While looking through seed catalogs last winter I stumbled upon a cotton section in the Southern Exposure catalog. I had never thought about growing cotton before, but as a hard core crafter I really wanted to try it out. I bought a pack Red Foliated White Cotton; I got 18 plants out of the 20 seeds! I started the seeds in small trays. They quickly sprouted up and outgrew the trays.
This is the size they were when I transplanted them outside in early May. I read that may people plant cotton in groups of 3. As a sort of experiment I put 3 plants in a pot and left them in the hoop house for the spring and summer. This proved to not be so great, because the cotton did not flower and produce as well. I moved the pot outside several weeks ago though and they started to look better.
The other 15 plants were planted in the ground at a neighbor’s house. One thing I never realized about cotton is that the flowers are beautiful! Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture early enough, but soon after they reach this height, large white flowers open up, and then they turned a dark red.
After the flowers finish blooming, this big alien looking bulbs grows. At this stage the plants started drooping a bit from the weight of the bulbs. I tied the groups of 3 plants together with a stake in one side to give them some support. I didn’t want a single precious branch to break!
Towards the end of the summer the bulb dries up, and opens to reveal puffs of cotton! With my tiny plot of cotton, I am able to collect pods here and there once they open to this level.
Now for the harvest
There were 5 puffs of cotton in each pod, and 5 to 6 seeds in each puff. So I pulled the cotton out and separated all the seeds with my fingers.
This how much cotton I got from only 2 pods, plus I now have about 50 seeds, and 2 really cool looking pod husks (not sure what I will do with them yet!). And there are many more pods that should open up in the next few weeks.
I still haven’t decided what I will do with my cotton either. I can’t think of much use for cotton balls, I thought maybe q-tips. I’d like to try spinning it into thread, better yet fabric, but thread seems a bit more doable this year. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a spinner, so check back soon for more information on that!