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Cauliflowers heading early

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  • Cauliflowers heading early

    I sowed some Leamington caulis in early summer and planted out at the end of August. Based on their description I was under the impression that they are an overwintering spring-heading variety. They have, however, formed heads already, which unfortunately are ruined by frost. Is this premature maturity due to my microclimate? Autumn was very warm and it had been rather mild until a few weeks ago. Or is it something to do with the way I grew them? Perhaps they would do better from a later sowing, although I did sow them later than the prescribed April/May.

  • #2
    Sorry to read. Can anything be resolved by fleece protection? HSL is in the midlands as is Leamington itself. And the 'spine of the country' is very much colder over winter than milder coastal areas. Geography coupled with warm autumn weather might well be the culprit. A later start may help to stop curds developing early.

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    • Galina
      Galina commented
      Editing a comment
      However, I have just found this. The variety appears available from other seed suppliers than HSL and they state that early curd development is indeed a feature and that these nevertheless are frost hardy. So it seems you are not alone, but the heads should not spoil. This company is in Brittany in France and their climate should be much closer to yours.
      http://www.jandlseeds.com/Heirloom+C...GTON+100+seeds
      Last edited by Galina; 24-01-2022, 03:46.

  • #3
    An interesting topic. I have some similar experience with different varieties. One example is of overwintering calabrese in the polytunnel. Small heads have already formed, whereas last year I had good sized heads in April I think. The difference seemed to me to be either the warm autumn or stress from under watering.
    I also have some outdoor cauliflowers which like your Leamingtons have small, ruined heads. These are on plants which have failed to develop to a good size. The small heads in mine are open and exposed, rather than protected by leaves and perhaps dislike rain and general weathering, in addition to frost.

    In conclusion, I haven’t really got anything to add to Galina’s helpful explorations, except to say that I think over-wintering cauliflowers are a chancy business and I expect about a 50% failure rate. The triggers for head formation are indeed both complex and specific. It might be that another year your timing would work just fine, although it might also be that if started earlier, the plants would have been larger and more robust as they went through winter, and therefore more inclined to follow the desired pattern of development.

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    • Jang
      Jang commented
      Editing a comment
      Interestingly, the J and L Seeds description cited by Galina suggests a long harvest window from October onwards from a spring sowing, so January heads would be within the time range they expect, but the sowing might well benefit from being earlier.

    • Galina
      Galina commented
      Editing a comment
      I must admit that Jang's explanation why an e a r l i e r start rather than an even later start is also very plausible.

      This seems to be a variety where it is easy to hedge your bets, as they produce both early and late, and produce from side shoots if the main shoot has been cut (or frozen) or delay heading into next year. I know that they are also short lived perennials, but I ultimately lost mine during lockdown enforced garden inactivity so can't say for how many years.. https://www.brownenvelopeseeds.com/S...=cauli&Submit=

    • Jang
      Jang commented
      Editing a comment
      I have Winter Roscoff from Brown Envelope Seeds growing now. Just one tall surviving plant looking healthy so far. I'll be interested to see what heading occurs given its perennial nature and the likely extended period of its heading

  • #4
    Thank you both for the replies. I wouldn't have thought the plants were small, they seemed a decent size, but it's possible. The heads weren't that small either but they were open and exposed.
    I'll just have to keep experimenting with timing, and not overwinter them without some kind of protection in case the heads form early. I don't think water stress was an issue, unless too much rain is a consideration.
    I'll try another sowing of Leamington, in early April this time, for bigger plants as you suggest Jang. And at the other end of the scale I'll try some Snowball cauliflowers. In old market gardening books they're sown in late winter but predominantly in late August for overwintering in frames. Perhaps I'll have better luck with the late winter start but I'll try sowing the Snowball at both times.

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