in Pictures, Projects

Growing Tobacco in New Jersey #2

Read “Growing Tobacco in New Jersey (#1)” if you’re interested in reading about my first attempt at growing tobacco.

March 30th, 2011: Baby cotton in the front, before the cat ate it.

March 30th, 2011: Baby cotton in the front, tobacco behind.

The plants in the front of this picture are cotton and didn’t last long before being consumed by my cat. I wanted to make a cotton pouch for my tobacco.

The strongest plants are transferred to small pots. The strongest of these plants make it outside.

May 1st, 2011: The tobacco is old enough to go outside.

May 1st, 2011: The tobacco is old enough to go outside.

7 weeks. The tobacco goes outside when it looks hardy, which is usually after a couple weeks. The milk jugs give them protection while they get used to being outside.

June 9th, 2011: Young tobacco being chewed alive.

June 9th, 2011: Young tobacco being chewed alive.

12 weeks. The soil in my wooden container has manure mixed in. I’m afraid of using pesticides.

June 21st, 2011: They're getting too big for the milk jugs.

June 21st, 2011: They're getting too big for the milk jugs.

Watching the plants outgrow the milk jugs is great. They’re riding a bike for the first time.

July 5th, 2011: The leaves are getting larger.

July 5th, 2011: The leaves are getting larger.

15 weeks. Tobacco grows quick. I fought the clovers in the background all summer.

July 19th, 2011: Still having bug problems, but overall doing well.

July 19th, 2011: Still having bug problems, but overall doing well.

17 weeks. I still have bug problems in July. The top of the plant looks healthy, so a few sacrificial bug leaves are fine.

July 25th, 2011: Getting bushier.

July 25th, 2011: Getting bushier.

The plant on the side is the orphan of the bunch. I reserved the back-left corner of the box for the only cotton plant that lived. The cotton plant was eaten by squirrels shortly after.

July 25th, 2011: I wanted to eat it.

July 25th, 2011: I wanted to eat it.

The rain is almost frequent enough to keep the plants fed. Stressing the plants does them good, so I wait until the leaves start to droop before giving them water. The leaves perk up after an hour.

August 9th, 2011: The plants have much more heft now.

August 9th, 2011: The plants are thick.

22 weeks. The older leaves are getting their heft now. I’ve noticed that bugs tend to choose the same leaf to stick with, so I leave them around for the sake of the plant. They’ll only eat the leaf if it’s still attached. My decoy leaves never worked.

August 16th, 2011: They little one on the side was a crap-shoot anyway.

August 16th, 2011: They little one on the side was a crap-shoot anyway.

Seeing the plants cast shadows against the fence is a gratifying feeling.

August 26th, 2011: The leaves on the bottom are sacrificial.

August 26th, 2011: The leaves on the bottom are sacrificial.

24 weeks. This is the point in time where the plants really get their height. New leaves are cropping up every day. The new ones are at the top, pointing upward.

August 28th, 2011: The great storm. I used paint cans to help hold the roots in.

August 28th, 2011: The great storm. I used paint cans to help hold the roots down.

I’ve always known that storms are a nightmare for farmers, but never understood like I do now. Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey on the 28th, which is when I was forced to relocate to a friend’s house. I prepared the plants by placing heavy polyurethane cans at the roots. I also pushed the dirt down around the bases. A large tobacco plant is a boat with many sails.

August 29th, 2011: The plants were sad for days.

August 29th, 2011: The plants were sad for days.

The storm passes. I push the roots back into the ground. The leaves drooped for days and the plants are now at a permanent angle.

September 12th, 2011: As tall as I am.

September 12th, 2011: As tall as I am.

26 weeks. I stand at about 5’11”. The plants are taller than me within days.

September 27th, 2011: I don't know when to harvest.

September 27th, 2011: I don't know when to harvest.

Last year I pulled every leaf from my plants on November 3rd. This year I promised myself to let the plants live until they died, harvesting along the way. It’s an experiment.

October 18th, 2011: Embarrassingly proud of the flowers.

October 18th, 2011: Embarrassingly proud of the flowers.

31 weeks. October was a beautiful month for me. My plants flowered for the first time. I have too many photos of every flower.

October 18th, 2011: Stripped the bottom leaves to give the top ones more power.

October 18th, 2011: Stripped the bottom leaves to give the top ones more power.

My sister gets her hair trimmed once a year to promote growth. I strip the bottommost leaves.

October 26th, 2011: The flowers!

October 26th, 2011: The flowers!

The flowers alone make tobacco worth growing.

November 6th, 2011: You can see the poly cans from the great storm.

November 6th, 2011: You can see the poly cans from the great storm.

34 weeks. They’re at the point where I pulled them from the ground last year. The problem with growing tobacco in New Jersey is the duration and heat of summer. The leaves don’t get enough time to yellow. They end up drying badly and make terrible cigars.

November 13th, 2011: Worlds collide.

November 13th, 2011: Worlds collide.

The plants are intertwined. Like a mother, I had unwavering hope for the orphan plant until this picture. Everyone knew but me.

December 4th, 2011: Tomorrow's plants are today's seeds.

December 4th, 2011: Tomorrow's plants are today's seeds.

38 weeks. I have seeds for this year that I am ready to plant! I plucked these down when they started falling from the plants. The leaves have been completely harvested and are hanging in the same shed as last year. I’m feeling ready to roll last year’s leaves into cigars at this point, and am beginning to plant the third harvest now.

You can see the full-sized photos in the gallery on Flickr at: Second year of growing tobacco in NJ

Write a Comment

Comment

  1. Great photos. You could leave the seed head on when you cut the plant in October. Try cutting the plant down and leaving it laying out in the sun for a couple days. The leaves have a better chance of ripening.
    Good luck with this years crop.
    Dan

  2. Are you a Tn. Squire?

    I have 6 unopened bottles of 1996 Bicentenial JD whisky I would like to sell and want to contact the Tn Squires Group. Bottles been in the card board case box since 1996.

  3. Nice plants man! I think I remember hearing somewhere that if you cut off the flowers before they go to seed you get a better overall flavor, but I don’t know how true it is. Good to see other people our age into gardening. Keep it up!

  4. i wanted to know but how did you come across getting the seeds to plant them in the first place ive been googling on where to buy or get tobacco seeds but im not having any luck would you be able to send me a link on where i can buy them or a phone number to a company that sells them?

  5. What are the requirement to growing tobacco in New Jersey ?do i need a license?