This page is dedicated to the DIY tobacco enthusiast. Please note that few if any vapers, come enforcement of the deeming regulation and all e-cigarettes get taken off the market, will go to this extreme. And forget smokers, they certainly will not do this to transition to vaping. I am one of the few that would if I had too but even I just went ahead and stored my own eLiquid to last two lifetimes. With that said, I always wanted to try this, especially when I was doing Roll Your Own (RYO). Alas though, I couldn't have a garden back then where I lived.
But now, I do. And I have a lot of hobbies and have done a lot of things so why not? Unfortunately, gardening was not among them...until now! So sit back with your favorite beverage and follow this tale of a complete novice, noob, of growing anything let alone tobacco. I killed a cactus once, guess I over watered it or over fertilized it. That was the end of my gardening for over 30 years. Now my grandmother grew everything. I swear she could grow a tree out of a dried up old twig most definitely a "green thumb". My father had a garden to specifically grew hot banana peppers. But all my black thumb ever did was kill a cactus. So if I can do it, you can too, just look:
The objective will be to grow my own tobacco to use in extracting my own nicotine or more precisely a whole tobacco extract including nicotine to be used in vaping. Remember, organic, no nasty pesticides. Natural Neem oil is the only one I would consider, best to grow in an environment where bugs are controlled, IE Greenhouse, indoors, or netted outdoors. Now this was an experiment started late in the year. I sewed seeds in small 4 inch planter pots on 4 August 2018! In just a few days this is what I got on 7 August:
I had no idea how ridiculously small tobacco seeds were. You need a jewelers loop to see them! About the size of a flea. I had bought a pack of 100 seeds for a couple dollars off of Amazon from California. In trying to "dispense" the seeds into ten 4" starter pots I nearly dumped the whole load in one! Next time I'll do better. Here is a picture of 1000 seeds also from Amazon but these came from Germany? I mean seriously? Oh well here is the pic:
And believe it or not, those little buggers turn into 3-4 foot tall plants! Here they are on 8 November:
As I'll show in the next several lines I had waited until the seedlings were about an inch or so in size then replanted ten of the larger ones into big 12" pots and set them outside. The rest I placed in "window sill" planters along the fence line for the dogs along with 10 in the small 4" planters. As the weather started getting cool a week ago I pulled 8 of the best inside. Obviously you shouldn't start that late I was just experimenting. Remember seeds are cheap. But from this first foray I do have some lessons learned to pass along:
1. Don't buy a "growing tobacco book", it is unnecessary. I'll tell you what you need to know and details that are NOT in the books about how to actually grow them from seeds, harvest leaves and seeds and process leaves. Unless you want the history and lists of many different varieties then by all means, buy the book. The seeds I used for this experiment and all these pics and vids are: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KOK2RQ6/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 By the shapes of the leaves, they are clearly a burly Virginia type.
2. Walk or visit your plants/garden EVERY DAY. I did this without fail, you must too, especially if planting outdoors but just as necessary indoors. Just walk and look, add water, spray with pesticide if bugs are eating them up. Remember if the leaves get water on them from rain or your watering, the pesticide gets washed off.
3. Neem oil doesn't work very well. You are going to have to make a decision, organic or not. To grow a few plants inside where they are protected from bugs then you can grow them organically with natural pesticides like neem oil. But if you grow outside then you are going to want to use nasty, non-organic, dr. death, nuke everything, pesticides. Indoors, the bugs are less plentiful and controllable. Outside they're everywhere, they're everywhere! LOL
4. Start seeds in peat pots. I didn't do this but I can see now this is a must! Next time I will use trays and Jiffy 7 Organic Peat Soil 42mm Pellets. These pellets expand with water and when you transplant, just move the whole pellet with seedling into a large pot. If you plan to plant in the ground then use peat pots and starter soil from Lowes or Home Depot and keep the soil moist but not drowning, then transplant peat pot and all. Whichever you aim for, indoors or outdoors the main take away is transplant ONE TIME into something. Not three times like I did! On seedlings use a spray bottle on spray, not stream, to water the seedlings as necessary. When transplanted into big pots then water with a pour can and use miracle grow ONE TIME at transplant and that is all. If you want to use nasty pesticides, transfer the peat pots into the ground that is tilled with lots of vegetable growing mulch mixed in if not just a bed of pure vegetable growing mulch from Lowes or Home Depot. That stuff is infused with fish emulsion which is great for growing tobacco. If growing inside don't use any planter pots less than 12". These plants need large pots, they will not grow to their potential in a small pot due to the restriction on root ball size. An 18" pot would not be too big. Buy planters that have a hole in the bottom that drain and buy the trays for them and just put that vegetable growing mulch in the pot with one seedling, water one time at transplant with miracle grow then water daily if needed with plain water and a pour can.
