Theoretically, the Cauliflower should be one of the easiest vegetables to grow that the garden contains; practically, it is one of the most difficult.
A plot of ground, a spade, a heap of manure, a tub of water, a packet of seed - what more is wanted? In theory, nothing; in practice, a great deal.
The Cauliflower has very pronounced likes and dislikes with regard to soil, and they often take a somewhat peculiar form. Thus, the famous soil of the Swanley district, which produces splendid Strawberries, becomes Cauliflower sick in a year or two, while on the stony hill at Kingsdown, a few miles away, huge crops of Cauliflowers are cut year after year. What is more, finer heads are harvested in the fields than can be got from the garden.
This goes to prove that all cultivators cannot grow Cauliflowers equally well, yet there are certain points well worth attention. In the first place, the Cauliflower is very fond of moisture. A dry, hungry soil is death to it. In the second place, it enjoys substantial fare, so that there is every encouragement to liberally feed the soil. Thirdly, it likes to go with a swing from start to finish of its career, so that checks should be avoided.
Many people do not care for summer Cauliflowers; those who do may sow under glass in January, and the plants resulting should head in June or July. Everybody, however, likes Cauliflowers in autumn; and during October and November, when Peas and Beans are nearly or quite over, they are invariably very welcome. They can be got by sowing in a frame in March, or outdoors in April. It is good to have a few sturdy plants about 6 inches long ready to put out in May, and another batch ready to go out about the middle of June.
All seedsmen now have a strain of small Cauliflowers which they call Extra Early Forcing, or some such name. It varies with the seedsman in some slight degree, but not much, as a rule. Nor do the Cauliflowers vary much either. Nearly all these give heads of similar type - about as large as a cricket ball, fine grained, and milk white.
To come a little later than these, Early London or Snowball may be chosen, then a little later still come Daniels' King, Eclipse, and Suttons' Magnum Bonum, and for the latest crop we have Veitch's Autumn Giant, and others of its type.
See sowing tables for depth and distance, and chapters on insects and manures for other cultural points.