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What Should I Know About Growing Tobacco?

By Britt Archer
Updated: May 16, 2024

The tobacco plant has been the center of controversy for many years because of the unhealthy side effects related to its recreational use. When people hear the word tobacco, they often think of tobacco leaves in such products as cigarettes or cigars, or even chewing tobacco, but the tobacco plant has many other uses. It has been used in pesticides, as an ornamental flowering plant and in some pharmaceuticals. Whether due to the high cost of recreational tobacco products or other reasons, such as the insecticidal properties of the plant, many individuals have started to grow tobacco in their home gardens.

The tobacco plant is a member of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, which includes other common garden plants like tomatoes and eggplants. Like the other members of its family, growing tobacco requires an investment of time and care. Tobacco grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. Other conditions may work, but care should be taken to ensure that the soil is adequately drained of excess water. Garden locations that are known to have pests such as aphids, hornworms, budworms and nematodes should be avoided by those who want to plant tobacco, as these insects are a major source of problems for tobacco plants.

Tobacco seeds are usually planted in hotbeds, small enclosures that allow fragile seedlings to be protected from the elements and pests while still receiving air, moisture and light. Tobacco is a very hardy plant that can survive with care in colder climates, and planting times vary by region. When growing tobacco, the seeds are generally sown four to six weeks before the last frost of the season. Tobacco seeds require that no soil be placed on top of them, as this may cause a delay in germination.

After one to two weeks the plants should begin sprouting, with some varieties taking longer to germinate and some requiring less time. About three weeks after germination, tobacco plants are often ready to be transplanted. Growing tobacco in planters is often easier, and there should be one plant per medium sized pot. If the tobacco is grown outdoors, however, plants should be placed about 2 feet (60.96 cm) to 3 feet (91.44 cm) apart in a row, and rows should be spaced approximately 3 feet (91.44 cm) to 4 feet (1.22 m) apart, if space allows.

After that, the hard work of growing tobacco is over. The plant should be kept watered so that the soil is moist, but not overly flooded. Weeds should be removed on a regular basis to allow the tobacco plant to soak up all the nutrients it can gather from the surrounding soil. Heavy digging, tilling or hoeing should be avoided when weeding due to the nature of the root system of the tobacco plant. Tobacco roots are very close to the surface of the soil, and any heavy movement could damage them.

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