Autumn Giant is a well-known and respected maincrop cauliflower with large dense white curds. This reliable autumn cauliflower has beautiful firm white heads which are thoroughly protected by the leaves.
It is generally sown in spring for harvest in autumn, you can vary this by sowing later. Sow in mid spring for an autumn harvest, or late spring, for a winter harvest. It matures over a period not all at once.
Harvest at medium size, or if impressing the neighbours is a must, can be left to produce huge plants with heads up to 30cm (12in) across.
Autumn Giant is an heirloom cauliflower, the earliest catalogue references are from Canadian seed catalogues printed in 1878.
Prepare the site:
There is no great mystery to growing cauliflower in the home garden. The most important step is to prepare the soil correctly in advance. Cauliflower needs well-consolidated soil, so the basic requirement is to leave several months between digging and planting. Pick a reasonably sunny site for the place where the plants will grow to maturity. Avoid frost pockets for winter varieties.
Dig over your soil removing any stones you find and work in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. Tread on the soil to remove any air pockets and make the surface very firm. Cauliflowers will fail if the soil is too acidic so add lime to the soil if necessary, aiming for a pH of 6 to 6.5. Do not fork over the surface before planting the seedlings, tread down gently, rake lightly and remove surface rubbish.
Sowing:Sow in spring
Nearly all brassicas should be planted in a seedbed or in modules under glass and then transferred. Seeds should be sown thinly, as this reduces the amount of future thinning necessary and potential risk from pests.
Sow seeds 12mm (½in) deep in rows 15cm (6in) apart. Germination 7 to 12 days at 21°C (70°F). Thin the seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) between each plant.
Once the plants have five to six leaves Transplant them to their final growing positions, space 75cm (30in) apart. Water the rows in the seed bed the day before and carefully lift the seedlings with as much soil as possible around the roots and place in prepared hole. Plant firmly, setting the seedlings at the same level as in the seedbed. Pack soil firmly around seedlings. Protect seedlings from birds with netting or fleece.
The secret of success is steady growth. From transplanting time onwards they need copious watering, if checked at any time, they are liable to form very small heads. Mulch the soil around the plants three weeks after planting, drenching it with water afterwards. Replace mulch as it deteriorates and pull weeds away from the plants. Winter cauliflowers have the hazard of too much water to contend with in the winter, as well as too little in the summer. Earth up the soil in early to mid-autumn to form a continuous low ridge. This ensures that the excess water drains away from the stem. It also helps to strengthen the plants against the winter winds.
Because they grow slowly over a longer period of time, and have to face winter conditions, the one thing you want to avoid is lush, rapid and therefore vulnerable growth. If plenty of manure has been dug in, there is no need for additional fertilizers, prior to planting out winter cauliflowers. The curds may "yellow" if they receive too much rain, frost or snow. Protect by bending the plant’s own leaves over them. When the curd reaches about three inches in size, Secure with soft string, rubber band or a clothes peg. (A few varieties are self-blanching, meaning the leaves curl over the curd.)
It is best to begin cutting some of the heads once the curds are firm to the touch and whilst they are still fairly small. Waiting for them all to mature will mean you will have a glut of cauliflower. If the individual florets which make up the head or curd of the plant begin to separate then you have waited too long to harvest.
When harvesting, cut in the early morning when the plant is freshest, ideally with dew on it. During frosty weather however, it is better to wait till the warmest part of the day. Cut through the stalk close to ground level with a sharp knife, leaving enough leaves around the curd to protect it.
Unlike some brassicas, the cauliflower will not produce worthwhile shoots after its head has been cut, so clear the remains of the crop as quickly as possible.
To keep them for two or three weeks once they are mature, lift the whole plant, including roots, shake off the soil and hang them upside down in a cool shed. Mist the head with water every day if storing this way
Cauliflower can be stored by freezing. Separate the flowerettes, wash them well, and put them into boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water, then put them into ice water for a few minutes. Drain them well and put them into freezer containers and into the freezer.
Cauliflower is a variety of the common cabbage in which flowers have begun to form, but have stopped growing at the bud stage. The same applies to broccoli. The thick stems under the buds act as storage organs for nutrients, which would have gone into the flowers and eventual fruits had their development not been aborted. All these types are therefore richer in vitamins and minerals than other brassicas.
Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Onions, Garlic, Beetroot, Chards.
Plant celery near to Cauliflower to repel the white cabbage butterfly.
Don't plant cauliflower near strawberries or tomatoes.
Rotate your crops, planting brassicas, of any kinds, in the same ground more often than once every four years runs the risk of club root infestation and once you have it, the ground is useless for up to a decade. Don't take needless chances, even with "catch crops" of radishes. Cauliflowers will suffer if they are grown on the same plot for two or more years in a row.
Some time in the past thousand years, the preference developed in southern Europe for eating the immature flower buds of the cabbage plants. Selection pressure favouring production of plants with large tender flowering heads was imposed by some growers. By the 15th century, the modern vegetable we know as cauliflower had developed and about a hundred years later, broccoli had been generated in Italy.
The cauliflower plant was named by botanists as Brassica oleracea variety botrytis, with the last part of the name referring to the fact that a cauliflower curd is was thought to resemble a bunch of grapes.
The Latin name Brassica derives from the Celtic ‘bresic’. The species oleracea refers to a vegetable garden herb that is used in cooking, while botrytis is a Greek word meaning ‘clusterlike’ or ‘grapelike’.
The English word cauliflower comes from the Latin words caulis , meaning ‘stem’ or ‘cabbage’, and flos , ‘flower’
The Veitch family were giants of Victorian horticulture, with trial grounds in Devon and the splendidly named Royal Exotic Nurseries in the King's Road, London, staffed by attendants in white gloves and frock coats.
Their firm, with was founded in 1808 and closed in 1914, was the first to employ professional plant-hunters on a large scale, who scoured the world and introduced hundreds of new shrubs, orchids and other exotic flowers to British Gardens. But they were not too grand to dabble in vegetables, such as Veitch's Red Globe turnip and Veitch's Autumn Giant cauliflower.
It is not clear whether Veitch's bred Autumn Giant themselves or, as seems possible, simply rebranded an Italian variety called 'Gigante di Napoli Precoce' (a fairly standard practice in the freewheeling nineteenth century), but either way its winning combination of enormous size and high culinary quality quickly gained it many admirers.
Autumn Giant grows around a metre (3ft) high, with huge white heads that can easily reach 30cm (12in) across. As its name suggests, it is usually harvested in Autumn.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Common Name Winter Cauliflower.
Family Brassicaceae Genus Brassica Species oleraceae var. botrytis Cultivar Autumn Giant Hardiness Hardy Biennial Spacing 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in) apart. Position A reasonably sunny site Aspect Avoid frost pockets for winter varieties. Soil Fertile, well-consolidated soil Time to Sow Mid spring for an autumn harvest, or late spring, for a winter harvest.
You can vary this by sowing later.
Germination 7 to 12 days at 21°C (70°F) Harvest 40 Weeks. Time to Harvest Autumn