How to Grow Cotton

How to Grow Cotton

You can grow cotton in your own garden. I really want to teach my kids where things come from. This year we are growing our own cotton to show them where their clothes come from. 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.

Click here to see how to garden with kids. 

How to Grow Cotton

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 here. 

How to grow cotton

Teaching kids where fiber comes from

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.



How to harvest cotton and cotton seeds

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.


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.

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.

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.

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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How to Grow Cotton



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  1. 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.

  2. Patti says:

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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… 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Jean M says:

    Wonderful ideas & helpful, too!

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