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Late entry, DaleB's 2023 grow

DaleB

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I started my seeds very early in the Spring, more late winter. I think I had them in the seed trays even before I tapped my maple trees for syrup (another first this year, and a ton of fun).

I ordered some seeds from Seedman.com - Virginia Brightleaf, Samsun, Ontario Bold, and Tennessee Red Leaf. Why? Umm, from their descriptions. I love Balkan blends, so I definitely wanted some Oriental. It's a first crack at an experimental thing, so I picked out what sounded promising for pipe tobacco. I picked up some seed starter trays with clear domed lids and put 3 seeds per cell. Pretty much every seed I planted sprouted, and I thinned them out after a few weeks. I kept them indoors until it was safe to get them into the yard... then a couple weeks longer since I had nowhere to actually plant them. I wasn't great about rotating the seed trays daily, and this resulted in some of the plants having a distinct bend to them as they went for the sunlight coming through the window.

Seed packets from seedman.com sprouts1.jpg
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DaleB

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We finally put a couple of 3' x 8' raised planters in the back yard. One is dedicated to my tobacco, the other to tomatoes - which we hadn't grown in years, but they're doing exceptionally well. Anyway, the planters got a base of broken up dried branches, leaves, a little cardboard, whatever we had on hand. That was followed by 8-10 bags of garden soil to fill them to within a couple inches of the top. I planted the seedlings, starting with the VA and Samsun... then ran out of room, so a few of the Ontario Bold and TN Red got planted in a couple of large pots on the patio, and a few other places where I could find room. Some of those did well, others not.

Over the next several weeks, the plants in the raised bed grew OK but were a light green and just not very robust looking. I finally hit them with some fertilizer -- I got some organic powdered stuff, and watered it in with Miracle-Grow for lawns. That really greened things up! The plants took off and grew faster and got a much healthier shade of green. Meanwhile the two I had planted in pots on the patio were growing quite well. These pics were taken the same day (July 8). The planter has VA on the left, Samsun on the right. The two pots are Ontario Bold and TN Red Leaf - I lost track of which is which. I fertilized the planter shortly after this.

planter1.jpg patio-2.jpg
 

DaleB

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I decided to let one plant bloom, just because I wanted to see it. I picked the bigger of the patio plants. After a couple weeks of nice pink/purple blossoms, it finally stopped flowering and I eventually lopped off the top. If I get a bunch of seeds, great -- if not, that's OK too. Again, experimental. I'll definitely do this again next year, applying the lessons learned this time around. Anyway, now that we're most of the way through August I've been seeing some leaves ripen and have been harvesting and hanging them as they look about ready.

I'd had a few leaves turn yellow earlier on, back in July, and had cut them off and hung them on some wire in the garage. After a month or so they were thoroughly color cured and dry, so just to see if I was completely wasting my time and efforts on this whole crazy thing I picked one out, crumbled it (it was very dry), and dropped it into the bowl of my old restored Grabow Silver Duke. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised. It's a little rough around the edges, as one would expect, but definitely Virginia tobacco. I think with a little age and some proper curing it should be quite nice. I haven't tried any of the Samsun yet, but I've got some that will be ready to at least sample a small amount.

This whole thing reminds me a bit of my maple syrup attempt this spring. I got a late start and missed probably half the season, just because I didn't anticipate what the weather would do and hadn't ordered supplies in time. I live in Omaha, not exactly known for maple syrup production -- in fact i have NEVER heard of anyone anywhere near here doing it. I've got two good sized silver maples in the yard, but they're not sugar maples. I expected nothing and was beyond surprised when the trees both started producing gallons of sap per day. I went through almost two full propane cylinders firing the turkey fryer I had to use to boil down the sap, and we ended up with about half a gallon of really delicious maple syrup. I'm going to take a much more prepared run at it next year and hope to produce at least a gallon. And just to keep it tobacco-related, I'm thinking of using some of that to case my tobacco. :)
 

DaleB

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Here’s the state of the crop today. There are a few more large plants on the patio, but this is the raised bed with half Bright VA and half Samsun.

