How to grow Tobacco, maintain Tobacco Plants and how to harvest and cure tobacco. Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is one of more than 60 species in the genus Nicotiana. The tobacco plant is a member of the Solanaceae family which also includes plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplants.
There are many different types of tobacco plants, such as Brightleaf Tobacco (Golden Virginia), Flue-cured tobacco, Air-cured tobacco, Burley tobacco and Oriental tobacco.
How to grow Tobacco Plants from seed
- Tobacco seeds are very small and require light to germinate.
- Place commercial seedling comarticle into a tray and soak the soil with water and allow the excess water to drain off.
- Sprinkle the tobacco seeds onto the surface of the damp soil.
- Do not cover the seeds, as they need light for germination.
- Tobacco seeds are very tiny, so be careful to spread the seeds as evenly as possible.
- Keep the soil damp by watering from below or use a mist sprayer.
- Start the seeds 4-6 weeks before the last frost, making sure they are kept warm during this period and not allowed to dry out.
- Germination should take a about 7 – 14 days if you start the seeds indoors in warm spot.
- At lower temperatures, the germination takes a few days longer.
- Seedlings are ready to be transplanted into bigger pots, when the leaves are about 1cm in length.
- Plant outside after all danger of frost is past. Care should be taken not to disturb the roots.
- Tobacco plants need to be planted in moderately acidic soil, otherwise they won’t flourish. The soil itself should have a pH of 5.8.
- Feed should only be given to established and rapidly growing plants after they have been replanted and should be stopped once they flower.
- Tobacco requires a lot of nitrogen and potash, which can be supplied using standard garden fertilizer.
- Ideally, space the tobacco plants about 2 ft. apart in rows 3 ft. apart.
- Water plants thoroughly after transplanting and water daily until plants become established.
- Tobacco is ready to be harvest after 60-90 days after germinating.
Maintaining Tobacco plants
- It will take about 2 weeks to establish in the ground, after transplanting the seedling into the garden.
- Apply a low-chlorine fertilizer which only contains nitrogen in nitrate form. Fertilizers used for tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes are also suitable.
- From the third week after transplanting, the tobacco plant grows very fast and flowers start to appear when the plant has been in the ground for about two months.
- Stop giving fertilizer when the plant starts flowering.
- During this period of fast growth, the plants need to be kept well watered and you should remove the flower head and the top 4 leaves, so that the plant can spend its energy and nutrients on growing big leaves instead of flowers.
- When you remove the flower head, side branches (suckers, offshoots) will start growing. These should also be removed to focus the plants energy on growing large leaves.
- Tobacco plants generally require full sun to grow properly.
- Keep the area around the plants weed free.
- Spray your plants with tobacco-specific pesticides if you notice pests or rot.
- The tobacco plants should be ready for harvest about 3 – 5 months after planting.
- You can opt to cut the whole plant at the base of the stem, or you can harvest the leaves from the plant at intervals of 1 – 2 weeks.
- If harvesting directly from the plant, then you start by harvesting the lower leaves first.
- The first harvest should start soon after topping the flower head and when the leaves show a slight yellowing.
There are 4 methods of curing tobacco leaves, as detailed below, but for the purpose of this article the air-curing method is discussed in greater detail, as it is the tobacco curing method most often used by individuals who grow tobacco at home for their own consumption.
- Air-curing: The tobacco is hung in an unheated, ventilated space to dry naturally until the leaf reaches a light to medium brown color.
- Flue-curing: Heat is introduced into the room where the curing takes place. The heat turns the leaves a yellow or orange color.
- Sun-curing : The tobacco leaves are spread out on racks and placed in direct sunlight for 12-30 days. This process is repeated twice. Sun cured tobacco leaves become a yellow to orange color.
- Fire-curing: The tobacco is hung in a curing area where fires of hardwoods are kept on continuous or intermittent low smoulder. Curing takes between three days and ten weeks, depending on the process and the tobacco.
How to Air-cure Tobacco
- Hang your harvested tobacco leaves in a well-ventilated, hot, and humid area of 18 Degrees Celsius and upwards.
- The tobacco leaves need to be dried and cured for 2 months, so make sure that the area where you hang the leaves is well ventilated.
- Once the leaves are properly cured, you can grind them up for use as a smoking tobacco.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment offered by healthcare professionals.