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No Dye Needed With Colored Cotton
If you want naturally colored cotton, you’ll probably have to grow your own. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) has the seed. The colors range from shades of green and tan to golden brown.
  “Most of our customers for colored cotton are traditional spinners and weavers or people working with schools and historical gardens to educate young people,” says Ira Wallace, SESE.
  Colored cotton is relatively rare in the U.S., although it is still grown in South America where it originated. One problem with it is the fiber or staple length is shorter than conventional white cotton, making it unsuitable for mechanized spinning.
  “Some spinners will mix it with wool for a blend to make spinning easier,” says Wallace. “I made a very small dish cloth with some we raised. It took so long that I’m glad I wasn’t living when you had to work with it.”
  One of the heritage cotton seeds offered by SESE is Red Foliated White Cotton. While the mature cotton in the boll is white, the plant stems, leaves and boll are dark red.
  “It is our favorite as an ornamental,” says Wallace. “It can be grown as a hedge, as it is much fuller than other varieties that are taller and rangier.”
  SESE also offers Arkansas Green Lint cotton with very dark seeds and short soft light green fibers. It has yellow pink flowers, which Wallace suggests using in floral arrangements.
  Erlene’s Green cotton is a family heirloom from Texas, named for Erlene Melancon, who spun it for years and recalled her grandmother using it to make quilts. The light olive green fibers can be spun off the seed.
  Mississippi Brown originated on a plantation near Natchez, Miss. It is a drought tolerant variety with 5-ft. tall plants and light tan to golden brown fibers.
  Sea Island Brown has a longer fiber than other browns, grows 5 to 6 ft. tall and has “naked seeds” that separate from the lint easily.
  Cotton needs a long hot season. Wallace advises that north of Virginia or Maryland, it needs to be started inside. “Transplant 4 to 6-in. seedlings into soils with good organic matter and moderate nutrients,” she says. “You don’t want too much nitrogen or you’ll get all leaves and no bolls.”
  Wallace, author of Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, also recommends using plastic or landscape cloth to warm the soil for northern planting.
  SESE sells packets of 16 to 20 seeds for $4.80. Customers are warned that the seed cannot be shipped to Georgia, South Carolina or California due to state restrictions on colored cotton.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, P.O. Box 460, Mineral, Va. 23117 (ph 540-894-9480; gardens@southernexposure.com; www.southernexposure.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #1