Cotton Growing Guide

Arkansas Green Lint Cotton

Gossypium hirsutum

We cannot ship cotton to Georgia, South Carolina, or California.

History: Naturally colored cottons were grown by slaves prior to the Civil War. In many instances, slaves on plantations were not permitted to grow the white cotton of their masters. Brown cotton was the most commonly grown, but there are other naturally colored cottons such as green, blue, yellow, and pink, and they all have their own subtle beauty. These heirloom cottons are now difficult to find. They have fallen out of favor because the fibers are shorter and not as suitable for spinning and dyeing as modern white cotton. With naturally colored cottons now quite rare, we are attempting to locate and preserve other authentic heirloom varieties.

Note: Everyone should grow and harvest a long row of cotton at least once in their lifetime so as to understand what slaves had to endure while harvesting cotton. The bolls are borne on the plant at a back-bending level, and they are sharp. Plucking cotton from numerous bolls hurts the hands. Imagine doing this all day.

How to Grow: Cotton is an annual plant that requires a long, warm growing season to mature properly. Needs full sun. In zones 8-10 it can be sown directly after the last frost. In zones 5-7, treat like tomatoes, start seed indoors and transplant out 4-8 week-old seedlings after last frost. Seed germinates in 7-21 days at 70 degrees F. Plant 18-30 in. apart in rows 5 ft. apart. Plants start flowering in mid-summer. Bolls take a few more months to mature; warm late summer weather is necessary for a good crop. Plants grow to 3-7 ft. tall.

Harvest: wait for bolls to split open before harvesting.

Seed Savers: Isolate varieties by 1/8 mile for home use, or 1/4 to 1/2 mile or greater for pure seed.

Virginia gardeners must acquire a permit to grow cotton. For more information, contact your nearest extension agent.

Cotton varieties

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