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°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 5–6 ft. tall.
120 days. Staple length is short.
Direct Sowing: Sow seed in a light, well drained, slightly acid to neutral soil. Supply soil generously with compost or other organic matter, especially in clay. Sow no deeper than 2 - 4 times the seed diameter. Do not sow in waterlogged soil or heavy clay.
Transplanting: Use a good quality sterile seed starting mix. Sow pots or flats 4 - 8 weeks before transplanting. When several leaves have developed, harden off the seedlings by placing them outdoors in direct sunlight for no more than an hour. Gradually increase the outdoor exposure over a period of several days. Transplant to the garden after the last frost.
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.
"Conventional cotton is considered the world's 'dirtiest' crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Conventional cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop.
Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production.
All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous.
Aldicarb, conventional cotton's second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater." - Organic Trade Association
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