I also found one completely brown lug hiding at the bottom of one of the VA stalks. I had a few crunchy small leaves of Samsun on the patio table, so I decided to see if I could - you know - smoke the stuff. So here, presented for your amusement, is my very first self-made, hand rolled cigar. Almost more of a cigarillo, I suppose, but it smokes and is actually quite enjoyable. One of those two tobaccos seems to pack a respectable amount of nicotine.
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deluxestogie

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Congratulations on your first home-rolled stogie.

[My first: Back in 1973, while riding my motorcycle from Missouri, to visit my brother in Maryland, I stopped by the roadside in rural Maryland to watch an Amish farmer harvesting tobacco. I saw a perfectly brown, large leaf lying in the dirt, and asked if I could keep it. The farmer informed me that it was just trash, and invited me hang onto it. That evening, I rolled it into a "cigar" (serendipitous humidity!), and enjoyed every puff. In retrospect, it was likely a mud-lug of a Maryland class tobacco. It took me another 38 years before I rolled my second.]

Bob
 

DaleB

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I received my soil test kit yesterday, and tested Ph/N/P/K today. All are out of whack. The Ph is about neutral, nitrogen and phosphorus completely depleted, potassium very low. I doused the tobacco and tomato beds yesterday with a mixture of Miracle-Gro lawn food (I think it's 30-0-6) and some hydrangea fertilizer I found in the garage. Hopefully that will help. The tobacco only has a few weeks at most before I harvest it all, so if it gets a boost from this stuff, great. As soon as the beds are clear I'll probably plant some buckwheat as "green manure", and will make sure the soil is thoroughly prepared for next year. Silly me - I figured the black garden soil I bought to fill those raised beds was going to be pretty fertile, but either it wasn't or the tobacco has sucked it dry of nutrients. I know the plants were pretty pale and sickly until I started watering them with the Miracle-Gro, then they perked up and started growing a lot faster. We've also started composting, so hopefully that will give us some decent stuff to put in the beds.

I've also had to hit them with BT a couple times a week. I try to check every day, and was surprised at how quickly the worm poop started showing up. Those little bastards are voracious. Some of my Samsun leaves have nothing but veins left. Eating that much tobacco, I'd be turning green too! So I'm trying to spray BT every 3 - 4 days. Meanwhile, I've got several bundles of leaves hanging up under the patio umbrella wilting and color curing. That seems to work pretty well for now; last week was incredibly hot and muggy, this week it's been milder (80s) and not as humid, but it still gets more humid at night. I think the dew and breeze are working well; I've noticed no mold and the leaves are doing well so far. A couple hands are about done, so I'll toss them in a box or bag while I ponder what to do next. This is just the warm-up... I've probably harvested the equivalent of one whole large plant, maybe a bit more. I'm trying to work out a good process that I can use when I've got to pull all the rest. I'm thinking I may try to set up something in the garage for stalk harvesting and just hanging the whole mess. My son and several of his buddies use dip, so I'm hoping to get a batch of that made to see if they like it.
 

DaleB

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What the heck is wrong with this plant?? It's one of my Samsun stalks. The others look OK for the most part (aside from the insect damage), but this one has always displayed this leaf curling to some degree. Over the past two days it's gotten dramatically worse, to the point where it looks obvious the plant is about to die. Now one of the others is starting to show the same sort of darkening and curling. This is one plant the worms have left alone -- obviously they can tell there's something wrong, too. Is this tobacco leaf curl virus?

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DaleB

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Yeah... I think that at least that plant is a goner. I'm not even going to compost it, it's going in the garbage.

Looking at things more carefully, I'm seeing several others - both Samsun and VA - with a few leaves just starting to show signs of curling under. At this stage, I'm wondering if it's not a good time to just harvest everything to prevent further spread. I feel like I'm starting to lose ground in the bug battle, maybe it's time for a strategic retreat.
 

