It’s official. I grew Alabama cotton in my Illinois home garden. Yesterday, as I watered my containers with an enthusiasm muted by the summer garden’s slow decline, I noticed the first white puff burst forth from its boll. I’m certainly not the first person to successfully grow this southern crop in northern climes, but a sense of accomplishment spread across my face as my fingers felt the softness of the cotton. I can’t take a great deal of credit for the success. Although I was sure to give it regular water, our lengthy, warmer-than-normal summer likely had more to do with the cotton’s success than my efforts.
If current environmental trends continue, central Illinois may feel more like Texas in 20-30 years. Then, when I’m in the late stages of my gardening life, perhaps Illinois cotton will be as well know as corn and soybeans. But this year, I can take pride in breaking conventional wisdom to enjoy the beauty of this southern staple.