Cauliflower vs broccoli, What You Need To Know

Cauliflower vs broccoli, What You Need To Know

In my daily field encounters, one of the things I have realised is confusing to both farmers and consumers is the differences between broccoli and cauliflower.

They both belong to brassica family hence show similar growth patterns and appearance. Some of plants which also belong to this family are kales and cabbages.

Broccoli is usually green while cauliflower is white although there is green cauliflower. Both vegetables have light-bunched florets growing from a central point.

Broccoli florets are spread out while the cauliflowers are tightly bunched.

Both crops are rich in vitamin C and fibres. However, broccoli contains vitamins while cauliflower has calories. Currently, however, there is low demand for both crops thus they are grown for the high-end market.

However, due to the health benefits of the crops, most people are eating the vegetables creating a progressive increase in demand.

The two crops are affected by the same pests and diseases and require cool temperatures. When choosing the variety to grow, one should consider the colour, size and heat-tolerance.

In most cases, the compact size does not require much space to grow hence the best choice where the land is scarce. High temperatures may become a hindrance to a proper head formation and result in immature flowering.

To be a successful cauliflower or broccoli farmer, one should ensure that the crop grows in full sun where the temperatures do not exceed 280c to avoid quality loss. In hot areas, one should grow them in partial shade since broccoli turns yellow and flowers rapidly in hot weather conditions.

Cool weather conditions during maturity make broccoli to have a sweet taste. The two crops will grow in a wide range of soils that are fertile, well-drained, and moist and rich in organic matter soils. The pH should be slightly acidic, that is between 6-6.8.


The seeds are sowed in the nursery for 4-6 weeks after which they are transplanted. This can be done either in the greenhouse or in the open field. The seedlings should be transplanted when they have two to three true leaves.

The spacing depends on the variety, soil fertility and water availability. However, a spacing of 45cm by 60cm would be ideal for large headed variety while 30cm by 60cm for small heads.

It depends on the nutrients available in the soil, DAP can be used during planting and top dressing done in week four using CAN or urea to enhance the vegetative growth. Deficiency in nitrogen results to yellowing of the leaves usually termed as leaf chlorosis, which results in reduced yields.

Consistent supply of moisture is important and can be achieved by regular watering, especially in dry conditions. On the other side, too much watering, especially on the heads, may result to head rot. Mulching helps in keeping the soil moist hence maintaining the soil temperatures.

Field hygiene should be maintained by keeping weeds under control at all times. Pull out and properly dispose infected plants.

Broccoli and cauliflower are likely to be affected by pests such as caterpillar, which can be controlled by use of Bacillus thuringiensis, aphids and leaf miners

Diseases that affect the crops include black rot and downy mildew, and this is prevented by cultural methods such as crop rotation, field hygiene and use of chemicals where necessary.

When the temperatures are too high after head formation, blanching should be done which is a practice of tying the outer leaves together with a rubber band or string to protect it from the direct sunlight. Both crops mature after 2-3 months depending on the variety. The florets should be dark green.

Yellow colour indicates a start of blooming or bloating hence harvesting should be done before yellowing. The broccoli head should be harvested at a slant by cutting the stalk about 2-3cm below the head. This encourages side shoots production for continued growth for some varieties.

Cauliflower should be harvested when the head is mature, firm and compact with a sharp knife and some leaves left around the head to keep it protected.

How to Plant Cauliflower 

Planting Cauliflower this Fall

In the winter months, I miss my garden bursting with produce. Last year I grew a couple of things but decided to branch out and try some new things this year. Last year one of my most successful winter crops was cauliflower.

Use the “All Year Round” variety and this tutorial to learn how to plant cauliflower this fall. I substitute cauliflower for potatoes when I’m feeling a little thicker around the middle from a more indoor time when it’s cold out.

And can I tell you a secret? I may just like the cauliflower better with most things. But don’t tell the potatoes that.

Ideal Climate

cauliflower farming, plots row of growing crops plant | how long does cauliflower take to grow

Cauliflower belongs to the cabbage or cole family (Brassica oleracea). Like most cole crops, it requires cool weather and grows best when daytime temperatures are between 65 and 80 F.

The trick to growing cauliflower is consistently cool temperatures, so when you plant one in your homestead timing is of the essence to catch the temperature which is most suitable for it to flourish.

Soil Requirements

Soil in hand for planting | cauliflower growing stages

Cauliflower grows best in soils rich in organic matters and plenty of calcium. Moist, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 6.8 is required for optimum growth and to discourage clubroot disease.

