Growing Tobacco on a Small Scale

Take the taboo out of growing tobacco, and consider using it for natural pest control as well as many other uses.

| November/December 2016

Barn and dried tobacco

Ventilation is important while drying tobacco leaves, which can take up to six weeks.

Photo by Terry Wild Stock

When we first started growing tobacco, we were afraid of what others might think. However, we knew we wouldn’t be selling it for smoking purposes, and homegrown tobacco is a versatile product. It can give wonderful flavor to your dishes when you bake with it, juice it, and even boil it for tea. It can also lend a helping hand in the garden as an insecticide if used properly.

So we set out to grow and harvest Virginia heirloom tobacco. We didn’t have a particular reason as to why we chose the Virginia variety. The seed company we bought from ( offered three types: Connecticut, Virginia and Hawaii. We just picked one, and it turned out to be a great producer.

Because it is legal in our state to grow as much tobacco as we want as long as it is for personal use only, we ordered 100 seeds, just in case all of the seeds didn’t germinate.

Watch Them Grow

We learned two valuable lessons during the first germination process: Follow directions, and wait patiently. Both seemed to be hard for us, as we liked to think we knew best, and patience is just plain difficult when you are excited to see the end product. On our first attempt, we thought we could speed up the process by using grow lights. After a couple of weeks under the grow lights and despite constantly misting the seeds, the heat was too much, and the soil was too dry for the seeds to develop.

Our second attempt was a success and produced many sprouts. We kept the seeds covered and in a dark, moist, cool location. After just one week we started to see sprouts. It was exciting. Even though we pampered these sprouts, it would be another three to four weeks before we would begin transplanting the sprouts to larger containers and eventually into the ground. When all was said and done, we planted around 50 tobacco plants. Once planted in the ground, they began to grow fast.

We watched as the tobacco grew without problems. While our cauliflower and kale was being eaten rabbits, sunflowers by the deer, peanuts by the turkeys, and our melons taken by groundhogs, we noticed nothing wanted the tobacco. Our tomatillos had beetles and our potatoes and crosnes had grub worms, yet the tobacco leaves were left intact. We became very curious and began to research why this might be. Could we use this as an insecticide? Yes. Bugs hate the nicotine in the tobacco and it repels them from the site. The recipe for tobacco insecticide is quite simple.

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