Growing Tobacco Plants:
One reason that I love indoor growing is for the yield. It is always very rewarding to nurture my plants through the entire grow process and then benefit by the yield at the end. A secondary benefit is the money I can save from growing in my indoor and outdoor garden. This can be especially true for plants like tobacco. Tobacco is a very expensive commodity, and associated prices continue to rise.
More indoor growers are deciding to grow tobacco at home to avoid rising tobacco prices, as well as benefit from the quality of their own personal yield. Additionally, the list of additives that major manufacturers use in their tobacco products can be quite large and marks a big reason why growing at home is on the rise. An indoor grower can guarantee that the yield is all tobacco and all natural. It should be noted however that tobacco is not the easiest plant to grow indoors due, in part, to the amount of watering, nutrients and heat necessary for the plant to reach maturity successfully. Through the rest of this review, I will present some basic information associated with growing tobacco indoors. My hope is that this information will help indoor growers grow bigger at home! It is a process the requires patients and care, but in the end, your personal yield that you nurtured with your own know-how will be the ultimate reward.
Selecting Tobacco Seeds:
Tobacco seeds can be purchased online from a variety of sites which can be reviewed with a quick search engine query. Searching for tobacco seeds can be a big task since there are so many varieties to choose from. Which variety is best for you? Most growers are seeking to find cigarette tobacco, but other popular types include cigar tobacco, pipe tobacco and snuff tobacco. Finding the right seed variety for you is a process of trial and error. There are many classic seed types but I have found that the only way to determine your specific preference is to try them! Seeds are not very expensive and so experimenting with different types is part of the enjoyment of growing independently. One top ranked site that I have found useful for seeds includes thetobaccoseed.com. A general description of each seed type is given which can help you narrow down your choices. Another great site for reviewing tobacco varieties is heirloomtobacco.com. This site gives useful information on tobacco varieties from around the world.
Tobacco plants require nutrient rich soil that retains water well. You can start tobacco seeds indoors in pots just like you would for tomato plants. I do not recommend using outside soil to fill your pots to start the tobacco seeds. The chemistry of outside soil varies which makes it more difficult with which to work. I have found that using a potting soil mix is a more standardized solution that can make the planting and growing process more predictable. I mix my potting soil with a hydroponic organic growing medium. This mixture is a one to one mixture and it is beneficial for several reasons. The potting soil is mixed with beneficial microbes and fungi which helps to feed plant roots. The coconut coir, hydroponic growing medium that I mix with the soil, has excellent water holding capacity and also helps to increase nutrient retention. Tobacco plants need well balanced nutrient rich soil and due to the added heat needed to grow the plants, water retention is key. The potting soil and coconut coir mix that I use holds a nice balance of nutrients and moisture that my plants love.
Initial Moisture and Temperature:
Once the seeds are acquired, moisten the soil mixture and sprinkle several seeds around each growing cell. The seeds do not need to be covered in order to germinate. They need light to support the germination process. I utilize grow lights for this step, but others may use natural sunlight. Keep the soil moist throughout the germination process. Do this by using a sprayer and mist the soil to moisten the soil mixture. The temperature of the grow room during this time should remain within the 75 to 80 degree range. Seeds will still germinate when the room temperature is 70 to 75 degrees, but the process will take longer. Keeping the grow room temperature in the higher range, 75 to 80 degrees, is better for supporting tobacco grow. Since the heat needs to be in the higher range for growing tobacco plants, the indoor grower may need to consider investing in a supplemental heater and fans to keep the grow room air circulating at the optimal temperature, especially if you are growing under an LED grow light that produces a minimal heat signature.
Separating and Transplanting Tobacco Seed Sprouts:
Once planted, tobacco seeds normally take about a week to germinate. I normally plant several seeds in each 3 to 4″inch cell. Once the tobacco sprouts are about 3/4 of an inch, it is time to separate them individually into pots that are approximately 3″ to 4″ in diameter. In these pots, the seedlings can continue to grow and have the space needed for their root systems to develop further. Let the seedlings continue to grow taller until they are approximately 3 to 4″ inches tall. At this point, it is time to transplant. Some growers, if they live in the right environment, decide to transplant their tobacco plants outdoors at this point. It is common for plants to show sign of “transplant shock” for about a week after this transplant. For indoor growers, transplanting each plant into a larger bucket or 1-2 gallon size pot will give the plant’s root system the space needed in order for the plant to grow healthy and yield accordingly. Transplant shock will likely occur during this transition as well. Leaves may turn slightly yellow and wither a bit, but the plant should recover within a week after the transplant. The entire growing process for tobacco plants will take approximately three months. Producing a tobacco yield is always very rewarding and money saved is always a nice bonus.
Harvesting and Curing Tobacco:
Once the leaves on the tobacco plant begin to turn a yellowish color, it is time to consider picking the leaves for curing. You will notice that the leaves will begin to turn yellow from the bottom of the plant first. The yellowing of the leaves will continue to happen on the plant from bottom to top. Pick the leaves as they turn yellow. Note that the yellowing of the leaves will not happen all at once and will likely take a couple weeks. The indoor grower can expect to harvest leaves from a single plant two or three times as the leaves turn yellow over this time-frame.
Once the leaves are picked, it is time to further dry the tobacco leaves. Since the leaves still hold a considerable amount of moisture, the continued drying of the leaves often results in them turning to a final color of brown. I personally have a detached barn from my home that I utilize to hang the leaves for the ongoing drying and curing process. When the mid-rib of the leaf is completely dry and brittle, I know that the drying process has completed. I often allow my leaves to dry and cure over the span of about four weeks. Some indoor growers allow their leaves to dry and mature even longer in an effort to achieve an aged flavor. It is all personal preference that can only develop through trial and experimentation.
Seeds for the Next Grow:
The indoor grower should also allow some of your plants to go to flower and bloom. Once the flower dies and falls off, you have seed pods left which will dry and turn brown. You can then pick these seed pods and harvest hundreds of seeds for the the next grow cycle! If you find the perfect tobacco type for you, an endless supply of seeds can be harvested from each grow to keep you growing endlessly!