes less avail­able in acidic soils. Lim­ing the soil will help in the long run. How­ever, in over-limed soils, boron and man­ganese be­comes less avail­able. Lim­ing is also used to re­duce the in­ci­dence of club root, a fun­gal disease that at­tacks the roots of bras­si­cas. The roots be­come swollen and ‘‘clubbed’’, form­ing galls, re­sult­ing in an in­abil­ity to take up water and nu­tri­ents. Plants con­se­quently grow poorly and wilt. Club root likes wet soils and is more se­vere in acidic soils, so adding lime is ben­e­fi­cial. Cau­li­flower seeds may be sown di­rectly in the ground or planted in small pots for trans­plant­ing when seedlings are 10cm to 12cm high. Plant only a few of one va­ri­ety at a time be­cause your cauliflow­ers will reach ma­tu­rity around the same time. Plant in rich, well com­posted soil in full sun. Water reg­u­larly to en­cour­age quick growth and feed with a balanced fer­tiliser that con­tains trace el­e­ments too. Plants can take be­tween 12 and 28 weeks to ma­ture, de­pend­ing on the va­ri­ety. Cau­li­flower ‘‘All Year Round’’ ma­tures in about three months. ‘‘Snow­march’’ on the other hand can take seven months to ma­ture. As the cauliflow­ers start to de­velop, snap the cen­tre vein in long outer leaves and fold them over the heads to keep the sun­light from dis­colour­ing them. Har­vest the heads be­fore they start to loosen up.

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