Tobacco Growing Guide
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Tobacco Growing Guide

What is Tobacco?

Tobacco is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family. This family includes tomato, pepper, eggplant, Irish potato, and a number of other plants. Tobacco belongs to the genus Nicotiana, and almost all commercial tobacco is of the tabacum species. The Nicotiana rustica species was commonly used by American Indians and may still be used for ceremonial purposes in some areas. There may be small amounts of N. rustica planted commercially in Asia. There are a number of other species of Nicotiana that serve as ornamental plants. Tobacco is usually grown in home gardens so gardeners can harvest the plant and know it has no additives. The efforts of growing tobacco began hundreds of years ago, but its popularity has decreased over the years due to health concerns. Tobacco also is grown for its ornamental appearance and herbal properties. It is a member of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes and peppers as well. Tobacco is typically a warm-weather plant.

Tobacco Transplanting

When growing tobacco from seed, you need to start the seeds by growing transplants, and it is best to grow these transplants in trays. Seed should be sown about 50-60 days prior to the desired date of transplanting. Do not cover the seeds; instead, lightly press into soil. Transplant the seeds once the soil temp reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit. To water, mist them gently for the first couple of weeks. Be carful not to overwater them because they are finicky about overwatering the first two weeks. Transplanting should be done after there is no further danger of freezing temperatures. Normally the best transplant is about 6-8 inches in length. Transplant them in the evening to prevent the plants from drying out and water thoroughly after transplanting. Once transplanted, water the tobacco plant daily until it becomes established.

How to Start Growing Tobacco

Tobacco should be grown in a sunny location on well-drained soils. Poorly drained soils could result in poor growth and even death of the plants. Tobacco can be grown on poorly-drained soils if the rows or hills are bedded and ditches or furrows are used to remove excess water. Seedlings are ready to be transplanted once they reach 8 inches in height. Tobacco plants require full sun. If it grows partial sun, its leaves will be too skinny. Once flowers and suckers appear on the plant, remove them to encourage more growth in the leaves.

Did you know?

Before its use as a smoking material, Native Americans used it as a traditional medicine for common illnesses. It is claimed to be an antiseptic, sedative, emetic, purgative and useful in relieving pain.

Our Tobacco Varieties

Tobacco Plant Spacing

In-Ground Planting

Row Spacing - 36 to 48 inches

Plant Spacing - 24 to 28 inches

Planting Depth - Transplant at soil level

Tobacco Soil, Irrigation, & Fertilizer

Soil Requirements To Grow Tobacco

  • Well-draining, high phosphorous soil
  • pH between 5.8 and 6.2
  • Rich in organic materials
  • Good quality compost added to the soil

Tobacco Irrigation Requirements

Tobacco plants need at least 1 inch of water per week. Using drip irrigation is always recommended to be sure that your plants are getting moisture directly to their root system. If you’re using conventional overhead watering techniques, try and use something like the Dramm Watering Can and water and fertilize at the base of the plant to keep moisture off the leaves.

Raised Bed Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 5.8 – 6.2, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Sidedress 2 cups of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

Every 7 Days (After 3rd Week Planting)

Mix 1 tablet each of Dr. Joe Nutri Bubble AND Dr. Joe Tomato & Vegetable Bubble into 1 gallon of water. Apply as a drench per 4 plants.

In-Ground Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 5.8-6.2, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Using the Hoss Fertilizer Injector, Mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium 20-20-20 Fertilizer AND 1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

Alternate Every 14 Days

Mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium Calcium Nitrate -AND -1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

Tobacco Pest & Disease Protection

Insects

Organic Controls

Garden Insect Spray
Thrips, Hornworms, Budworms, Cabbage Looper

Horticulture Oil
Aphids, Stinkbugs, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies, Spider Mites

Bug Buster-O
Aphids, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies

Monterey BT
Hornworms, Cabbage Looper

Take Down Garden Spray
Aphids, Horn Worms, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies

Diatomaceous Earth
Cutworms

Bug buster II
Aphids, Horn Worms, Stinkbugs, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies, Spider Mites, Thrips

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Common Diseases

Organic Controls

Crop rotation and select resistant varieties
Black Shank, Tomato Spotted Wilt, Blue Mold

Complete Disease Control (Drench)
Tomato Spotted Wilt

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Harvesting, Preserving, and Storing Tobacco

Harvesting Tobacco

Harvest the tobacco leaves when they turn yellow and golden. As it grows in, cut off the top of the plant where the seed pods develop. If the tobacco plants are topped, the plant puts more of its energy and nutrients into the leaf. Don’t harvest green leaves or they will not cure properly. Tobacco plants can be harvested by cutting down the entire plant at once or by pulling individual leaves from the plant. Tobacco leaves on the bottom of the plant mature first. Once harvested, the leaves are dried through a process called curing. To sun cure tobacco, the leaves are placed in the sun and dried. Continue to harvest leaves through the season as the rest of the plant and upper leaves (the newest growth) slowly turn the same pale golden yellow. Tobacco is most commonly harvested leaf-by-leaf, but may also be harvested whole only if the entire plant has turned an even golden yellow. Allow the leaves to wilt for 12-48 hours before curing. Avoid cutting the leaf itself which is known to affect the curing process; instead, clip the stem at least 3-5 inches below the leaf.

Curing and Storing Tobacco

Any dark and well-ventilated space such as a barn, shed, or basement will do as a location to cure your leaves for 4-8 weeks. You will need a dark, dry location with 70-80% humidity. Harvested leaves and plants should be hung ½” from each other to cure and dry. If the leaf dries too quickly without properly curing (turning yellow) then it will be unsmokable. Allow leaves to continue drying until main stem snaps like a twig. Once cured and dried, the leaf can be left to hang and age where it is. Aging allows time for nitrogen compounds in the leaf to break down, removing the harshness of freshly cured tobacco and allowing true flavors to be accentuated. Store dried leaves in a mason jar or plastic bag in a cool, dark place, or use a humidor.

Take a Look at Our Tobacco!

Tobacco Growing Tips & Tricks

Humidity is Vital

Tobacco is native to tropical climates and needs a humid environment to grow, with at least 60-65% humidity regularly. If your zone does not get enough humidity, consider growing indoors in pots or beds in a greenhouse with a controlled humidity.

Suckers

Suckers are small leaves that grow upright from the stem. They are not like the broad primary leaves you will harvest, but small and thin and suck energy from your plant. Suckers should be pruned when spotted. You can tell which are suckers from true leaves as suckers are much thinner and grow upright between the stem and base of the leaf. Their growth clearly doesn’t belong when compared to the broad “true” leaves.

Herbal Benefits

Tobacco is a great antiseptic and can absorb moisture from wounds and ulcers. Tobacco leaves are also great to stop bleeding. Teas made from tobacco leaves were used against intestinal worms, as a laxative, to induce vomiting, to help clear mucus, for fainting and dizziness, and to relieve headaches. Tobacco smoke can also be blown into the ear to treat earaches. In the south, Tobacco was one of the best home remedies for an insect sting. Mix with spit and apply to stings to draw out the venom almost instantly.

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Tobacco is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family. This family includes tomato, pepper, eggplant, Irish potato, and a number of other plants. Tobacco belongs to the genus Nicotiana, and almost all commercial tobacco is of the tabacum species. The Nicotiana rustica species was commonly used by...
Read more