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Growing Cotton in the Home Landscape
For those with enough gardening space available cotton is a good choice for the landscape. Here are details on growing cotton.
Cotton belongs to the mallow family, which means it is related to the common hollyhock. These are stiff growing plants. If grown in warm climates, they can be perennials or even trees and shrubs. The large leaves are lobed. The fruits are capsules. These split when they ripen. They often contain up to 50 seeds or so. These plants bloom for a very long time beginning usually in May or so. They can continue flowering until a killing frost hits in the fall.
Planting time depends upon your location. But is often done between March 1st and June 1st. Early planted crops can begin flowering by May.
In warm climates direct sow the seeds where they’re to grow. For areas with late spring frosts, gardeners should start the seeds indoors. This is especially important if you have a short growing season. Transplant cotton to the outdoors after the danger of frost has past. Keep the seed flats at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds should begin germinating in about one to three weeks.
In the garden allow about 1˝ to 2˝ feet between plants and five feet between the rows. This gives you plenty of room when it comes time to harvest the bolls.
Cotton is limited to warm climates. It grows from sea level to around 3000 feet above sea level. A warm, uniform temperature is needed during the growing season. This crop requires a long growing season of 200 days or so. Lots of sun is needed.
Though the plants can tolerate drought, the crop will need three to four inches of rain per month when actively growing. Heavy rains can harm the crop if it occurs during the wrong period. However, the plants need enough water during their growth. Dry weather is preferred during the flowering season and harvest.
When preparing the soil for planting, it generally isn’t necessary to plow or till deeply as the roots are near the surface. In the U.S., this is grown in the Cotton Belt, which stretches from the Atlantic Seaboard to the northwest corner of Texas. It is also grown in the Southwest and California under irrigation.
Pests and Diseases of Cotton
Though cotton is attacked by many diseases and pests, the boll weevil proved to be the worst. It arrived in Texas from Mexico during the 1860s. It gradually moved east into the Cotton Belt. The weevil was in evidence in the 1920’s, and did extensive damage. Despite efforts to eradicate this pest, there is no way to completely eliminate it. Instead, growers have adopted cultural controls. Pesticides help to limit the insect’s damage. Some cotton species are more prone to boll weevil damage than others.
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