Rotten Winter Cauliflower

Discussion in 'Fruit and Vegetable Gardening' started by sprocket, Dec 31, 2007.

  1. sprocket

    sprocket Member

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    Hi all -

    This year was my inaugural year of planting a winter garden. However, I've lost all of my winter cauliflower (a variety obtained via West Coast Seeds, I believe) as the heads (which were fine up until they were about 8-10 centimeters across) have turned brown and rotted.

    Is this a case of the soil they're in being too wet? Or has it just been too wet in terms of rainfall this winter?

    Any advice would be appreciated!
     
  2. greenknight

    greenknight Member

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    Though they're called "winter" cauliflowers, they don't normally head in mid-winter; they normally head in spring or maybe late winter for the earliest varieties, from sowing the previous June. What variety is this?

    Anyway, cut off the rotten heads; they may regrow and head at the normal time.
     
  3. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi sprocket--it's odd that your cauli's have already headed...the walcheren types are bred to only head after the winter's cold. Like greenknight, I'm curious what variety you have.

    Certainly any cauli head in our frosty weather will be damaged as you've observed, tho some self-wrap better than others and can sneak thru light frosts. True overwintering types are pretty tough, but the overwintering plants will die in prolonged arctic outflows without snow or artificial cover of some kind.

    The trick with walcheren's is to get the plants to exactly the right size before they stop growing in the winter...too small, and they are easier to overwinter but won't make much of a head in spring, too large, and they usually get badly damaged or die overwinter. A bit of an art as well as science, since each growing season is different, as are growing conditions in your garden.

    Not an impressive big perfect head like the summer types, but steam a bunch of the little ones in spring and they are gloriously sweet and tasty, and sooo welcome after a winter of eating california produce!
     
  4. greenknight

    greenknight Member

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    I phrased my answer badly, not actually "regrow" - they won't grow any more in the winter, but may produce smaller secondary heads.

    I don't agree that they don't ever ever produce an "impressive big perfect head"; I've had Walcherin types with 2.5 pound heads. It may be easier to overwinter large plants down here, though. I would think it would be easier in Vancouver than Surrey, for that matter; being less exposed to the east winds coming out of the Fraser River Canyon. Outside my personal experience, though.

    To me it seems that plant size is less of a factor than legginess - if a plant has an overlong stem the leaf cover can't protect it from the drying wind and sun when it's frozen. On a stockier plant, the leaves droop down in cold weather forming a tent that protects the stem.

    The easiest winter cauliflower, in my experience, is "Purple Cape". It's also the earliest. Of course, it's purple instead of white...
     
  5. sprocket

    sprocket Member

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    Thanks for your reponses, everybody!

    The cauliflowers were part of a cauliflower blend I'd purchased from West Coast Seeds. I'd planted them at the end of July and moved them into a new winter bed at the end of September when they were ~10cms high. It doesn't say exactly which varieties are included in the blend, but based on the other seeds for sale, I would surmise it probably includes Aalsmeer Op and Purple Cape. All three of the heads were white, so I'm presuming that they weren't the latter.

    They'd started heading near the beginning of October, growing a head up to ~8cms across by the end of November, at which point they'd started rotting.

    I've trimmed them back and I suppose I will see if they'll produce in the spring!

    Thanks again!
     
  6. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Not to beat the topic to death, I hope :-)

    I've ordered for many years from West Coast, Territorial before them. Their cauli blend for many years now has been a blend of summer/fall harvest types. It was many years back indeed when they last offered a blend of walcheren varieties...such a packet would have to be dated in the 1990's sometime. Aalsmeer has been their only walcheren type for a few years now.

    Anyhooo, this might explain the difficulties with yours coming into November. I haven't had the Aalsmeer head up before spring here...and they have been super hardy, hardier than the sprouting brocolli which has sometimes croaked in arctic outflows. Quite a worthwhile addition to the veggie garden, assuming reasonably well drained soil in winter.
     
  7. greenknight

    greenknight Member

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    If they were actually fall cauliflower, they were planted too late - which could account for their untimely heading. It has been known for seeds to be mis-packaged...

    It also occurred to me that winter cauliflower might be photoperiodic; ie, sensitive to day length ( just a guess, I have no information about this). If that's the case, exposure to artificial light could trigger early heading. Could that be a factor?

    Whatever they are, I'd recommend transplanting them earlier than that. Also, if you have the space, make 2 or 3 plantings a week apart to have a better chance of having some make it.
     

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