Whole Leaf Tobacco

Greetings from Texas, help needed from you experts!

Tim1963

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Hello to all of you!
Ok, save me from making some big mistakes, please!

I am a greenhouse grower, a small family operation. Last season, Covid nearly trashed my business and I am looking for a new angle but my lack of knowledge could toss me into the hole.

Here are my questions and ANY input would be appreciated.

I am looking for a new "thing" to grow, primarily as a mail order product. Currently I grow Tomatos which have similar requirements on my end.
I am intrigued by Tobacco. Would there be any demand for transplants? I doubt I would have much walk in business but perhaps mail order from people such as yourselves?
So, assuming your answer is yes-

I am a competent grower but totally stupid as to which varieties to grow, what would you recommend? Space is unlimited but man-power is. Say you gave me a list of your top 20. What would be the percentage of each? I mean roughly...don't mean you need to assign a number but more like "grow a lot of this, some of that and just a bit of that.." I just do not have any idea what you folks might be interested in. I smoke Camel cigs....that is the extent of my knowledge lol

What size plant do you expect when you have ordered them? No right or wrong answer here... I can hit the mark if given some idea. A related question...pot size? That might be a bit more difficult for you to answer but give it a shot.

How many would you guess is an average order? Under 10? 11- 24, a 100? All answers are good- but it would help me to plan how much seed to buy etc. Frankly, I don't expect much this coming season.

What do you think the correct price not including shipping would be? The few growers I have found have been all over the place. I even stumbled across some clown selling a single 4" plant for 10 bucks. That's absurd!

Would it be in my best interest to grow many varieties or just a few? I tend to be that guy that grows a huge number of cultivars just to keep it interesting but will avoid it if you folks think that is a poor idea.

I am in the deep South but can schedule for the needs of Northern customers. For the most Northern people, what is roughly the last date you set plants out? Down here, we get started planting about the last week of March.

Last question for the moment, who do you recommend as a reasonably priced seed source. Northwest seems to be very good, followed by Victory. Better suggestion? I am also very happy to buy seed from any of you guys if you maintain something you feel I should grow, in fact, I would really pleased to do this.

If you would like to have an idea about my business and me, if you have a moment, drop by my website. ***** You can get an idea of my format and maybe you think it could work for Tobacco.

I am realy walking in the dark here. Any of you who take the time to tackle any of my questions, I am grateful.

My apologies if I have stepped on the toes anybody else on this forum who is also a grower, there seem to be very few catering to home growers.

Thanks!
Tim
 
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GreenDragon

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Howdy Tim and welcome to the forum.

I would not hang your hat on Tobacco seedlings. Seed is inexpensive and Tobacco grows like a weed. It is crazy easy to sprout and transplant them. You might have some success growing ornamental varieties for home gardeners. Although, I would be wary of growing Tobacco and Tomatoes in the same location due to disease transfer.
 

Tim1963

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Marshall, Texas
Howdy Tim and welcome to the forum.

I would not hang your hat on Tobacco seedlings. Seed is inexpensive and Tobacco grows like a weed. It is crazy easy to sprout and transplant them. You might have some success growing ornamental varieties for home gardeners. Although, I would be wary of growing Tobacco and Tomatoes in the same location due to disease transfer.
I agree with you...I know it will never be big thing for me. But I am a niche grower, never be a rich man lol.
As for TMV transfer and other disease, I propose not to grow them in the same houses. In addition, I shut the greenhouses down after only about a 12 week window...all remaining seedling, unsold stuff is dumped. With Tomato's, I potentially have the same issues so I am careful.
I agree also about seed being cheap and easy to grow. It is the same with Tomato. It is just that the majority of people don't like to fool with it. I know bigger home growers would not bother mail ordering stuff. I am thinking the people who only want a handful.
Btw...I have grown the ornamentals for many years. Though I like them, they are a hard sell to my customers. Primarily the Sylvestris sorts...
Thanks for your input!
 

Iowalez

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NE Iowa
For me, Tim, the shipping becomes expensive. What is the ballpark figure on 500 transplants grown in regular 6 packs like tomatoes come in, shipped to far northeast Iowa?

I start seedlings beginning on March 15th, and transplant outside beginning two weeks after Mother's Day, or when the weather is settled. I have so much to do, the work spans several days.

