Introduction: Growing Tobacco

As part of an on going self sufficiency experiment I decided to have a go at growing my own tobacco. I know a lot of people don't like smoking but I do smoke so I figured I could save some money by growing my own.

The only issue I had was that I didn't have anywhere to grow it as I rent a flat there is no garden, but here in the UK there is a Remanent of World War II (maybe even earlier) that would assist me. Allotments, I don't know if other country's have these but here in the UK the are large patches of land that are divided up in to smaller patches know as an Allotment. The purpose was to allow people a place to grow their own vegetables when food was not abundant. These are still in use today but people use them for many different things, some people turn them in to a garden, or use them for there main purpose and grow vegetables. This allotment cost me £5 a year!! plus i had to join the allotment society which cost me £20, so £25 for a year of renting a piece of land, not bad!

I will use the allotments to grow tobacco which caused something of a stir in the allotment community as not a lot of people know it is legal to grown your own tobacco even here in the UK. However there is one rule here which is important, you can grow tobacco in the UK and dry it legally as long as it not for commercial use. you can even dry it and chop it up to a smoke-able product provided you do not sell it.

You should check the laws in your area to see what you can do.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Seeds, I got Burley, Virgina Gold and Samsoun and also Adonis which is a German tobacco which i got free with the other seeds I ordered. I got mine on ebay fairly cheap.

Potting compost

Seed Tray, Germination tray with a lid

Weed fabric or ground sheet (optional)

slug pellets, in the UK the slugs love tobacco plants.

in the US there is something called cut worm, these things will literally cut the main stem of the plant at ground level, you can put a large diameter plastic pipe in to the ground so it sticks out about 2 inches.

some string to hang the tobacco

gardening knife

Tin foil

spray bottle


note: its important to know that cigar, cigarette and rolling tobacco are not just one type of tobacco they are blend of various tobaccos, the tobaccos I am planting are the ones used in cigarettes and rolling tobacco. You may want to investigate the different types of tobacco used in what you smoke. you can roll your own cigars but you will need to ferment the tobacco for this once you have harvested and dried it.

so you know how many roughly you need to plant, virgina gold tobacco has a large narrow leaf, burley has a large wide leaf and samsoun has a small heart shaped leaf not much larger than a male hand. Adonis has a very large wide leaf as well.

Step 2: Germinating the Seeds

the seeds are tiny, you can see from the picture of them next to a penny, place them on a piece of paper so you can see them clearly.

fill your seed trays with compost, using the tip of your finger just press gently on the seeds and they will stick to your finger, you only want a few per compartment around 10 should be enough. try and get them in the middle if you can.

put a tiny little sprinkling of compost on the top, we are talking a dusting.

using a spray bottle of just plain water dampen the compost and cover it with foil. you may want to mark the rows so you know which seeds are which.

place in a warm place to germinate, an airing cupboard is good for this, if you don't have one a good cheat is a cardboard box with a light in it, but you want to make sure the box doesn't get too warm so put a thermometer in there. you can also put the try on a heat mat or a heated germination box. If there is enough sun shine you can put them on the window sill where the sun light gets to it.

after a few days you will start to see sprouts.

Step 3: Thinning Out

once you have the little sprouts remove the foil and put the lid on the tray and put it on a window sill or somewhere it can get sunlight.

within a few days you should see some small leaves, now is the best time to thin out, we only really need one seedling per compartment, using tweezers remove any that are not straight or near the center. leave about 5 in each compartment, well spaced apart.

this will give you some options later on as to which one you want to keep.

when they get a bit bigger remove all but one that you want to keep, make sure its as straight as you can make it.

the keen eyed ones of you will notice that my trays have changed color, thats because I did 2 lots the first was a trial run, i then did it again for my allotment ones.

Step 4: Preparing the Planting Area and Planting

I laid down weed fabric which I held in place with metal tent pegs which i sharpened the tips using a grind stone. you can buy proper pegs for this but tent pegs were cheaper.

I also ran a hose between each of the rows which i punched holes in so that I could be lazy when watering them, turns out the water pressure wasn't great at the allotments but it still worked as the fabric allows water through the ground still ended up soaked.

for each plant we want to have 2ft diameter around the plant, if you have the space give it 3ft.

I used a knife to cut a small hole to put the seedling in, put your hand over the pot with the seedling loosely between your figures and gently remove the pot, and place the seedling in a small hole in the soil. Press it down firmly, you want to have good contact with the new soil. they are easier to remove if you cut the pot away from the main tray.

