The Little Cauliflower That Could

Every day (weather permitting) my unofficial garden club goes outside during recess to check on the garden. I call these girls my “garden posse”; a group of sixth grade girls who have been dedicated to the garden since school began. They helped me plant seeds in early fall, water the plants, weed, dig for worms, and even held a funeral for the pea plants when they died over Thanksgiving break and we had to pull them from the ground. They all gathered around the garden bed and sang “My Heart Will Go On” as one girl used a hand rake to pull out the roots.

I expected more of these funerals as the weather grew colder, I was told the fall would be a short gardening season and by December I would be indoors full-time planning for the spring. Still, we bought cover cloth and clothespins and the seventh grade math classes learned about growth rate and helped me cover the beds with cloth. “Why would growth rate slow down in the winter or stop altogether?” I asked the class. “Snow!” they replied. Snow may have been wishful thinking (I was told we might get 1-2 inches of snow, if at all) but it would certainly get below freezing. I explained that we were helping the plants to survive the winter by covering them, but in the back of my head I doubted that our efforts would be successful.

We have had an unusually warm winter in Arkansas (and most of the country) but still have had bouts of frost and cold, and yet the garden has survived. Over winter break we had crazy storms and flooding all over northwest Arkansas, but when we returned from break, the garden was still blooming: lettuce, kale, broccoli, spinach, radishes, all going strong. We had just one stubborn crop that I had given up on, cauliflower. Everything else had bloomed and yielded fruit. Even the Brussels Sprouts finally emerged on the stem of the plant. “Next year we are not planting cauliflower”, I promised myself. We had dedicated two full beds to the plants and we had watered, weeded, fertilized for three months and nothing!

Tuesday after break the garden posse returned to the garden and we uncovered the plants to see what had happened, and there it was, a huge cauliflower head that had been growing secretly. We had given up on the cauliflower bed this whole time and now we had enough cauliflower, or Chloe-flower as the girls named it, that we could all share.