I'm devoting 2000 square feet of garden space to tobacco this year, twelve varieties. Several will be only 4 plants (10 seedlings grown) each, but the three orientals will require 100 seedlings be grown of each. My 4500 square foot garden is larger than what many people can do. I just happen to have a tree-free, level, empty lot of lawn that I don't want to mow, and I have all the equipment for big dirt and hydroponic gardening, plus a guy with a tractor and implements I pay to help me.
 

deluxestogie

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Welcome to the forum.

@BigBonner, a founding member of this forum, is a commercial tobacco grower with an industrial scale float-tray tobacco germination system to supply his own commercial tobacco fields. Every year, he offers transplants for sale to forum members. I have no idea how large a volume of transplants he sells. My sense is that it has been more of a service to members, rather than a cash cow.

One downside of shipping tobacco transplants is that their production has to be synchronized with suitable transplant dates of the recipients (which varies across the country). Also, once those transplants have been received, they need to go into the ground fairly promptly.

I agree with @GreenDragon. I would not hang your hat on tobacco seedlings.

Bob
 

Knucklehead

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Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

I had to delete my whole post as Deluxestogie beat me to it so I will just add this. I have ordered seedlings from BigBonner in the past and they were shipped in a cardboard box with the bare roots wrapped in wet paper towels in sandwich bags. They all arrived in excellent, strong condition ready for transplant. There were no culls. He doesn’t use pots, he seeds direct to float trays or transfers the sprouts (he has done both) and the seedlings stay in the float trays until transplant or shipment. He gives the leaves a “haircut” when they start shading each other. I believe it also helps strengthen the stalks as they arrived as big as a pencil. He has some videos on YouTube you can check out and use the search function here to pull up all his posts and pictures on the forum that may be helpful. I cant remember the price, it’s been about five years or so but they were cheap. So cheap I felt silly continuing to grow my own seedlings but that was part of the enjoyment for me. Hope this helps and best of luck.
 

Tim1963

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For me, Tim, the shipping becomes expensive. What is the ballpark figure on 500 transplants grown in regular 6 packs like tomatoes come in, shipped to far northeast Iowa?

I start seedlings beginning on March 15th, and transplant outside beginning two weeks after Mother's Day, or when the weather is settled. I have so much to do, the work spans several days.

I'm devoting 2000 square feet of garden space to tobacco this year, twelve varieties. Several will be only 4 plants (10 seedlings grown) each, but the three orientals will require 100 seedlings be grown of each. My 4500 square foot garden is larger than what many people can do. I just happen to have a tree-free, level, empty lot of lawn that I don't want to mow, and I have all the equipment for big dirt and hydroponic gardening, plus a guy with a tractor and implements I pay to help me.
I am a former Iowan myself...Clinton!
Nice to hear from you. You sure have your work cut out for you next Spring!
In cases such as yours (large order going a fair distance) I usually will shift down to a 404 pack which has 48 plants per flat vs 36 in a typical 6pk flat. This reduces weight for shipping.
It seems I recall last year sending a guy in Dubuque 400 tomatos for about 60 bucks in shipping (USPS priority).
I am looking into an even smaller cell pack with a pointed end to further reduce weight without sacrifices to quality. Once I unpot these transplants and wrap them prior to shipping I am able to get them in a reasonably compact box which also saves on shipping. Not only is shipping calculated by weight, it is also by dimension. Shipping costs are my pet peeve!
 

Knucklehead

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Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

I had to delete my whole post as Deluxestogie beat me to it so I will just add this. I have ordered seedlings from BigBonner in the past and they were shipped in a cardboard box with the bare roots wrapped in wet paper towels in sandwich bags. They all arrived in excellent, strong condition ready for transplant. There were no culls. He doesn’t use pots, he seeds direct to float trays or transfers the sprouts (he has done both) and the seedlings stay in the float trays until transplant or shipment. He gives the leaves a “haircut” when they start shading each other. I believe it also helps strengthen the stalks as they arrived as big as a pencil. He has some videos on YouTube you can check out and use the search function here to pull up all his posts and pictures on the forum that may be helpful. I cant remember the price, it’s been about five years or so but they were cheap. So cheap I felt silly continuing to grow my own seedlings but that was part of the enjoyment for me. Hope this helps and best of luck.
By bare root, I don’t mean like tree seedlings, these had the dirt from the float trays still intact, I just mean no pots or trays.
 

