My cotton harvest: Three pods and tons of fun

Planting seed of green and brown cotton, the gardener wasn't expecting a huge harvest. But the 3 bolls she picked were such fun, she plans to try again next year.

Courtesy of Donna Williamson
Green cotton is an interesting crop for a home gardener to grow, especially if he or she also spins natural fibers.
Courtesy of Donna Williamson
The cotton seeds have to be teased out of the fiber, a time-consuming job that makes it clear why the invention of the cotton gin was a big step forward in the production of this fiber.

During one of our abundant snowstorms last winter, I found a source for organic brown and green cotton seed.

I am a spinner of wool and, once, silk. Fibers such as wool, silk, flax (linen), and cotton are fascinating to me. Cotton makes me think of warm weather, hibiscus-like flowers, and steamy, sunny days!

My cotton-growing adventure

So I started the cotton seed early and planted it out in a fat and deep container. Now my cotton is beginning to pop. I wasn’t sure it would ripen before a big freeze but when I returned home this afternoon, three pods -- bolls -- had opened.

The cotton is glossy, soft, and slightly green, and the seeds held inside are full size and ripe. My friend Kathy took over growing the brown cotton so the green and brown would not cross-pollinate and we could get true seed for planting next year.

Unfortunately, her husband mowed them down in a fit of tidiness. She kept the pods and is hoping the seed will ripen.

Harvest time

On top in the second photo you can see the compressed cotton as it emerges from the seedhead. Then you can see the fluffy cotton and the seeds I teased out of the cotton fibers. That small exercise makes one appreciate the invention of the cotton gin – I cannot imagine how hard it was in the past to collect and gin tons of cotton.

This winter, you may want to think about plants you haven’t grown before and have as much fun as I do.


Donna Williamson blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. To read more by Donna, click here.

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