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.

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!

planting-cotton-with-kids

cotton-plants-in-preschool-garden

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.

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.

Click here to see how to garden with kids

Cotton flower

 

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 to Grow Cotton growing-your-own-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. 

pods-of-growing-cotton

 

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.

ripe-cotton

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.

kids-picking-cotton-in-the-childrens-garden

Where to buy cotton seeds

Click here to get your cotton seeds so you can grow your own.

How to grow your own cotton, teaching kids where fiber comes from

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. 

If you want cotton cards, you can buy the ones we used here on etsy. You can buy seeds the kids harvested from our plants on etsy here

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!

Any post on this blog may contain affiliate links which pay me a very small commission for items you purchase using the links but costs you nothing extra. 

 

How to grow:

Hot peppers and sweet peppers

Sunflowers

Jerusalem artichokes

Luffa sponges

Cabbage

Wheat

Sweet potatoes

Asparagus

Beans

Potatoes

Brussel Sprouts

Tomatoes

Birdhouse gourds

Kohlrabi

 

Be sure to pin for later.

How to Grow Cotton

 

 

A great way to get started gardening is to try bucket gardening. There is no weeding and it’s a small space to keep up with while you’re learning.

Bucket Gardening 101

A great way to get started with gardening is to ...
Read More
Pork is one of my favorite meats. I love bacon, pork chops, ribs, roast, all the pork. I love having quick easy dinners with pork.

Quick Easy Dinners with Pork

Pork is one of my favorite meats. I love bacon, ...
Read More
There’s nothing better than being able to rummage around the house to find things kids can make. I love these twig star ornaments that you can make with sticks from the yard.

Twig Star Ornaments for Kids to Make

There’s nothing better than being able to rummage around the ...
Read More
In Oklahoma there is still plenty to do in the garden in November. Even though the garden season is winding down, there is still plenty to grow.

What to Do in the Garden in November

In Oklahoma there is still plenty to do in the ...
Read More

16 comments

  1. Nancy says:

    We grow colored cotton in a wine barrel at home – green and brown. The staple is short but I’ve managed so spin it.

    Love doing this!

  2. betty chambers says:

    I have been around cotton all my life being from the south you mention to check an se if you could grow cotton where you live an said it was ilegel where in the world it it not lawful to grow cotton ??

    • Some places in the south restrict people from growing cotton unless they are commercial growers in order to control disease. I’m not sure which areas, I just know there are a few. Thanks for asking and for checking out the article.

  3. Patti says:

    We have short hot summers. So you know how long a season is needed? Ours is about 90 days

  4. I’d love to do this but fear my Normandy garden would just be too cold – even in the polytunnel! What a great thing for children to do though, so they can connect their clothes with the plants they come from. A great post to add to the #GoingGreen linky and I hope you can link up to the next one that opens on June 5th.

  5. Mary Dixon says:

    When I started spinning, I knew it wouldn’t be so easy to spin but it was always at the back of my mind. Now, it might be the perfect time to plant it and wait for the puffs to show up later. I wonder…..as fine the cotton can be and in a way as fine as alpaca, I have a box picker to use for the alpaca. I wonder if it might help to get the seeds out of the cotton. One way to put it to a test is to just do it! Gads….I need to do this.

  6. Thomas says:

    Hi Christina, I thought you might like to know that cotton seeds can be removed by hand. It is hard work but that is how it was done until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. Thanks for post I too have worked with kids and cotton it is a very rewarding experience.

  7. Jean M says:

    Wonderful ideas & helpful, too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.