Last week I posted about growing cotton and a few readers expressed interest in how it is grown. It is lovely today and cooler outside and I worked in my garden planting some fall crops this afternoon. I also took a few photos, so you could see more of the cotton.
I bought these as little started plants from my local nursery. The owner Michelle is a curious plantswoman and always has unusual stuff, just to try out. I knew that cotton needed full sun, so I planted the three little plants in the sunniest garden bed I have. The soil is pretty much solid clay, they probably would have been more productive if I had amended the soil with some compost.
They didn't get very tall, about 2 1/2 feet, and they branch out in a shrubby way. They have lovely short-lived flowers-
-that turn pinkish when they are fading or blooming- I haven't paid enough attention to tell which one.
-which then turn into large green pods-
-which mature and turn into cotton bolls.
They remind me of milkweed. There are four segments with cotton fiber inside. I took this photo after removing one of the segments, and one of the segments of this boll was not fully developed.
When you harvest the bolls, the cotton fluff can be teased out, but there are large black seeds inside. It was very labor intensive to separate the fiber from the seed before the invention of the cotton gin. We are getting ready to study Eli Whitney in our homeschool studies, I feel tricky that we have this hands-on example of the importance of his invention! Here's one boll's worth of fiber.
You can buy the seeds online here, and I bet you would start them indoors like peppers or tomatoes. I am planning on growing some more plants next year just for fun. Since the fiber I usually get is already prepared for me as yarn, it is fun to see the process from the start. I am also going to try flax next year and since I already had goats, I just need to try raising some silkworms and sheep and maybe angora rabbits! (Just kidding!)
If anyone would like to grow a few plants, I would be happy to send a few seeds to our lovely blog readers. I have a limited supply, so email me quick- use the contact form above- and you can grow cotton in your garden next year!