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Backyard Cotton

>24 August 2012
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Yesterday, I had Jerry pick up a bag of cotton balls for me from the store. And as I pulled one of the fluffy wads from the bag it suddenly peeved me that I had had to buy them. These are just plain ol’ clumps of cotton! Why can’t I grow this myself?

Which got my wheels turning. Why not learn how to grow cotton?!

I know cotton grows well in the south, and actually thrives in our red clay soil. Really, it grows well in most well-drained clay or loamy soils.

Cotton also needs just the right climate to grow; about six months of frost-free temps, moderate Spring rainfall, and plenty of sunny days during the plant’s maturing period.

When planting cotton, the ground should be tilled or plowed deeply to allow the plants long tap root to grow as far down as possible. I’d love to try growing a small batch of cotton in a raised bed! Wouldn’t that be great?!

Now, to find some cotton seeds…

What do you think? Have you ever grown cotton? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to harvest your own, organic cotton balls?!

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  • Dolly Sarrio said:

    Hi, I am a lover of cotton too. I have to tell you however that you probably won’t be able to grow you own cotton. In SC anyway it is not legal to grow your own…There is the matter of a thing call the Boll Weevil…In the past cotton was almost wiped out by this varmit so there are strong controls on this crop. Did you know that it probably is forbidden for you to pick such crop and take it home with you? Find out for your area…

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:


    I had no idea! What a shame. I’ll have to find out what my state’s laws are.

  • Becky said:

    It’s either legal in Missouri or people just don’t care. :) I know people who grow their own cotton.

  • daisy said:

    We have a cotton plant growing in our yard! I posted an update about it on one of the Bloomin’ Tuesday posts recently. Isn’t that something that some folks are forbidden from growing it? Too bad!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s great, daisy! I’ll have to head over to your site to check it out :)

  • ashlee said:

    I had this thought yesterday as I was coming in the house and spotted a weed that looked like it had cotton on the top of it…do you know what that is? I just looked at it and thought, “That looks like cotton!” Then I wondered if you really could grow your own cotton.

  • Homeinsteader said:

    Well, there is a very good reason why it is illegal to grow it in home gardens. If you live in the south, and are around cotton crops, you know why. One li’l ol’ boll weevil an entire region’s financial future can ruin. It’s that simple.

    Would you know what a boll weevil looks like? Probably not, even if you could find “just one” (which isn’t likely if you get them on your cotton).

    To read a little more, try this: http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=750

    Also, if you’re not into pesticides (and I don’t think folks here are), then, this is not the crop for you. It CAN be grown “organically”, but it will not be truly organic. I do not believe that is possible.

    If you live in the south, visit a cotton gin (they’re out there!) or a local farmer and get more info on cotton growing; quite an education.

    You DO NOT want the feds to show up, unannounced, and destroy your “garden” OR spray everything within 10 miles with pesticide (they might!), fine you heavily, etc., because you wanted to grow some cotton.

    Remember the bee guy who is fighting them right now simply because he refused to accept their answer to colony bee collapse, or the Amish dairy farmer who was arrested for selling raw milk, although he’s been doing so for many years….you get the point.

    Stay under the radar!

  • Dee Ann Guzman said:

    I’ve grown cotton here in Ok. I have three kinds of heirloom that I plant periodically. I have been spinning it with a drop spindle. Makes wonderful wicking for my deer tallow candles.

  • Donna Brewer said:

    I’ve grown my own cotton for several years. The hardest part was obtaining some seeds. The first year was not all that great. I did save enough seeds to grow some plants the next year. KY is not the best weather for cotton, but I absolutely love the beautiful blooms in the spring. The seeds have to be started in February. The bad rainy weather destroyed the plants for two years. This year, the plants are doing well, but are still not ready to harvest. Hopefully, the warm weather will hold out long enough to harvest a good crop. I wanted the cotton to use in my historical quilting demonstrations. People are amazed when they see actual cotton with the seeds still in it.

  • Denise said:

    There is also colored cotton. I read that someone up north planted them and they are heirloom seeds as well. They come in different colors so you don’t have to use dye. Can’t remember where I saw that article though. It might have been in Mother Earth News. Another reason why the seeds are so hard to come by is that most of them are GMO and Monsanto owns the seeds. Or Monsatan as some like to call them for obvious reasons.

  • Emily A said:

    I know southern seed savers exchange ( http://www.southernexposure.com/cotton-c-19.html ) has some cool types of cotton, a couple of different colors. I bought some seeds and planned to plant them until several friends told me I might have to pay for an entire crop of cotton if anybody noticed I was growing it, plus legal fees. (Even if nobody got weevils from it!)I live in Tennessee. So I have a couple of packs of cotton seeds hiding in my seed bin in case the government ever goes away… I don’t know if the seeds will last that long ;) I was thinking about trying to grow some indoors under lights, but I don’t think the expense is worth it. And cotton would need a lot of light!

  • Doreen said:

    My husband grew up on a dairy farm down here in Florida and they would mix cotton seed in their feed. Because they used trucks to haul the feed to the cows, it would spill along the road side and the cotton plants would grow in the ditches. It was great to see those bright white balls of cotton.

  • Missy Rankin said:

    I have cotton seeds!! From my cotton balls I picked this Saturday.

    I live in TN and we were visting the best Goodwill in 3 states (I have been to Goodwills from Naples, FL thru Ga, TN, KY and St. Louis).

    Anyway- we pasted fields and fields of cotton growing in a small town in TN about an hour from where I live.

    I’ll be growing my own cotton this spring!!!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Awesome, Missy!! I hope you’re able to get some growing at home :)

  • Debbie said:

    How hard is it to get the seeds put of he cotton balls by hand ?

  • kygirl420 said:

    From what i read removing the bolls can be very painful since the are sharp no paun no gain! I just ordered erlenes green heirloom cotton seeds from southerm exposure seed exchange. They say this and other cottons were what the slaves used for their clothing as the masters on many plantations were the only ones permitted to use white cotton…what a sad history of a beautiful gift of… god also the colored cotton takes a litle longer to mature but who can resist im in ky also

  • Santipa Earth said:

    In the 1950′s for extra money my parents would take me and my siblings down to Firebaugh, California to pick cotton. We slept overnight in my parents old Ford automobile and would get up in the early mornings as soon as the sun came up. The nights and mornings were torturous…very, very cold in the mornings, and very, very hot in the afternoons, however because I was a child…I loved it! I thought of it as a weekend campout with my family…with a added bonus of filling my pockets with some extra change. On this particular farm they paid $3.00 for picking 100 pounds of cotton and it took me all weekend to make that $3.00. Yes, removing the fluffy, cotton fiber from the dead, hard, dried-up boll of the plant can be scratchy and painful if you are not careful enough to avoid the sharp edges of the boll capsule…but no one ever picked a lot of cotton being careful.

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