This years crop in my back yard
The Ideal germination temerature is 68 F at night to 86 F day.
Tobacco prefers rich well-drained soil but will do well even in poor soil. The ideal ph for tobacco is: Seedlings: 5.8 to 6.2 Adults: 6.4 to 6.6 but may vary depending on the strain grown.
Depending on the strain of tobacco and the growing conditions you can estimate each plant will yield enough tobacco to produce about five packs of cigarettes. The plants should be spaced about 2 feet apart with 3 foot wide rows.
Starting tobacco from seed:
Plant your tobacco seeds indoors about 30 days before the last frost. The seeds are tiny and should be sprinkled on a finely textured moist growing medium (Soil). After adding the seeds cover the soil with some newspaper to hold the moisture in and spray the soil from time to time with a spray bottle producing a fine mist. Alternately a Styrofoam egg carton with ¼” holes punched in the bottom of each egg cup can be used. Fill the carton with moist soil, plant the seeds then close the lid until the seeds sprout. Water by placing the carton in a tray of water to allow it to wick-up into the soil. It takes 3 days to 2 weeks for the seeds to germinate depending and the strain and freshness of the seeds. Germinate the seeds in the dark to speed germination. Once the seeds germinate move them into the light or the stems will elongate and the plants will flop-over. Do not overwater the seedlings. Let the soil dry some before watering or the seedlings may be attacked by a fungus at the base of the stem and quickly die. Keep the plants in a heated greenhouse, indoors in a sunny window or indoors under an artificial light source. Cool white florescent light work well but you need to keep the bulbs close to the top of the plants.
Thin the seedlings out by removing all but the best 1 or 2 plants per pot, or plug tray slot. Eventually leave only 1 plant.
Transplant outdoors after danger of frost and the leaves are 2 to 3 inches long.
Keep well watered and fertilized. Tobacco grows like a monster so it has to be fed and watered like one. Using uncomposted manure will taint the flavor of your tobacco so only use compost or chemical fertilizer. Remove any suckers that form so the plant focuses all of it's energy into the main stalk.
All tobacco plants are self fertile so you only need 1 of each variety to be spared from topping for seed production. Flowers should be covered with a fine mesh bag to prevent cross pollination.
The rest should be topped so considerably thicker leaves are produced. Typically the flowers which appear at the top of the plant towards the end of the plants life are removed for tobacco production.
Tobacco is usually harvested in autumn/fall. When ripe the leaves take on a crinkled appearance similar to alligator skin, they may start yellowing & the stems will become brittle. Harvest the whole plant regardless of leaf color or ripeness if there is a threat of frost.
Processing tobacco at home:
Hang the leaves in clusters using a rubber band or wire tie around the leaf stems in a protected area with some air circulation until the leaves turn brown. The leaves must turn brown before they dry so if the leaves begin to dry before turning brown place them in a pile and cover with a blanket or towel. Rotate the leaves within the pile everyday or they will begin sticking to one another and tearing. If any leaves become wet dry the moisture off the leaves before returning them to the pile
Mild Virginia strains can be smoked once they turn brown but are better tasting if cured. Chewing tobacco can be prepared by boiling the leaves in some water along with licorice roots, molasses, chocolate and other flavorings.
The dried leaves will naturally cure when stored. The longer they are stored the better they will taste. Some easy curing strains may be cured well enough to enjoy after 3 months but others may take years. Alternately the curing process can be shortened considerably by using a homemade kiln where heat, humidity and ventilation can be carefully controlled. Harsh tobacco can also be sprayed with plain water or sugar water then oven toasted at 250-275F for 10 to 12 minutes to make it milder.
The leaves should be shredded before smoking. There are machines made for the purpose but good results can be obtained using a common kitchen blender. Moisten dry leaves just enough to make them pliable, roll them into 1 inch diameter rolls then cut the rolls into 1 inch chunks. Drop the chunks into the blender then run on the shred setting for about 15 seconds. Experiment with small amounts until you get a feel for how dry the tobacco should be and how long the blender should run.
Most people prefer to make cigarettes using premade paper tubes with a filter attached. The tubes are then stuffed with shredded tobacco using a machine such as a Topomatic.