Time to plant: Cauliflower and leek

Time to plant: Cauliflower and leek


tips, tricks & advice

A guide on the right time to plant mizuna, mibuna and coriander  

By Donna Macpherson


Cauliflower is easy to grow if time is spent preparing the soil. This vegetable can be enjoyed in curries, stirfries, soups and steamed, and is delicious covered with a cheese sauce. Young florets can also be eaten raw and are perfect served as crudités with dip. Digging in rotted manure to improve the soil and the addition of dolomite lime will pay dividends when planting out your cauliflowers, as will growing them in a bed where peas or beans had grown the previous year.

The soil must be free draining but firm and even watering is a must to allow the cauliflower head to form properly, but be sure to water at the roots and never directly onto the head. Sowing about six to eight at a time will keep most families supplied with cauliflower throughout the season.

When to sow: From November to February in cool climates and December to May in temperate regions.
Spacing: Plant cauliflowers every 60cm in rows 60cm apart.
Depth of planting: Sow seeds in seed beds or trays and transplant when 10–15cm tall.
Time from planting till harvest: 14–20 weeks.

Tips: Cauliflowers do not like extremes in temperatures so, although they require full sun, the forming heads need protection from turning brown from the heat. The best way to do this is by blanching, which is gently pulling the outer leaves over the top of the head when it starts to form and using a clothes peg or twine to secure them together to create an umbrella effect for refuge.

Varieties of Cauliflower: Cauliflowers come in an array of colours and types including purple varieties such as Purple Cape, Jacaranda Purple and Violet Sicilian, which turn green when cooked, but the addition of lemon juice will help them to hold their colour. There is also Broccoflower, which has the green colour of broccoli and the taste of cauliflower. Some of the betterknown white cauliflowers include Early White, Quickheart, All Year, Phenomenal Early, Snowball and Mini, a miniature variety that provides 10cm heads.

Storing excess cauliflower: Cauliflowers will keep in the fridge for about a week in a paper or plastic bag or plastic lettuce keeper. To freeze, break them into 2–3cm-sized portions, wash and place into boiling water for two to three minutes before plunging into iced water for the same amount of time. Drain, pat dry and store in freezer bags with all excess air removed.


Leeks are members of the onion family and can be used for much the same purposes, but keep in mind they require a longer growing period before they are fully mature — around six months — although they can be harvested before this stage. Leeks can be given a good head start by planting seed in trays indoors about a month early while you prepare their position in the vegetable patch by digging it to a depth of 25– 30cm and adding well-rotted manure. This friable soil will encourage strong root and stem growth.

When to sow: From September to March in cool areas and February to May in warmer ones.
Spacing: Plant leeks every 15–20cm in rows 15–20cm apart.
Depth of planting: Sow seeds in seed trays 0.5–1cm deep and plant out when 25cm tall.
Time from planting till harvest: 16–20 weeks.

Tips: Don’t pack soil tightly around leeks when you transplant them. Instead, make a hole about 15cm deep and lower the leek into it then water. This should wash some dirt around the roots and future rain and watering will slowly fill the hole in. This will make it easier for the roots to spread and the stem to thicken.

Blanching Leek Stems: The blanched, or white section of the leek’s stem, is produced by continually mounding soil around the sides of the stem to block sunlight from the plant so it cannot produce chlorophyll. The ideal length of stem that should be blanched is about 10–15cm and when the stems have a diameter of 2.5cm they are ready to be harvested

Leek & potato soup:

3 tsp butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
½ cup rolled oats
10 potatoes, peeled & diced
750ml good-quality chicken stock
1 cup pouring cream

Splash of dry sherry Pinch of celery seed or celery salt Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, cook for 2–3 minutes or until leeks soften. Add potato and oats and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add stock, cream, sherry and seasonings, cook for 10 minutes or until potato is tender. Remove from heat and blend soup until partly smooth. Serve with a small swirl of cream on top and a sprig of dill for garnish.