How to Grow Cotton
Did you know you can grow cotton in your own garden and it’s pretty simple to do? We grew cotton to learn about how clothing is made and it was really cool. We harvested, combed, and spun a little of it so the kids can see their clothes are made from it. You can grow cotton in your garden too!
When I was a teenager my mom was into textiles and spinning. She grew cotton to use for spinning her own cotton yarn. We helped her grow it and harvest it and comb it. It was really fun to see how it went from plant to fabric. I loved the idea of doing this with my kids.
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The cotton plant looks kind of like an okra plant. It loves the heat, so you plant it when you would plant okra. Here that is the end of April or early May. The plant is gorgeous and has the most amazing flowers. They are beautiful.
If you want to see a month by month garden guide for growing, click the highlighted text.
How to grow cotton
How long does it take to grow cotton
It takes most of the summer to grow and ripens in the fall. The pods are hard and woody, so when you pick it, be careful not to cut your fingers. It’s killer on the cuticles. Enough so that I remember it from so long ago when I was a teen.
You need a long growing season to grow cotton, so make sure you’re area is warm enough. It takes several months. You’ll need around 200 days of warm weather. With our 8 months of summer per year in Oklahoma, we have that covered! Also, cotton is protected, so check your laws to see if it’s legal to grow cotton in your state. You may need special permission.
Choose a sunny area that receives at least 8 hours of sunlight per day.
Cotton seeds come with fuzzy cotton on them, it’s impossible to remove it all. Plant your fuzzy bundle about 1 knuckle deep in the soil. Cover it with soil and pat it down no harder than you would rub your eye. Plant seeds about 4 inches apart.
Keep your cotton plant watered about once a week. It’s very drought and heat resistant. Make sure you keep the weeds away from the cotton plant. Once the plant is about 4-6 inches tall, mulch it well.
It takes 5-10 days for the cotton seeds to germinate. Then in a few weeks you’ll notice the plant starting to branch off. Several weeks later you’ll see these bolls start to form.
How to harvest cotton seeds and cotton for spinning
When the pods are ripe, they pop open like a big kernel of popcorn, you take the cotton balls out and collect them. Each one is full of big hard seeds that are impossible to remove. That’s why you take them to the cotton gin. It removes the seeds for you. We are going to send our cotton to OSU to have it ginned. Then we will spin it.
How to grow cotton from seed
This is a super fun project to do with kids of any age. I am still enamored with it at my age. I hope you would consider growing some textiles to see how they grow. It’s an amazing process. Make sure it’s legal in your area before growing cotton. There are some places that don’t allow it.
Where to buy cotton seeds
Click here to get your cotton seeds so you can grow your own.
Once you have your cotton picked, you can comb or card it with cotton combs. I found these antique ones on etsy, but you can buy them brand new also. You cannot remove the seeds from the cotton by hand, the combs lengthen the fiber and remove the seeds.
Spinning cotton into yarn
The cotton can then be spun on a spinning wheel, with a drop spindle or by hand. I spun a small amount to show the kids how it could be made into yarn. They tried to spin it, but it’s pretty hard to do. A great learning experience though. They could learn with lots of practice.
Growing cotton in your backyard
Teaching kids where their clothing comes from is an amazing experience. I was even amazed myself!
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