Growing Tobacco | Growing Tobacco at Home is Easy
Tobacco plants can be quite beautiful. Even if you don’t approve of smoking tobacco or using it in any form, you can still grow a tobacco plant for ornamental purposes in your garden. Since most varieties of tobacco plants have large attractive flowers and nice green foliage, you will probably receive quite a few comments on it from neighbors and people passing by. My grandfather kept a garden for many years and during that time he grew only one tobacco plant which easily received the most compliments out of everything in his garden.
Growing Tobacco – Tobacco Characteristics
One of the qualities that make tobacco plants (members of the Nightshade family) so unique is that their size and characteristics will vary according to the climate and type of soil in which they are grown. Or in other words, wherever you decide to grow your tobacco plant will greatly affect how it looks; and the differences between the same plant grown in two different regions can be quite dramatic. For example, the commercial plant known as nicotiana tobacum will ripen to a yellow color when grown in the sandy soil of Virginia, yet the same variety when planted in the black soil of Louisiana will mature to a dark brown color. The size of the plant also varies from two to seven feet depending upon its environment.
Growing tobacco is not difficult, but the plants will require a little extra care at the beginning. Because tobacco seeds are very small, you will need to keep them covered up and indoors for the first eight to ten days. Start them about five weeks before the final frost, and use a seed tray with a soil mixture of half potting soil and half peat humus. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the soil (moistening it first) without covering them up since they will need a lot of light. Next, place them in a cupboard having a constant temperature of 70 to 80 degrees. After about eight to ten days you should see them sprout. Next, keep them indoors but put them somewhere with a lower temperature of around 55 degrees. A few more weeks and they will be ready for replanting outside, but make sure they are put in thoroughly cultivated and fertilized soil – if your soil is full of clay you will need to add some peat moss. Keep plants spaced about two feet apart and give them lots of water since tobacco plants are always thirsty. Once outside your plants will do best if they have a lot of nitrogen and potash. Wood ashes and charcoal grill ashes are good sources of this. (There are usually easy-to-follow planting directions on the back of every package of tobacco seeds.)
Growing Tobacco – Diseases
Tobacco plants are susceptible to a few diseases such as root rot and mosaic disease, but as far as insects go, usually the sphinx moth will be its only pest. This moth (also known as the “hawk moth” or “tobacco worm”) while in its caterpillar stage is green with white diagonal stripes and has a hornlike tail. Hand picking is the safest way to remove these pests. Use pliers or gloves if you don’t want to touch them. And if you want to make a caterpillar ‘gas chamber,’ simply put the caterpillars in a jar, pour in some rubbing alcohol, and screw on the lid. Cruel but effective! Sevin dust is your best bet for fighting any insects. But if you plan on curing and using the tobacco, never use insecticides that will penetrate the surface area of the plant.
Growing Tobacco – Insects
Tobacco’s resistance to most insects makes the plant a natural insect repellent (with the Mountain Tobacco variety generally considered to be the most effective). At the end of the season you can cut the stalk off above the root system and save the leaves to soak in water. Use this water to spray down your other plants to repel any insects. Then the next season a new stalk will grow from the root system.
If you want to grow tobacco to make your own cigarettes or pipe tobacco, you should have an area at least 24 feet by 3 feet. This will be enough to grow approximately fifty tobacco plants, which will allow you to make about 5000 or more cigarettes. (But remember that smoking is hazardous to your health and we do not recommend it ;).
1. Make sure your area isn’t too cold for tobacco. It will grow fine in hotter climates, but too much cold will kill the plants.
2. If you are mainly looking for ornamental tobacco plants, the Jasmine Tobacco and the Rose Tobacco varieties grow especially large and attractive flowers.
3. Watch your hoe around the bottoms of tobacco plants since the roots do not grow deep in the ground.
Growing tobacco plants is quite fun since the process can be seen as an experiment to determine what kind of plant you will receive from your soil and climate.- Jason Earls