The time you want to get these in the ground is just after the last frost has gone. here in the UK thats the end of march beginning of April normally, but it may differ in different parts of the world.

carefully water them, then put down some slug pellets to stop the slugs destroying your hard work.

Step 5: Watering and Topping

the best time to water is in the early evening when the sun is going down, if water them during the day the sun will scorch them. if you water them in the morning the water doesn't penetrate the ground enough and some of it will evaporate off and not get to your plants. They should be watered daily, it will take a couple of months for them to get to the right size for harvesting.

if you are growing one type of tobacco only then you will not need to top the plants, that is if there is not tobacco growing within a mile of your tobacco plants. Otherwise they could get pollen transferred to them from insects thats have been on other tobacco plants, the resulting seeds would then be a mix of the 2 tobaccos.

its worth knowing that tobacco plants are not male or female so you can use a fine paint brush to pollinate from one flower to another even on the same plant. I did this with a Samsoun plant i kept separate in a pot on the window sill at home and a Virgina gold in a pot in the garden. Tobacco plants have a nice pink / purple flower and can look nice in the garden.

for my plantation I had mixed plants which I did not want to pollinate with each other so I had to cut the tops off before they started to flower.

NOTE green fly and other bugs love these plants, you may need to do something about these bugs, a good way to deal with them without sprays is to use lady bugs. you can buy them online by the 1000 just tip a few out on each plant. you don't want to use sprays of anything on the plants as you want to smoke them, you don't know whats in these sprays it's likely to be toxic esp if smoked.

Step 6: Harvesting and Drying

Harvesting is easy enough, put your hand on top of the leaf at the base of the stem and push down, it should make a satisfying cracking sound. Make sure you keep your leaves in separate piles so you know which ones are which. Tobacco leaves are very sticky so wear gloves.

to dry them you need to hang them in a warm place out of direct sun light, a shed or a barn would be good for this. I used a shed.

put 2 leaves back to back and punch a hole through the stem, feed through some string, i found it easier to tie one end off to where i was hanging them and just pull the leaves across. make sure the leaves don't touch as this could cause them to go moldy. I had this one some of my Adonis leaves which was fine as I only grew them because they were extra seeds i got with the batch.

the Samsoun I put together in batches using a rubber band, you can bind 2 of the big leaves together with a rubber band and hang them over the string, I started to do this once i realized it was easier, make sure the rubber band is tight, it should keep a grip on the leaves while they shrink as they dry.

check on them every few days to make sure they are drying evenly and not too quickly, if they dry too quickly they will be green.

once they are dry take the band off and put them in a cardboard box for a couple of months to cure.

when they are cured they will be brittle so be careful, to rehydrate them a little, put them a few leaves in a plastic bag and using a spray bottle spray a little water in the bag. Wrap the bag over so its air tight and put it in a warm place overnight like an airing cupboard.

now you can chop them up, you can buy tobacco shredders or you can make your own, or compress the leaves in to a block and use a very sharp knife to take fine slices off the block, when you have cut it up, fluff it up and put it in a air tight container. People have tried to use things like paper shredders and pasta shredders to varying degrees of success, but honestly you are better off using a proper shredder or a good sharp knife. at some point i hope to make my own tobacco shredder I am thinking of making one based on an old Victorian design, which i will write an instructable on when I have done it.

if you want to make cigars then you will need to ferment the tobacco and this is a very good instructable on making a fermentation box.

https://www.instructables.com/id/Tobacco-fermentation-curing-chamber-for-cigars/

Comments

author
Misac-kun (author)2014-03-25

I have a Tobacco plant on my front yard, it just came from nowhere and there is another one growing on the backyard just now. People often came to my door and ask for some leaves, it's said that it's good to remove Botfly larva if used as a salve during the night they come out to eat the tobacco and then you can extract it.

author
n1cod3mus (author)Misac-kun2014-03-25

as you can see the seeds are very small, and when the seed pods split the seeds are loose inside if there was a lot of wind the seeds would easily carry on the wind, probably for miles.

they are annuals so when they die they should not come back, but each plant can produce enough seeds to create a fields worth of tobacco so if you don't want lots of tobacco plants I would either top them or remove them completely.

author
Misac-kun (author)n1cod3mus2014-03-25

I see. I didn't want to cut the flower because there was a humming bird that came all mornings for them, but eventually we had to cut it out and the next morning when the bird came it searched for the flowers and didn't find them, sad.