Knucklehead

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This is an old post about shipping by BigBonner.


Edit: The plants I received looked like this:

 

Iowalez

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I might be interested in having you grow my seedlings for me, if you decide to do this. We should talk through the details, if you decide to go ahead. I could mail you my seeds. I've got a 2021 grow blog started, with variety names and plant numbers listed in it.

Yes, seed starting time, setting up my pole bean trellises and 29 Texas tomato cages, transplanting, and putting it all to bed in November are busy times that take several days of work. My veggie garden was just half of the empty lot last year, and dwarfed every other garden in town in both size and lushness. It captured attention. This year will be even better.

Clinton is known to me, but I've never been there. I'm in Lime Springs, an hour due north of Waterloo, about 5 miles from the MN border. As a tween I lived in San Antonio for five years. I've been in most of the major cities in TX.
 

Tim1963

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Marshall, Texas
By bare root, I don’t mean like tree seedlings, these had the dirt from the float trays still intact, I just mean no pots or trays.
Welcome to the forum.

@BigBonner, a founding member of this forum, is a commercial tobacco grower with an industrial scale float-tray tobacco germination system to supply his own commercial tobacco fields. Every year, he offers transplants for sale to forum members. I have no idea how large a volume of transplants he sells. My sense is that it has been more of a service to members, rather than a cash cow.

One downside of shipping tobacco transplants is that their production has to be synchronized with suitable transplant dates of the recipients (which varies across the country). Also, once those transplants have been received, they need to go into the ground fairly promptly.

I agree with @GreenDragon. I would not hang your hat on tobacco seedlings.

Bob
Hi Bob,
Thank you for your input. All the things you mention make good sense to me.
Pretty much the things you point out regarding Tobacco such as scheduling for regions are things I already do. I start shopping to deep South Texas around March 1st moving North in roughly two week increments every 375 miles and typically finishing up in May for customers in the Northern tier of states. My primary customers are in the sun-belt though.
Using my limited knowledge based on ornamental tobacco, I will need to add roughly 15 days to my growing schedule.
As I mentioned in another reply, I know not to hang my hat on such a niche crop but frankly, it sounds kind of fun! Maybe not the most sound way to make a business decision but after being a grower for 35 years, I need something new and interesting!
Thanks again for taking the time to get back to me.
Tim
 

Tim1963

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Jan 10, 2021
Messages
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Location
Marshall, Texas
Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

I had to delete my whole post as Deluxestogie beat me to it so I will just add this. I have ordered seedlings from BigBonner in the past and they were shipped in a cardboard box with the bare roots wrapped in wet paper towels in sandwich bags. They all arrived in excellent, strong condition ready for transplant. There were no culls. He doesn’t use pots, he seeds direct to float trays or transfers the sprouts (he has done both) and the seedlings stay in the float trays until transplant or shipment. He gives the leaves a “haircut” when they start shading each other. I believe it also helps strengthen the stalks as they arrived as big as a pencil. He has some videos on YouTube you can check out and use the search function here to pull up all his posts and pictures on the forum that may be helpful. I cant remember the price, it’s been about five years or so but they were cheap. So cheap I felt silly continuing to grow my own seedlings but that was part of the enjoyment for me. Hope this helps and best of luck.
Yes! Everything you said does help me!
I am glad you mention the haircut part. It is something I hadn't considered although with the large leaf structure, it makes perfect sense. In addition, it would probably stimulate basal branching down low. I will certainly watch the videos! I am familiar with floating tray systems but of course, do not use them in my operation.
Thanks so much for your help!
 

Desert rose

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Jan 21, 2021
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Hiya Tim -- in S New Mexico myself -think El Paso- and wondering the very same thing--- I have done well with other crops, but a bit afraid to jump into tobacco I think the worse fear is the legality ...can I sell live tobacco plants here at my local farmers market? Not sure what your climate is ( TX is so damn big!!! big smile! ) but here , again think El Paso, I start the seeds under no light, ( but warm 70f) and in about 6 weeks they should be going into the ground... ( as of 22 Jan 2021 ) I have tested this last year and it went well.........time to jump in>?? let's talk !!
 

Desert rose

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also with current political situations, I am pretty sure taxes on tobacco products are going to rise sharply ( at least here in NM ) all the more reason for people to '' grow their own''

Let me know your thoughts Tim..
Amber/
 
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