In an attempt to reduce my need to hand water & weed, I decided to try weed barrier cloth for the first time. This plan worked beautifully for about the first month. After that, the cloths began to break down. Some areas broke down more quickly than others, while some actually did the job all the way until the end although they ended up very brittle. None of the cloths blocked 100% of the light, so weeds did manage to grow, but not like they would have if the soil was left uncovered. They didn't help with moisture retention as much as I'd hoped, but they did work well enough that I only had to water well & daily the initial first two weeks after transplanting. The types of weed barrier cloth I experimented with were all locally purchased. One was a black plastic type from Walmart (apologies, I do not remember the brand), the other two were more of a black type of fabric. They were from Lowe's. One of the Lowe's brand cloths was much larger. I used it to cover the compost pile over the summer & to cover a section where I had zucchini planted. It let in an incredible amount of light considering I doubled it up. The more narrow fabric cloth (Sta-Green Premium Landscape Fabric) did a better job but broke down the most quickly out of all three types. I'm currently experimenting with a different brand that I ordered off of amazon for garlic. It is a 12 year fabric by Dewitt. So far it is holding up.
The immature plants tend to host a generous amount of aphids with their happy ant farmers keeping them well cared for. To deal with the aphids, I use natural & organic neem oil. I rub the thick oil on the plants spindly stems & on the leaves, crushing aphids in the process. When I'm done I stink like neem, but it's worth it as it helps to keep the ants off the plants (bugs hate neem) & thereby the ants aren't farming the aphids for their sweet nectar. Once the plants are established I do not concern myself further with aphids. The plants do get them, but it isn't anything that has ever caused a problem with any of my cotton harvests so far.
Cotton is an annual plant that requires a long, warm growing season to mature properly. It 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 20–32" inches apart in rows 6' feet 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 5-7' feet tall.
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.
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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