author
n1cod3mus (author)Misac-kun2014-03-25

i guess you could have left them until the flower died but cut them off before the seed pods dry out and crack open.

author
n1cod3mus (author)n1cod3mus2014-03-25

each one of these seed pods has hundreds of seeds

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author
Misac-kun (author)n1cod3mus2014-03-25

Yeah, i have seen these personally. Do you know if it have any medicinal utility?

author
redweaver (author)Misac-kun2015-07-27

tobacco is really great at treating fresh bruises and swelling. you dampen the tobacco and place it on the injury for 15 to 30 min.

author
n1cod3mus (author)Misac-kun2014-03-25

not really as far as i know, nicotine is a poison, you could look in to turning it in to a pesticide but it probably wouldn't be safe of children or animals.

author
Misac-kun (author)n1cod3mus2014-03-25

Thanks for the Info :)

author
instructof (author)2015-06-12

how did it go in the end?

author
n1cod3mus (author)instructof2015-06-12

well I grew it and dried it thats as far as I got, been busy with other projects

author
Hagrid15 (author)2015-05-01

Thank you. I'm very happy with your growing, harvesting and drying tips. I got some leaves off a mate some years back. I dried them out, but they were too moist and not crisp dry. And yes, they went moldy. They were yuck and unsmokable.

Thanks again.

Regards James

author
n1cod3mus (author)Hagrid152015-05-01

yeah should have hung them and dried them out, then just rejuvenate them when you are ready to smoke em.

author
metqa (author)2014-05-15

Wow, thanks for the info in the instructible. I want to grow some tobacco both for the flowers as decoration in the yard, and for the leaves that I want to use to make nicotine tea for pest control. I didn't know if the different varieties have flowers as sites advertise "flowering" tobacco" and "smoking tobacco". I want to be sure that it flowers pretty AND has nicotine I can use. You cleared that up for me, and gave me more info about pollination as well. Your plants look great, I'm gonna go order some seeds after all, thanks to you!

author
n1cod3mus (author)metqa2014-05-15

fantastic, I am glad it helped you out, I had to do a lot of research.

Just a warning about using it as a pesticide, it would NOT be safe for pets or children. and probably not if you are going to spray it on fruits and vegetables

author
metqa (author)n1cod3mus2014-05-15

of course, it Is Tobacco after all, my use as a pesticide would be on the foliage of plants to deter chewing insects. nicotine is a contact poison in high doses and also when ingested in low dosages so anybody who chews on the plants leaves will get buggy diarrhea. I don't intend to use it on children or pets, but I think you mean that children or pets should be prevented from handling or ingesting the plant leaves in the garden, am I right.

author
n1cod3mus (author)metqa2014-05-16

yes thats exactly what I meant ;-) that tea you are talking about I was sure that used to be made from the stalks after the leaves had been harvested for smoking.

author
charlessenf-gm (author)2014-04-25

OK, Ebay, do you simply search for tobacco seeds? Or do you recall the vendor's name/informatiuon?

author
n1cod3mus (author)charlessenf-gm2014-04-25

just search tobacco seeds, there is loads on there, just make sure to pick the types you want

author
charlessenf-gm (author)2014-04-22

Where do you get the seeds?!

author
n1cod3mus (author)charlessenf-gm2014-04-22

I got mine on ebay

author
spikeseller (author)2014-04-18

I didn't realize some of you folks could not see the advertisement on the end of the barn.

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spikeseller (author)2014-04-17

Oops forgot to add the photo

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author
n1cod3mus (author)spikeseller2014-04-18

often a tobacco barn would have a basement under a trap door to store the tobacco in once its ready

author
spikeseller (author)2014-04-17

This is a great example of a great "Mail Pouch Barn". MP was a brand of chewing tobacco produced in Wheeling, West Virginia. The company advertised on barns across the US. This is a traditional tobacco barn, used for drying tobacco. Note the tobacco hanging to dry in the photo.

author
Mihsin (author)2014-04-14

Though I quit smoking many years ago, but I like to see successful acts. The leaves looke to me the kind used for Nargila.

