Picking Ornamental Cotton – How Do You Harvest Homegrown Cotton?
Cotton is one of the most popular fabric in the world. It was used as a textile since ancient times. Its name comes from its color which ranges from white to black or dark brown. The fiber itself consists of two types: the seed coat and the kernel (the actual fiber). Seeds are tiny seeds that resemble grains of rice. They contain a single layer of cells called a “seedshell”. These seeds are usually enclosed in a tough protective coating called husk. Seeds have no flavor, but they provide nourishment for other plants.
The seeds are dispersed through wind and water, so the best way to get them is to pick them yourself! Cotton seedlings require lots of sunlight and moisture during their early growth stage. If these conditions aren’t met, the seeds will not germinate and the crop won’t produce enough seedlings to continue growing.
Once the cotton plant reaches maturity, it produces large quantities of seeds. Each year thousands of new plants are produced. Because each plant contains only one set of chromosomes (two sets), there is a limited number of different varieties that can be grown from any given variety.
The cotton plant grows as a shrub with extended branched stems that can grow up to 15 feet high. Each branch is terminated by a tuft of leaves and a bunch of stalk, which carries the white or pale blue flowers. Each flower consists of a hollow stem, called a “tube”, surrounded by a series of overlapping scales in concentric rings, called “sepal whorls”. The flower bears the cotton boll, which consists of the seeds, covered by a layer of white fluffy hairs.
Cotton plants are not very demanding of cultivation needs, but they need loose soil for good water drainage and they must be cultivated. When grown in the open, the crop should be thinned out as the plants develop to ensure that they do not shade each other. In addition, farmers cut their leaves to prevent the plants from “burning” in the sun and to keep them free from parasites. This can be done using a lawn mower or a special machine.
When is cotton harvested?
When it comes to cotton plants, you can pick the cotton in three stages:
The first picking happens at the beginning of summer, when the fluffy white bolls are mature enough to be picked and opened. At this time, the seeds are plump and light, and the best harvest is expected.
The second picking comes just before the bolls open and release their fluffy white seeds. At this point, the cotton is long and strong, which makes it perfect for spinning into yarns and weaving into cloth.
The third and final picking takes place when the seeds begin to darken and grow brittle. The plant will continue to grow a bit longer, the leaves becoming red and orange as the temperature drops.
You can save the seeds of the cotton plants that you grow, but you will not harvest as many as you plant. Each seed pod contains three to five seeds, which are covered with downy hairs. Once all the fluffy hairs have been stripped from the seeds, they must be dried in the sun and stored in a dry place until you’re ready to plant them.
Sources & references used in this article:
Governing cotton: globalization and poverty in Africa by A Sneyd – 2011 – books.google.com
Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability, and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in India by A Flachs – 2019 – books.google.com
A Long Row to Hoe: Black Sharecroppers in North Carolina, 1865-1965 by B Johnson – 2020 – search.proquest.com
A Weaver’s Garden: growing plants for natural dyes and fibers by R Buchanan – 1999 – books.google.com
Historic Relationships Between Cotton and Poverty by A Sneyd – Governing Cotton, 2011 – Springer
Sweetgrass baskets and the Gullah tradition by JV Coakley – 2005 – books.google.com
The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by I Soler – 2011 – books.google.com
Community gardening in Philadelphia: 2008 harvest report by D Vitiello, M Nairn, P Planning – Penn Planning and …, 2009 – millcreekurbanfarm.org