Friday, 14 December 2012

More on the Cotton Experiment

 When I brought the cotton plants indoors at the end of the summer, they had both been in a small, south facing room.  It gets a lot of sunshine but it is hardly heated at all, so gets quite cold in the winter.  Cotton likes hot weather, so I had moved one plant to the warmer room, which gets a little less sunshine as a comparative experiment.  It was a short lived experiment as the kitten decided it was an exciting new toy.  I woke up one morning to find the poor cotton plant strewn around the living room.

  However, the two bolls had just started to open, so I let them dry out.   This is as far as they got.   Finally, I actually noticed that the outer husks were dry and hard. Last night I cracked them off and had this tiny handful of fibres.    I brought them to my spinning wheel and tried to spin them off the seed.  I've done that before and it's actually quite an easy way to spin cotton bolls.  You just set up the wheel with a really fast whorl and loosen the brake tension so it just draws in a bit.  This allows lots of twist into the cotton fibres.  The fact that they're attached to the seed slows down the whole process and it's really one of those miraculous "aha" sort of moments.

I wasn't sure how my  cotton was going to spin.  It was obviously not quite like what you see in the photos of fully developed bolls.  It was very soft, softer than the cotton I have been spinning.  However, a lot of it was shorter than short.  Despite lots of twist, there were places it would just fall apart when you looked at it.   Nothing worth saving from this bunch, just a rather huge volume of seeds for such a small amount of cotton.

There is still one plant left.  It is green cotton.  I know that as there was only one white cotton seedling when I planted them.   The one boll on it that survived is getting huge.  It should be opening soon or I hope since it's been there for almost 4 months.  The plant has a bunch of new buds about to develop.   The current quest is to find out if they can be hand pollinated or do they have to have wind or bees?  From what I've read, cotton has a rather short window of opportunity for pollination.  I can try to simulate the wind with a fan, or use a little paint brush to pollinate but can't do the bee thing in late December or January  around here!
You'd think that this might be classified as a failure and I'd figure that growing cotton in the Great White North is not going to happen.  However, I've already got some ideas to try for next summer.  It will never be a big crop, but having enough cotton bolls of my own would be rather fun.


Woolly Bits said...

at least your plants flowered and cropped - if only very little:) mine died despite being in a glasshouse - it was just too cool and damp during the summer - and too cold in the glasshouse:( I think cotton is not a crop I need to contemplate further over here in ireland:)
good luck for next year though!

Leigh said...

Never a failure if you learn something or are inspired by it! Obviously you were so it will be interesting to see how your next try works out.