How to grow tobacco

The tobacco plant will flourish as far north as Southern Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even in Connecticut large quantities of it are now raised for market. The most suitable soil for it is a light rich, sandy soil; the finest qualities grow on newly cleared land. Tobacco consumes the strength of the soil more than most crops. The best fertilizer for it is Peruvian guano.

Having selected a lot of newly cleared land, in the early part of March lay a large quantity of brush, leaves, etc., over the ground, and burn it thoroughly, then plough and pulverize the earth well, raking in as much ashes as possible. When the bed has been made smooth and firm, sow your seed about the middle of March, and then tramp it in, being careful to tramp the surface equally.

A few days before the plants are ready for transplanting, the ground should be thrown into ridges with the plough, by throwing two furrows together about two feet apart, and then raking down to from two to three inches above the general level of the surface. A time of wet weather is the best for transplanting. Set the plants about eighteen inches or two feet apart in the rows. This work is generally done from the middle of May to the middle of June.

Cultivate the plants as you would a corn crop, being careful to keep the ground well stoned and clean from weeds. The greatest enemy to contend with is the tobacco worm, which must be often and well looked for and destroyed. These worms will sometimes devour a large plant in a few hours. Some planters keep large flocks of turkeys, and train them to the tobacco field, in order that they may devour the worms; this answers well, and saves a good deal of manual labor.

When the plant makes buds for seed, they must be broken off, or it will make small leaves.

After the plant seems fully grown and assumes a yellowish cast, it is then ripe and fit for housing, which must be done by cutting it off at the ground and piercing with split sticks about four feet long, putting as many plants on each stick as it will hold without pressing them too closely together. If a free circulation of air be prevented the plants will mould. When thus done, hang them up in an airy house, made for the purpose, to dry. It is better to wilt the plants in the sun before housing, if it can be done.

When housed it requires nothing further until it has become seasoned. Then, in damp weather, while the leaves are pliable, strip them off, noting the different qualities as you proceed. Tobacco is generally, at this stage, divided into four qualities--the ground leaves, the bright red, the dull red and the tail ends, or top leaves. When there are large quantities to handle, it is best to have a stripper for each quality, the first taking off the ground leaves, then passing the plant to the next to take off the bright red, and so on until the leaves are all taken off. The stripper should hold them in his hand till he has as many as he can well carry; then he takes a leaf and ties around the stock ends of the bunch, and ties them fast. The bunches of leaves are then to be well packed in heaps, and to remain so until they begin to heat. Then they must be shaken out and again hung on the sticks and put up in the house as before. When the bunches are packed in bulk to heat, the pack must be examined every twelve hours, lest it get too hot and spoil.

After the bunches have undergone the fermenting process they are to be tightly packed by hand in hogsheads and powerfully pressed, putting from 800 to 1000 pounds in a hogshead. It is then ready for market.

Return to The Household Cyclopedia of General Information