Cauliflower Curd Problems - Reasons For Loose Heads On Cauliflower

Head Of Cauliflower Plant
loose head cauliflower
(Image credit: nanoqfu)

Cauliflower, a member of the Brassicaceae family, is a cool-season vegetable that is more difficult to grow than its Brassicacea brethren. As such, it is susceptible to a number of cauliflower curd problems, one of which is loose heads on cauliflower.

Why is My Cauliflower Curd Loose?

Cauliflower is a bit picky regarding its environmental conditions. For optimal results when growing cauliflower, it is best started from transplants for both spring and fall crops. Cauliflower is far more sensitive to cold temperatures than its cabbage family counterparts, so it is imperative to only transplant two to three weeks after the last frost date for your area. Cauliflower needs to be started early enough so that it matures before the heat of summer, yet not so early that cold can potentially damage it. Any inconsistencies in the cauliflower's environment, such as extreme cold, heat, or drought, can result in malformation of the head, or curd, of the vegetable. To specifically answer the question of why you have loose heads on your cauliflower, hot weather is most likely to blame. Cauliflower does not enjoy big fluxes in the thermometer; it prefers cooler temps. Be sure to plant cauliflower early enough to avoid this cauliflower curd problem. Also, give cauliflower plants ample water and room enough between plants for vigorous growth. Consistent and plentiful irrigation is essential to prevent loose cauliflower heads. Excessive nitrogen may also cause loose heads in not only cauliflower, but broccoli as well. The curd is still edible, just not as attractive.

Proper Care to Prevent Cauliflower Curd Problems

As mentioned, cauliflower should be planted when the weather is cool but after any potential frost. Seeds should be germinated in temps from 45-85 degrees F. (7-29 C.) and will germinate in five to 10 days. Start indoors and transplant in early spring or direct sow midsummer for a fall harvest. Space plants 18 x 24 inches (46 x 61 cm.) or 18 x 36 inches (46 x 91 cm.) in moist, well-draining soil with a high organic content. It's a good idea to side-dress cauliflower with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer when the plants are half grown and maintain a consistent amount of irrigation. Some varieties of cauliflower need to be blanched; blanching entails tying the outer leaves around the head to protect it from sunburn. This process keeps sunlight from stimulating the production of green chlorophyll in the head. A few varieties have a natural tendency to curl leaves around the head and, therefore, do not need to be blanched. Blanch cauliflower when it is dry to prevent disease. Once blanched, the mature head should be ready for harvest seven to 12 days later. Loose heads in cauliflower, as well as a number of other problems, are caused by stress during the growing process. Baby your cauliflower plants and prevent any huge changes in temperature or moisture.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.