Sow seeds indoors in flats, trays or small pots 6-8 weeks
before transplanting. A plastic tray with 4 or 6 pack inserts works very well.
Fill trays approximately 3 inches deep with a fine starting mix soil or potting
soil. Pack soil very lightly. Potting soil should be screened to 1/4" to remove any
large chunks. Thoroughly soak soil and let drain before seeding. Do not use
When the seeds start sprouting, remove the plastic cover and move the trays to a fully light area such as a greenhouse, cold frame or under grow lights. Four foot florescent shop lights work well. Place the lights 3-4 inches above the seedlings. Keep the soil moist at all times, but do not over water. Water when the surface of the soil first begins to appear dry. Over watering is the main reason for seedlings failing to grow properly, and may cause seedlings to dampen off and impedes root development. It is best to water from the bottom up by soaking the tray of seedlings in a second tray without drain holes filled 1 inch deep with water. Allow the seedlings to soak for about 1/2 hour or until the water has wicked up and the surface soil appears wet again. Remove seedling tray and let drain. Do not let seedlings stand in water for a prolonged period.
seedlings outside in filtered sunlight for 2-4 hours per day for a week before
planting out to acclimate and harden off the seedlings. Plant the seedlings in
rows spaced 2 feet in all directions after all danger of frost has passed. Keep
the soil moist until plants are established. It is normal for plants to wilt
after transplanting and appear not to grow at all during the first 2 weeks. All
the growth is taking place under ground at this stage. Once established, tobacco
requires little water. Fertilize lightly at planting and again in 4-6 weeks only
About one month after
planting, tobacco plants go through a very rapid growth stage and will often
grow 2 to 3 inches per day. Buds will start to form at the tops during the
second month. Cut off the flower heads when the plants began to flower.
Topping forces the energy into the leaves making them larger and thicker. Cut
off any suckers (side branches) when topping. Leaves generally ripen 2-3 weeks after
topping and are ready to harvest when they turn yellow, or become a mottled
green and yellow with curled edges.
Leaves may be picked as they ripen (primed) and strung on wire
or string with ½ inch of space between them for curing. Whole plants can be cut
and hung when 50% of the leaves show signs of ripening. Curing (aka color
curing) happens when chlorophyll in the leaf breaks down and the leaf changes
from green or yellow to brown. Hang the leaves or plants in an area where you
can maintain a daily average of 70-80% humidity to cure and dry. Basements or
out door sheds often make great curing locations.
If dried too quickly, the leaf will not cure and will dry green. Tobacco
that fails to cure and dries green is usually unsmokable.
After curing, continue to dry the leaf until it is completely dry and the main stem snaps like a twig. It is very important to remove all the water from the main stem before packing for storage. Any moisture left in the stem may cause mold to appear during storage. Once cured and dried, the leaf can be left to hang and age where it is, or brought back into case, (re-humidified until the leaf is pliable) then packed into cardboard boxes for storage and to age. Aging allows time for nitrogen compounds in the leaf to break down which removes the harshness of freshly cured tobacco, and lets the true flavors come through. Tobacco requires from 3 to 6 months aging time for most varieties to be at its best. The natural aging process can be speeded up greatly by building a small kiln where the temperature can be held at approximately 125 degrees and 70% humidity. Kilning tobacco (sometimes called fermenting) will speed up the natural aging process and the tobacco is smokeable in about 3 weeks. Plans for building small tobacco kilns are available on line.
© 2014 Northwood Seeds