DaleB

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I would suggest stalk-harvesting plants that show some mature top leaves. You can always prime lower leaf. Since most plant viruses are transmitted by insect vectors early in the growing season, there is probably no advantage to prematurely harvesting.

Bob
Be patient with me, I'm a total newbie. Define "mature". Just the size? Other indications? I see leaves that are obviously new growth, and every day I'm finding and removing new suckers. I'm thinking I'll keep priming each stalk unless/until it shows some severe signs of curling, then cut the stalk down and call it good.

I have to remind myself that this is my first year, and I don't really need to maximize yield... as long as I can add to my knowledge for next year it's a success. If I end up with a pound or two of usable pipe tobacco as part of that, then life's good. I've got a fair amount hanging now while I figure out the whole drying/curing process. Early on I had planned to not build a kiln, but I'm sensing that's not a good plan.
 

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Mature leaf - yellow tips, beginnings of an alligatory texture

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Mature to ripe - yellow mottling, more rugose appearance, thicker, flavor and nicotine will be stronger

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A ripe flue cure variety.

How mature or ripe you want the leaf depends on whether cigar or cigarette, how strong you like your smokes. Wrapper is usually primed mature for a lighter strength, thinner stretchier wrapper. Filler at mature to ripe depending on your preferences. Cigarettes are usually allowed to get ripe to over ripe.
 

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deluxestogie

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I've just added a new thread to the Index of Key Forum Threads, under the Harvesting topic:


Bob
 

DaleB

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Thanks guys! MUCH appreciated. I'm growing 99% for pipe tobacco. No cigarettes, and I may try my hand at a cigar or two, but I'm not a cigar smoker any more -- just can't take the nicotine dose. It's a little sad, because I was "broken in" to cigar smoking with a box of Cuban Romeo y Juliete Churchills, then a box of Hoyo de Monterey double coronas. Both were absolutely sublime, especially the Hoyos. I still have three of those. They've been in the humidor since, I think, around 1996. I had an office next door to a couple of guys who would make runs to Havana a couple times a year and bring back duffel bags of cigars. I remember I paid $400 for that box of RyJ Churchills...

But I digress. Now I smoke a pipe. I favor Balkan and English blends, Latakia heavy, or straight aged VA. Even in my youth I very much appreciated Turkish tobacco in cigarettes. Nicotine content isn't my goal, but flavor is. So I’m growing pipe tobacco. And I may make a batch of dip from scraps and stalks for those who use it.
 

Hayden

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Thanks guys! MUCH appreciated. I'm growing 99% for pipe tobacco. No cigarettes, and I may try my hand at a cigar or two, but I'm not a cigar smoker any more -- just can't take the nicotine dose. It's a little sad, because I was "broken in" to cigar smoking with a box of Cuban Romeo y Juliete Churchills, then a box of Hoyo de Monterey double coronas. Both were absolutely sublime, especially the Hoyos. I still have three of those. They've been in the humidor since, I think, around 1996. I had an office next door to a couple of guys who would make runs to Havana a couple times a year and bring back duffel bags of cigars. I remember I paid $400 for that box of RyJ Churchills...

But I digress. Now I smoke a pipe. I favor Balkan and English blends, Latakia heavy, or straight aged VA. Even in my youth I very much appreciated Turkish tobacco in cigarettes. Nicotine content isn't my goal, but flavor is. So I’m growing pipe tobacco. And I may make a batch of dip from scraps and stalks for those who use it.
20230822_161634.jpg
Thats how the Virginia Gold from my garden looks and blog looks. Also i give it some more time to ripen more just like in the pictures above but a good fertilization with chicken manure and some weed tea really makes things easier in deciding if it is ripening or just nitrogen deficiency.
 

