How to Grow and Harvest Tobacco
Tobacco is relatively easy to grow however the seeds and seedlings require some special care. Tobacco is very useful for gardeners that want to produce their own tobacco for consumption, make organic pesticides or just grow beautiful ornamental plants.
There are two broad classifications of tobacco seed
- Oven Cured, used almost exclusively for manufacture of cigarettes, the typical Virginia Style tobacco’s
- Air cured used for cigarette manufacturing and pipe or chewing tobacco, the typical Burley style tobacco
For consumption we recommend that home gardeners must plant both types and mix these, however due to the relative ease and broad application of air cured tobacco it is best to plant at least a Burley type.
Tobacco seed is extremely fine and special care is required for germination. Tobacco is a summer crop, however can be started indoors during winter to transplant early in spring for a quick harvest. It’s a good idea to start tobacco seeds in winter and do some follow up planting again in spring and early summer for an extended harvest.
Tobacco seed germinate at 24 to 27 degrees Celsius and therefore, if you do start these indoors during winter you need to give it extra heat:
- Some people swear by putting seed trays on a top of a fridge or freezer it gets enough heat from the external elements to germinate, we don’t particularly subscribe to this since our own experience with this is that it works only now and again.
- A heat mat as is used by reptile keepers and available from most pet shops works very good when placed under your seed tray. Normally these are only big enough for one seed tray so if you want to germinate a lot of seeds you will need a few of these.
- At Glen Seeds our preference for germinating seeds during winter is using electric blankets. We cover these with strong plastic and place our seed trays op top.
You require a rich and structurally strong germination medium in your seed trays. The fine seeds can easily wash out or move around which will end up with dismal results. Many people mix at least a third of river sand into the soil to prevent washing out of seeds.
At Glen seeds we use Lumbricus worm castings to germinate all out seeds in, the mix just works perfect and although it does not contain any sand it has a perfect structure keeping seeds, especially fine seed like tobacco seed in tact.
Cover seeds very lightly and keep moist with a spray bottle or use an old 2 liter coke bottle with holes in the cap as a watering bottle. (The vacuum that forms in the bottle ensure water does not gush out and wash away your tiny seeds)
Some resources suggest one should not cover tobacco seed since they require light to germinate, we do not agree with this, we never had any success with such approach.
Seed should germinate n around 10 days but can sometimes take up to 20 days. After your seeds germinated make sure the seed trays stay moist and are in a sunny spot.
The plants are initially really small however grows quick. Transplant into larger pots when they are 4 to 5 cm high to keep indoors if it is still frosty outside, transplant outside into their permanent spot only when you are sure there is no more frost.
Soil Preparation and feeding
Tobacco will benefit from rich loose soil. Burley types require generally richer soil than for instance a Virginia type.
Since we grow everything at Glen Seeds organically according to perma culture principles, we cant give much advice on chemical fertilizing, however we add compost and manure to the soil and generously cover the soil around the plants with mulch. Our yields are exceptionally high by following these basics.
Days to harvest
From Transplant approximately 100 days.
- Days to harvest is based on typical good growing conditions and can sometimes vary dependent on climate, state of soil, in some instances day length as well as the climate for the area in South Africa where you reside.
- The specific plant might have characteristic that falls out of the typical type norm.
- Days to harvest are counted from germination or seedling transplant date whichever is the latest.
Tobacco leaves are harvested from the bottom just as the leaves start to yellow.
To extend the harvest time cut of any flower buds as and when they appear
Curing of Crop
A number of brilliant resources are available on the internet in terms of curing and processing your tobacco harvest. We will touch on the basics here:
Burley tobacco is the easiest of all tobaccos to cure and can be done by hanging the leaves out of direct sunlight and protected from rain in a well ventilated spot. The process takes anything from three to 9 weeks dependent on conditions. The end product must be dry but leathery.
Virginia / pure cigarette types are a bit more tricky, we will update this section with good tips very soon.
Click here to view which Tobacco Seeds are available to you now.