Saturday, February 20, 2010

tobacco- a review of our first year

We took down the last of our hanging tobacco yesterday afternoon. It now looks very naked out under the car port as we have had tobacco hanging in there since last July. While I was stripping the leaves off the stalks, I began putting together a list of in my head of  some of our observations now that we have  gone through  an entire cycle of growing, curing and smoking of our chemical free cancer sticks. So, without further ado and in no particular order are some of our gleanings as tobacco growers.

The curing and aging  of the tobacco is not the most difficult part of  the process. Topping and worm picking  are. These worms are no ordinary worm. They make the tomato  worms  seem little in comparison, in fact I am convinced  a small child could use one as a ride on toy in a pinch. These worms have a huge appetite and can devour a plant in short order. The best control for them is picking them off and stomping them. Elder wisdom says to mashum up and make a spray of their parts and spray the plants. Good idea but even more time consuming than the pick n stomp is.  The top/pick sessions take a good amount of time daily. We had about 100 plants and it took us between an hour and two hours  nearly every day.

One would think, or I thought that tobacco wouldn't have many pests. After all it is pure nicotine and one of the most potent insecticides there is. WRONG,  it has plenty of pests  and with the sheer  size of the plants and leaf area  it means oodles of pests and oodles of spray   to counteract  these pests. A pump sprayer and not a spray bottle is what we would recommend to folks growing any amount of tobacco.

When we first started researching tobacco and growing it  for ourselves the average  yield per plant seemed very low at 3-5 ounces each. This is no lie, it really does shrink down to that little bit of nothing. For the two of us here that equals approximately 3 days of tobacco. Needless to say we are fixing to run out of tobacco.

Not all tobacco is considered equal.  We grew three type of tobacco one of which  was awful. Be prepared to try a couple of different strains and see what works for you in your situation. Our silkleaf variety last season was our favored tobacco for  growth, amount of yield, curing and flavor. This season we are going to try a a couple burley varieties and see how they do.

Space is a huge factor when growing your own  tobacco. From seed to storage  it requires space and lots of it. A couple hundred seedlings  takes a fair bit of space to house. In the field it requires a good 4 sf per plant. We tried skimping  a bit on the spacing and this year we will go with at least that spacing, maybe increasing it  to 5 sf. Once pruning and harvesting begins  you need to have a weather proof area to hang it all  to dry. On the individual leaves  hanging is best done in small groups by a string that pierces through the leaf vein. Tying a string around the cluster works well until the amazing shrinkage begins and they begin falling to the ground. Of course you don't want to hang too many together or hang them to closely, because, in humid, wet weather it  will mold. Airflow is crucial. If you live in an area where temps go below 55 or so  any unfinished tobacco will need to go to an area where temps can remain above 55.  At that temperatures it no longer  dries or cures well, ask me how  I know.

In our ever greedy, money driven world  a person is led to believe they need  high tech  equipment to grow your own tobacco This is untrue. It is just another thing  to get you to go out and spend your hard earned money on  stuff that isn't needed. With a bit of improvisation, common sense and piecing things together to  make it work for you it shouldn't cost several hundred dollars.

And finally if you smoke think about papers, how many you  will go through in a given amount of time  and where you are going to purchase them all. Switching to a pipe may be the best alternative for you as the  cost  of papers adds up over time and you can bet it will only keep rising as more people switch to growing their own instead of buying  tailor made smokes. Pipes are not the most convenient thing to smoke from while out and about working  but for sitting around relaxing  they work  quite well and are cheap to come by.


  1. How did you cure the tobacco? How did you fluctuate the humidity?

  2. we hung it out under our carport. Most of it cured very well. Of course being in north ga we have plenty of humidity in the air. Once the temps dropped we brought it in the shack and hung it in the cold room where it remains fairly humid..I am sure some folks would tell you no way it will work, but it does and we have had some nice tobacco, then again growing you own its hard to be a tobacco snob .