Growing cotton in your backyard won’t be as simple as it’s with the rest of the plants. Firstly, because it’s not legal in all states. So, if you’re living in a state where that’s the case, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is: ‘Can I grow cotton in my backyard?’ Well, you’ll find out down below.
Additionally, the cotton has specific requirements to germinate and thrive, making it tricky to manage. Therefore, to get the best of the cotton plant you’re growing on your own, we’ve dug deep enough to provide you with all the information you need.
Growing Cotton in Your Backyard for Non-commercial Use
Growing cotton in your backyard isn’t legal in states that consider it a cash crop because of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program. Therefore, once you decide to grow a cotton plant on your own for non-commercial purposes, you must receive prior permission from the state Department of Agriculture. And here’s why.
What Is a Boll Weevil?
Historically, a brownish-gray beetle known as the boll weevil, whose length ranges from 1/8 to ½ inch, with a long snout, has been the most destructive pest for cotton.
It causes damage by feeding on cotton buds or laying eggs inside the cotton bolls and squares and can destroy the whole crop into the bargain. Since the pests will develop fully in less than 3 weeks, up to 7 generations can be produced yearly.
The Boll Weevil Eradication Program, sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, is a program meant to eliminate the boll weevil and keep the cotton-growing areas in the United States pest-free.
How to Grow Cotton in Your Backyard
Before sowing cotton seed in your backyard, you should have in mind that many factors affect the plant germination. Thus, to robust vegetative growth, we’ll help you get a better understanding of what requirements the plant has and how they influence cotton production. You will need some equipment, such as a fertilizer spreader and some sprinklers.
[alert style=”info”]Note: The seed should be planted 1 to 2 ½ inches deep into the soil. When planting, make sure the ground is tilled or plowed deeply so the roots can grow as deep as possible.[/alert]
When you’re living outside warmer areas, an abundance of a cotton plant in your neighbors’ garden is probably something you’ve never seen. Cotton is a perennial plant; however, since it can’t withstand below-freezing temperatures, it’s grown like an annual. Therefore, the temperature influences its growth, quality, and the length of the growing season greatly.
Being heat-tolerant, cotton requires plenty of sunlight, dry conditions, and heat to achieve maximum production. Since the growing season lasts about 5 months, the plant requires heat during the whole period to reach maturity. It does its best when the temperatures are between 18°C and 30°C. On the other hand, frosts will cease the plant development, or will even kill it.
Growing Cotton in Colder Areas
Since the cotton requires heat, once you grow it in colder areas, you better plant it inside, following the steps below:
- Take a 6-inch pot
- Fill it with soil, leaving a few inches at the top
- Plant a few cotton seeds, cover them with soil, then water
- Place the pot in a spot reached by sunlight
- Water the plant once a week
- When the seedlings sprout, leave the best ones in the pot and remove the others (or replant them.)
- Once the cotton is about to flower, either move it outside if it’s warm enough or keep it inside, but in a bigger pot, 12 inches at least.
[alert style=”info”]Note: Make sure the soil temperature is 60F or higher before planting, so the seeds germinate properly. Otherwise, they’ll rot.[/alert]
For maximizing cotton yield it’s essential to provide the plants with adequate nutrients. If there’s a deficiency of nutrient uptake at the early stages, it can result in loss of produce. The nutrients most frequently applied in cotton production are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nitrogen is essential for cotton growth. Its deficiency can reduce the quality of the fiber, the size of the leaf, fruit retention, and the number of fruiting nodes. On the other hand, an excessive amount of nitrogen can cause excessive vegetative growth, increase the chance for pest infestation, lower the quality of the fiber, decrease boll retention, and contaminate the water. That’s why you should accurately predict the amount of nitrogen the crop needs, which is related to the yield goal of the field. The recommended amount is 50 lbs of nitrogen per expected bale of lint, which is appropriate for most soils.
The deficiency of phosphorus in the soil is a limiting factor for cotton growth and development. Phosphorus fertilizer application is important for cell division, root and boll development, photosynthesis, and transfer of energy. The required amount of phosphorus per bale of cotton is about 25-30 lbs.
Potassium is important for the transport of water in the cotton plant and water uptake. Also, it’s required for seed development, for photosynthesis since it affects the leaf growth and carbon dioxide assimilation. The fiber length and quality also depend on the potassium amount in the soil. On the other hand, its deficiency can lead to premature defloration, tissue death, as well as hurting the fiber development. The required potassium amount by cotton is from 6 to 11 lbs per hectare per day, while about 44 lbs are needed to produce one bale of cotton fiber.
The cotton plant requires about 5000 to 8000 m3 of water during the season for normal growth and development, as well as to achieve high yield. However, it has different water requirements during each stage of its growth.
For instance, before flowering, it needs about 700-800 m3 per hectare. Once it’s in the flowering phase, the amount of water the plant needs increases from 800 up to 1000 m3. And finally, during ripening, it needs 600-700 m3 of water per hectare. Water deficiency can have adverse effects on cotton growth and production.
Can You Grow Cotton in Your Backyard FAQs
When cotton is grown as a cash crop, the seeds are usually sown in mid-March and the plant finishes its growth by the end of June. It’s commercially cultivated mostly in southern states, where the plant has perfect conditions for continual development under the hot temperatures.
Cotton is usually grown in areas with a warm climate since it requires heat during the whole growing season, which is about 5 months. However, even if it’s a colder area you’re living in, you can still grow cotton on your own. If this is the case, make sure to plant it in a pot and keep it inside until the weather is warm enough to move the cotton plant in your backyard.
When sowing the cotton seeds, prepare the ground in the first place. Till it and plow it deeply. Then, make sure the soil temperature is at least 60F, so the seeds don’t rot. Plant groups of 3 seeds 1 to 2 ½ inches deep into the soil, leaving 4 inches between them. Cover the seeds with soil, and finally, water them so the moisture reaches a depth of at least 6 inches.