Best wishes on cigar tobacco planting next.

author
n1cod3mus (author)Mihsin2014-04-14

yeah we should all quit, there is no benefit to any of use to carry on

author
Mielameri (author)2014-03-25

Nicely done! Was the finished product up to snuff? The allotments system is a cool thing, too.
I'm from Kentucky, and my grandpa grew tobacco, so this makes me real nostalgic for home :)

author
haystrevor40 (author)Mielameri2014-04-06

From KY too. Remember dreading (as a kid) following the setter all day with grandpa back in the 80's. Great memories now. Wouldnt trade it for the world.

author
n1cod3mus (author)Mielameri2014-03-25

I havent actually tried it yet, it feels like smoking tobacco and smells like it but I have been busy with work do I havnt got round to chopping it up and smoking it yet.

I figured I would make a tobacco shredder and do an instructable for it, and then try out different blends of the tobacco to see what I like.

Your grandpa probably grew Burley tobacco as thats the normal crop in that area.

author
spikeseller (author)2014-03-27

Great instructable. I was lucky enough to grow up playing in my grandfathers huge 1915 era tobacco barn (think Mail Pouch advertisement type). Growing tobacco as a cash crop here in West Virginia, USA is just about over. I have never smoked, but I love the smell of tobacco hanging to dry. Thanks.

author
haystrevor40 (author)spikeseller2014-04-06

Live in KY and know what you mean. Remember helping grandpa follow the setter when I was just a kid back in the 80's. Still a few of the MailPouch tobacco barns around. Remember when tobacco was in every other field, but definitely a drastic reduction in amount grown today. Thanks for bringing back some good memories with your comment.

author
n1cod3mus (author)spikeseller2014-03-27

I'm in the UK so i have no idea what you are talking about lol but it sounds good

author
jbox2 (author)2014-03-24

Is that an Indian Head penny? I have one of those, if it is, thats from about the 1890's.

author
a.steidl (author)jbox22014-04-03

It is an English penny. That's the Queen's profile on there.

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n1cod3mus (author)a.steidl2014-04-03

yep thats an English penny, i am in England ;-)

author
envirolutionary (author)2014-03-31

Could you explain the pollination process as it relates to the end product? I am a bit confused about cross pollination and why you want to contain that.

Thank you so much for this instructable. I have really been thinking of doing this in my organic garden, now I have the knowledge for it !

author

well you would not want to cross pollinate a Burley with a Virgina gold, as you would end up with seeds which are a cross of the 2 types of tobacco. you would only want Virgina gold to pollinate Virgina gold .

author

ah okay, so you save the seeds for the next round of planting that makes more sense. Thanks!

author

to be honest when you buy seeds there will be enough for a couple of seasons so I shouldnt worry too much.

author
Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2014-04-02

Wow... I am amazed :). Thank you so much for sharing.

author

no problem, I am happy to share, I hope that it inspires others to have a go and improve on my techniques.

author
jbox2 (author)2014-03-24

I live out here in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are nursery stores, Star Nursery is one i frequent, that sell lady bugs and such. They also have praying mantis and earthworms. Really neat alternatives to pesticides.

author
astral_mage (author)jbox22014-03-26

but u dont wanna be caught shipping insect out of the country do u.

author
bullkelsae (author)2014-03-26

How many ounces did you get from how many plants? I realise it will vary with different types but just a rough estimate. Trying to figure out whether it's worth my time although it is something i'd like to try anyway. Great instructable and would love to see the victorian shredder when you get it made.

author
n1cod3mus (author)bullkelsae2014-03-26

I haven't weighed the yield to be honest, but one row of 8 plants could fill up 2 medium sized boxes. in the UK these boxes are the type used for crisps (Chips in the US)

author
FriendOfHumanity (author)2014-03-25

Very interesting Instructable.

author
bob3030 (author)2014-03-24

Very cool. I've traveled in the US south and have seen fields of Tobacco. Such a beautiful plant. Thanks for sharing. I hope this encourages others to share other gardening instructables.

author
Stan1y (author)2014-03-24

As there are types of tobacco sold in the uk as bedding plants and these self set very readily I suspect you are quite likley to get cross pollenation. I'm intereasted to learn they suffer from aphids give nicoteen/ tobacco smoke used to be used as a glass house fumigant, I guess it is like tannin in oak leaves and builds up as the leaves get older and concentrates as they dry

author
n1cod3mus (author)Stan1y2014-03-24

yes it was originally used as an pesticide, but that was boiled and reduced so it was much stronger than just off the plant, also when they boiled it up they used the stems which may have a stronger concentration than the leaves.

I was surprised when growing them that I had issues with various fly's and bugs knowing it was used originally as a pesticide.

Tobacco also has a large concentration of ammonia as well, which gets removed as they cure.

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