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Past Articles Library | How to Grow Two Old Fashion Plants-Cotton and Broomcorn

Nothing beats growing something with a long history, which includes plants such as cotton and broomcorn.  Both of these plants have helped us to live a “modern life.”  While you may feel that you cannot grow cotton or broom corn in your home garden, you will be surprised to find out that you really can. 

To begin our journey, let’s first take a look at how to grow cotton.  Believe it or not, cotton is actually a perennial plant but it is grown as an annual due to the fact that it cannot take cold temperatures.  Another limiting factor for cotton is the fact that it requires four to five months of warm, sunny weather.  Ok, I know what you are thinking know.  I do not live in the south and in doing so I cannot grow cotton.  If you do not live in an ideal environment, do not worry you can still grow cotton.  How you may ask?  Well, believe it or not you can grow cotton indoors.

Growing Cotton Indoors

To begin the planting process for indoor cultivation of cotton starts with mixing up equal parts of an all purpose potting soil and well seasoned compost.  Once that has been completed, take several 4 inch peat pots and fill with the soil and compost mix.  Gently tap the peat pots on a hard surface to settle the soil and remove any air bubbles.

The next step of the process is to plant the seeds.  Cotton seeds need to be planted ½ to 1 inch deep and you need to plant them 3 to a pot.  The reason for this is the fact that it does not waste any of the containers when you remove the weak seedlings. 

Once all the seeds have been planted, the next step is to water in the seeds.  The easiest way to do this is to place the peat pots in a tray and fill the tray with water.  The peat pots will absorb the water and moisten soil all at the same time.

Add additional water as needed until the peat pots will no longer pick up water.  After that has happened, drain off the water and place the planted peat pots on a sunny windowsill. 

Continue to monitor soil moisture and water accordingly.  If conditions are right, you should begin to see your cotton seeds germinating in 7 to 14 days.

After the seeds have germinated, select the best seedling out of each pot.  Do not bother to pull out the weak plants.  The best approach is to simply cut them out of the peat pot.

Carry on with monitoring the soil moisture until the cotton plants outgrow the 4 inch peat pots.  Once that has happened, you are ready to move the plants to a new home but you will not be doing a traditional transplant. 

The best approach is to cut the bottoms off the peat pots and plant them in a 12 inch pot that has been cleaned and sterilized.  Once the container has been cleaned, fill it with a loam soil and compost planting medium.  After the 12 inch pot is filled with the planting medium, place one peat pot inside the 12 inch container.  Repeat the process for all the peat pots.

Begin to expose your cotton plants to the outdoors as soon as the daytime temperatures reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.  When temperatures drop below the 65 degree Fahrenheit mark, move them back indoors.

Water your cotton plants two to three times a week and feed once a week with a tomato or rose formulated fertilizer.

You will begin to see blooms 45 days from the time you planted your seed.  These blooms will be bright yellow.  In 130 to 150 days from sowing, you will have cotton.   

Growing Cotton Outdoors

To grow your cotton outside in the garden starts with preparing the garden site.  The first step of this process is to remove the weeds and work the soil down 4 inches.  Since cotton is a heavy feeder, you will need to work in a good amount of compost into the garden space.  The next step is to plant the seed at the correct time.  You want to make sure that you are past your local frost free date and that the soil itself has warmed up to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Once these conditions have been met, pull out your ruler and mark off every 6 inches with powdered milk.  At each marked spot, plant 3 seeds 1 inch deep.

In 7 to 14 days, you will see evidence of seed germination.  At that point, select the healthiest from each group.  Water the plants, every 7 days. 

To help the cotton seedpods or bolls to open, stop watering 16 to 18 weeks after you have sowed the seed.  This will allow the plant to dry up and trigger the bolls to naturally open up.

Growing Broomcorn

 While you may have never heard of broomcorn, believe it or not it is not even corn.  Broom corn is actually a type of sorghum that is used to make brooms.  This plant can be labeled as an annual grass that comes in three different types.  The first variety is referred to as standard and can be found growing to a height between 6 to 15 feet.  The second type is called Western Dwarf and can grow between 4 to 7 feet in height.  The last variety is Whisk Dwarf Broomcorn, which grows to a height between 2 ½ to 4 feet.

The planting process for broomcorn starts off with soil preparation.  It will need to be tilled deep.  To meet the fertilizer requirement of this plant, incorporate a large amount of well seasoned manure or compost into the prepared garden prior to planting. 

Once the garden space has been prepared, the next step is to mark off the garden with powdered milk.  The first step of this process is to create your rows, which need to be 36 inches apart.  Next, mark every 3 inches on the rows.  These latter marks will be where you plant your seed.

As you place your seed in the indicated locations, cover with ¼ inch of soil. 

After all seed has been planted, spray the soil with water until evenly moist. 

In 7 to 14 days, you should begin to see little green dots of growth.  Since you will have bare soil exposed, you may find that you have a weed problem.  Do not worry about this issue.  Simply pull up the weeds from the garden space so that they do not take over the broomcorn seedlings.  After the plants get some size on them, they will smoother the weeds out.


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