Backyard Cotton

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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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About Kendra 1103 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. I’ve grown it, and we used the cotton to stuff pillows or stuffed dolls, and the seeds were used for bean bag games.

  2. It is legal to grow cotton in New Mexico. It isn’t a main crop here so no one cares. Now if something was dangerous to chilies that would be a different story. This is the first year for me to grow cotton. My son is Navajo and gets free seeds. I’m just waiting to see what happens.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

    • Removing the cotton fruit from the plant is easy and not painful by any stretch of the imagination. So easy in fact that my four and six year old do it voluntarily while I am out and separate the seeds from the cotton. Do not let the stories of pain prevent you from growing cotton, if your a gardener, you’ll have no problem with it.

    • It depends on the variety. Some varieties, especially those derived from Sea Island cotton, are very easy to gin (i.e., separate the seed from the lint) others are more difficult, but it is still eay to do by hand if you only have a small amount.

  5. 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!!!

  6. 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.

    • I bought some colored cotton plants at the Burton Texas cotton festival and they grew outside her room even after she was gone. she loved them

  7. I know southern seed savers exchange ( ) 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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).

    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!

    • There is only one type if cotton you can not grow in Florida. Many people in florida grow cotton in their backyards, I know several myself. In Central Florida, its very easy to grow, practically effortless.

    • Bullcrap. They already spray pesticide to prevent the boll weevil. This is just a law passed to mollify the avarice of factory farms. If they could make it illegal to gow your own wheat or any other food, they’d do that too. Screw those pigs.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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…

      • I live in SC. A farmer kindly allowed me to harvest a portion of his crop that was located in an area his equipment could not access. I plan to use the branches and bolls to make some pretty amazing decor items. I grow Nankeen Brown Cotton at home. The bolls are an absolutely beautiful brown (somewhat copper-ish in color). I just finished removing the cotton from last year’s saved seeds. I will soak them overnight, then plant them in our greenhouse where they grow year after year, as they are perennial. Many are not aware that cotton is from the Okra/Hibiscus/Hollyhock family…Thus the pretty hibiscus blooms prior to the boll formation. Cotton is one of the most fascinating plants to grow. I bought my original brown cotton plant in an old timey hardware store several years ago. It never fails to thrill me to watch the growing process of this amazing plant! By the way, I spent over two hours in the field picking white cotton, and never felt any discomfort at all. Removing the seed from the boll is simple. The cotton is fluffy soft, so just feel for the seeds and gently pull them away from the boll. You can then easily reshape the boll back to a seemingly normal boll as if the seeds had never been removed.

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