DaleB

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D
Fertilizing tobacco late in the season can delay leaf maturation.

Bob
Damn, wouldn't have thought that. I was looking more closely at the crop (ha) yesterday. The one I pulled out most definitely had something very wrong with it. I'm assuming TLWV. The others with cupping leaves, however, don't show the other issues - dark green color, puckering, etc. I think they may just be calcium deficient or something. I'm just going to leave these well enough alone and continue priming as the leaves mature, and plan for much better soil next year. We'll have compost made from our own stuff, and when the raised beds are empty I'm planting them with buckwheat.

Now I'm running into the OTHER problem I hadn't really put enough thought into. I've got nowhere to hang these leaves. I'd planned to continue hanging them under the patio umbrellas, but hanging out in the warm air and breeze like that seems to dry them too quickly. I've got a few leaves that dried with some green left in them, which if I'm understanding correctly there's no way to correct. I've got to figure out some place to hang more leaves than I thought I'd have. That, or build a kiln and figure that whole thing out...
 

DaleB

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It's late September, and the tobacco is growing like bad weeds. I'm amazed at the growth over the past 3 weeks or so, to be honest. Plants that were about 5' tall are now above my head at 6 to 6-1/2'. I was remiss and didn't keep up on suckering, and as a result I've got several plants with 2 or 3 large stalks starting at head level instead of one. On the bright side, that's a lot more leaves - and the new leaves are sticky as hell, which I suspect means enough nicotine content to be useful. I've got a fair number of leaves and a couple of potted plants that are mature to ripe, and I've got to get going on my kiln so I can harvest them. I have found that if I hang mature leaves (green, with yellow edges) in my garage, they will quite likely dry with a fair amount of green still remaining. There just isn't enough humidity right now. I'm not too worried; I'm sure it will make acceptable dip. If the guys don't like the dip it'll compost well.

I just got back in from doing some suckering and topping, and noticed that there are a LOT of tiny little black winged insects on the leaves. As I don't plan to pull any leaves for a few days, I sprayed with Sevin to avoid losing any more to insect damage. I don't like to do that, but the label says 1 day PHI for leafy stuff like lettuce and cabbage... no mention of tobacco... but it will be at least 4-5 days before I start harvesting leaves from the plants I sprayed. I did let a couple of the Samsun plants bloom, so I should be set for seeds for the next - oh, I don't know, lifetime or two. Anybody want some Samsun or Ontario Bold seeds? I've probably got enough already for an acre or three.

As I noted, I've got to get to work on my kiln. I bought a garage door insulation kit at Menard's; that's 8 slabs of 1-1/2" Styrofoam, roughly 2' wide by 5' long, with reflective film on one side. My thinking was to build it with no frame, just gluing the foam together. Unfortunately it's just too curved for that to work well; the sheets aren't flat. I've got some scrap trim pieces I can use to just straighten and stiffen them up, then after gluing I'll seal the seams on the inside with mylar HVAC tape to keep any glue odors out of the tobacco. We'll see how that goes; I'll document it so that others can benefit from the example - whether it's an example to be followed or simply one to be avoided is as yet unknown. Gotta make a trip to the Goodwill store for a used crockpot.

I have been simply astonished at tobacco's ability to and affinity for sprouting new leaves... everywhere. I had cut the bottom few rows of mature leaf from the two potted plants I have on the patio; both have sprouted dozens of new leaves that are pretty well along. I'll let them go until just before the frost, just to see what happens. Those two are grown from seedlings I just ran out of space for and plopped them into a coupe of planters rather than tossing them into the yard waste pile. They were quite ornamental all summer, and anything they produce is a bonus.
 

DaleB

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Frost warnings for overnight and this morning, so yesterday I harvested it all. Hopefully today I'll get the kiln finished up. Not shown are about a dozen stalks of Samsun, plus a box a couple grocery sacks full of lugs and suckers that will hopefully get turned into dip. Or something. That should be entertaining...

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