Right time to Plant

Young seedlings in field | cauliflower growing stages

During the fall season, you can directly sow cauliflower seeds in your garden if the soil temperature is between 65°F and 75°F and where the weather will remain cool.

Plant cauliflower in autumn for a winter harvest where winters are mild and frost-free. The time from planting to harvest is 85 to 130 days for cauliflower grown from seed, and 55 to 100 days for cauliflower grown from transplants.

Site and Spacing

Cauliflower farm | how to grow cauliflower from scraps

Plant cauliflowers where there is adequate sunlight. Like most vegetables, cauliflower needs at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Any partial shade will reduce head size.

Sow cauliflower seeds ½ inch deep and set them at least 24 inches apart in the row with 30 inches space between rows.

Cauliflower may also be planted with ‘companion’ plants to help them flourish like beets, celery, herbs, onions, and potatoes. Avoid pole beans, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Water and Fertilizer Needs

sprinkler irrigation in cauliflower field | how long does cauliflower take to grow

Do not let the ground dry out, cauliflowers require evenly moist ground to grow.

It is best to perform a soil test first to determine fertilizer and lime application. However, in the absence of a soil test, 2 to 3 pounds of 8-16-16 fertilizer applied uniformly over 100 square feet of the garden area is suggested.

Work the fertilizer thoroughly into the soil about two weeks before planting time.


White yummy nutritious cauliflower covered by its green leaves in the vegetable garden | how to grow cauliflower in pots

Blanching is often done as cauliflower plants begin to mature and the head or curd starts to form. This is to protect the heads from rain and too much sun, and to ensure the curd will be white and tender at harvest.

Start blanching white cauliflower varieties when the head gets to be about the size of an egg.

How to blanch: Draw three or four leaves over the head and secure them with a rubber band. Check regularly. You can untie it to peek and tie it back if needed.

Pest Control and Disease Prevention

Cauliflower leaves attacked by caterpillar worm insect | problems with growing cauliflower

Cauliflower can be attacked by cutworms, cabbage loopers, imported cabbage worms, cabbage root maggots, aphids, and flea beetles. Control pests with fine mesh row covers, handpicking, and spraying with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).

Root rotting is a common disease with cauliflowers. Prevent root rots by keeping the garden free of debris and avoiding handling plants when they are wet. Immediately remove and destroy infected plants to prevent it from spreading to other seedlings.

Harvesting and Storing

Orange cauliflower being harvested | how long does cauliflower take to grow

Knowing when to harvest cauliflower is important. The head is usually ready in about a week or so after blanching them. Mature cauliflower heads can range in size from 6 inches to 12 inches across.

Harvest when the buds are still tight and unopened. Use or preserve right away

Broccoli Growing

Feeding: Broccoli grows in a hurry, and it needs a lot of nutrients. Rich compost will help feed your hungry broccoli, but it will also benefit from applications of compost tea or from monthly applications of a balanced organic fertilizer.

Watering: Like other veggies, broccoli needs to be kept evenly moist. Give broccoli about an inch of water per week, and water deeply (rather than sprinkling) to encourage deep roots, but don’t let your broccoli plants become too dry between waterings.

Diseases & Pests: Broccoli isn’t plagued by many diseases. The most common insect pests are aphids, cabbage worms, and slugs.

Bolting: When growing broccoli in the spring, you’re in a race with the weather to keep your plants from going to seed. Hot soil is the culprit, so take steps to keep the soil cool for as long as possible. Mulch, regular water, and shade covers can prolong your broccoli season, and as the weather warms you should harvest more frequently to keep your plants from shifting into seed mode.


Refrigerate or freeze harvested broccoli to preserve them longer.

Broccoli Harvesting

When to Harvest: When the main broccoli head is several inches in diameter, your broccoli is ready to harvest. The heads should be green, compact, and firm. If your broccoli plant produces side shoots, those florets may be smaller (but just as yummy). If left unharvested, broccoli heads will loosen and open into yellow flowers – if this happens, it’s too late.

How to Harvest: Using a sharp knife, cut the main stalk of the broccoli at an angle, several inches below the flower head. Continue caring for the broccoli plant – it will likely begin producing side shoots and more broccoli!

Storage: Fresh, dry broccoli will last in the fridge about 5 days in a non-airtight container. Wash broccoli immediately before use.

Freezing: Broccoli freezes well. Cut the florets into pieces, then blanch the fresh broccoli by submerging it in boiling water for one minute, then plunging it into ice water to cool. Drain and dry, and pack the broccoli into airtight plastic bags.

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