“Cold Frame Plants”: Broccoli, Cabbage, & Cauliflower

Broccoli, Cabbage, & Cauliflower are all grown similarly.  They’re all “cool weather plants”.  Cauliflower can be planted the earliest– as early as January.  The best way to grow these plants is using a Cold Frame (PHOTO SOURCE:  http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/3439193/list/how-to-start-a-cool-season-vegetable-garden):

Cool Weather Vegeables



If you plant to attempt growing cauliflower in the home garden, it requires consistently cool temperatures with temperatures in the 60s.  Otherwise, it prematurely “button”—form small button-size heads—rather than forming one, nice white head.

Cauliflower variety nice

  • Select a site with at lesat 6 hours of full sun.
  • Soil needs be very rich in organic matter; add composted mature to the soil before planting. Fertile soil holds in moiture to prevent heads from “buttoning.”
  • Test your soil! (Get a soil test through your cooperative extension office.) The soil pH should be between 6.5 and 6.8.
  • It is best to start cauliflower from transplants rather than seeds. Transplant 2 to 4 weeks before the average frost date in the spring, no sooner and not much later.
  • Space the transplants 18 to 24 inches apart with 30 inches between rows. Use starter fertilizer when transplanting.
  • Plant fall cauliflower about the same time as fall cabbage. This is usually 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost and also need to be after the temperature is below 75 degrees F.
  • If you really want to try starting cauliflower from seeds, start the seeds 4 to 5 weeks before the plants are needed. Plant the seeds in rows 3 to 6 inches apart and ¼ to ½ of an inch deep. Do not forget to water the seeds during their germination and growth. Once they become seedlings, transplant them to their permanent place in the garden.
  • In early spring, be ready to cover your plants with old milk jugs or protection if needed. For fall crops, shade them if they need protection from the heat.
  • Add mulch to conserve moisture.


  • Make sure that the plants have uninterrupted growth. Any interruption can cause the plants to develop a head prematurely or ruin the edible part completely.
  • Cauliflower requires consistent soil moisture. They need 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week; with normal rainfall, this usually requires supplement watering.
  • For best growth, side-dress the plants with a nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Note that the cauliflower will start out as a loose head and it takes time for the head to form. Many varieties take at least 75 to 85 days from transplant. Be patient.
  • When the curd (the white head) is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, tie the outer leaves together over the head with a rubber band, tape, or twine. This is called blanching, and it protects the head from the sun and helps you get that pretty white color.
  • The plants are usually ready for harvest 7 to 12 days after blanching.

Typical Pests:

  • Cabbageworm
  • Aphids
  • Harlequin bugs
  • Clubroot
  • Black rot


  • When the heads are compact, white, and firm, then it is time to harvest them. Ideally, the heads will grow 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
  • Cut the heads off the plant with a large knife. Be sure to leave some of the leaves around the head to keep it protected.
  • If the heads are too small but have started to open up, they will not improve and should be harvested.
  • If the cauliflower has a coarse appearance, it is too mature and should be tossed.
  • If you want to store cauliflower, you can put the head in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should last for about a week.
  • For long-term storage, you can also freeze or pickle the heads.[9]

Plant Out:  March-July  Harvest:  July-November



Choose a sunny site with fertile, well-drained, well-built soil.  Loosen the planting bed & mix in up to 1 inch of mature compost. Water the bed thoroughly before setting out seedlings. 
Leaf-eating caterpillars — including army worms, cabbageworms, & cabbage loopers — like to feast on broccoli leaves.  In summer, harlequin bugs & grasshoppers can devastate young plants.  Prevent these problems by growing plants beneath row coversas shown:

Row Covers

Plant Out:  June-July  Harvest:  July-August



Cabbage photo

Starting Cabbage Indoors:

Spring:  Start seeds indoors or in a cold frame eight to 10 weeks before your last spring frost, and set out hardened-off seedlings when they are about 6 weeks old. Seeds germinate best at 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Summer:  Start seeds 12 to 14 weeks before your first fall frost, & transplant the seedlings to the garden when they are 4 to 6 weeks old.  Plant early & late varieties to stretch your harvest season.

How to Plant:

Growing cabbage plants requires regular feeding & abundant sun.  Choose a sunny, well-drained site with fertile soil.  Loosen the planting bed & mix in a 2-inch layer of compost.  Water the fertilized bed thoroughly before setting out seedlings.  Allow 18 to 20 inches between plants for 4-pound varieties; larger varieties may need more room.  Varieties that will produce heads that weigh less than 2 pounds (check your seed packet) can be spaced 12 inches apart.

Harvesting and Storage

Begin harvesting cabbage when the heads feel firm, using a sharp knife to cut the heads from the stem.   Remove & compost rough outer leaves, & promptly refrigerate harvested heads.  If cut high, many varieties will produce several smaller secondary heads from the roots & crown left behind.
Cabbage will store in the refrigerator for two weeks or more, & you can keep your fall crop in cool storage for several months.  Clean cabbage carefully, because heads may harbor hidden insects.[5]

Plant Out:  February-June  Harvest:  June-October

Cabbage Can Be Re-Grown From Leaves!

Cabbage is relatively easy to grow from scraps.  Simply place your leftover leaves in a bowl with just a bit of water in the bottom.  Keep the bowl somewhere that gets good sunlight & mist the leaves with water a couple of times each week.  After 3 or 4 days, roots will begin to appear along with new leaves.  When this happens you can transplant the cabbage in soil.[6]

Source LYNX graphic

How to grow Broccoli AND photo of Broccoli under Row Covers from Mother Earth News:  http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/growing-broccoli-zmaz09aszraw.aspx
Photo of Cabbage:  https://lopezislandkitchengardens.wordpress.com/
[5]:  How to Grow Cabbage by Mother Earth News:  http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/vegetables/growing-cabbage-zm0z12aszkon.aspx
Photo of Heirloom Cauliflower Varieties:  http://masterofhort.com/2015/01/
[9]:  “How To Grow Cauliflower” from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:  http://www.almanac.com/plant/cauliflower

Learning from the Past to Prepare for the Future