5. You don't need 100 plants or a thousand. A dozen or so will be enough. Luckily, a 1000 tobacco seeds is only a few bucks but really you wont need them unless you are going to be a tobacco farmer and that is a whole other topic I cant cover as it is beyond my ken. But just a few plants will yield enough leaves and nicotine for our vaping purposes. In other words if you can at all grow inside then do so. It greatly simplifies and improves plant growth. In my case I have an enclosed pool and I placed the plants on the south side. A small greenhouse can be purchased or built very cheaply. I highly recommend growing indoors given our purpose and therefore limited need. You can make a greenhouse using six concrete blocks, ten 2x6" x 8' long, two dozen 2x4" studs, two sheets of 4x8' plywood, a roll of visqueen (clear polyethylene sheeting) and bulk screen (for venting). More expensive units use real glass.
6. When they get about 36" - 48" tall they will start budding. You can let them go to seed pods and collect the pods for seeds next year if you want and harvest the leaves. Each pod has about a 1000 seeds. At 24" tall you can snap the top off and the plant will concentrate on making the lower leaves very big and broad. For smoking tobacco how to strip the little starter leaves and snap the top off at just the right time based on lower leaf count and plant height to make the best tasting and rolling leaves is an artform. For our needs, none of that matters much. Just let them grow out, collect the seed pods and the leaves and the stalks, the whole nine yards.
7. When you see leaves that have a yellow tint to them, not all yellow, just kind of a yellow glow or all over yellow haze but not green, then they are ready to be picked. You can cut the whole stalk if the majority of lower leaves have turned. If the leaves go all yellow and start browning on the edges, those are over ripe. Then thread the leaves or whole plants with thread and a blunt carpet needle and heavy cotton thread and wash them and hang them to dry.
8. Wash the leaves in a bucket of water with clorox (unscented) bleach, approximately half a cup bleach to 5 gallons of water or one teaspoon per quart or two tablespoons per gallon. Dip the leaves in and swirl them around and let them soak for at least 15 minutes. Then pour out the bucket and rinse the leaves and stalks off two or three times with clear water. Rinse filling bucket, swirl leaves, pour out, repeat two or three times. This will kill any nasties left on the leaves and rinse off the sodium hypochlorite, aka clorox bleach.
9. Then hang and dry. Now I just put mine in a closet with a red heatlamp. Our house has an air conditioner/heatpump which dries out the air. We also have a storm shelter that has a dehumidfier running in it 24/7 so that can also be used. If you don't have access to a dry place to dry your tobacco, then you can make a flue cure really simple. get a length of steel duct from Lowes or Home Depot with an end cap, say 10 inch and an elbow. Support the tube vertically with the elbow on the bottom and position a heater like a Lansky to blow into the elbow. You might help the heater conform to the vent pipe elbow with some aluminum flashing which comes in a roll of various sizes and is cheap at Lowes and Home Depot and comes in handy for a lot of DIY projects. Put a one to two inch hole in the end cap and place on top of the vent pipe and voila...you have a flue cure rig. In the summer, just paint the pipe flat black, red or green and let the good ol sun do the work only cover the bottom of the tube with a screen, no elbow needed and don't put a hole in the top cap and support vertically on a fence post or something. Sheds can also be used especially if they are painted black red or green (hottest colors virtually identical in the amount of solar radiation they absorb).
11. The result of this process will be a thick yellow to brown liquid in the brown jar. Treat this as PURE NICOTINE a.k.a. PURE POISON.
a. Get on your skin.
b. Handle without gloves.
c. Leave in the reach or pets or children.
g. Smell. Ok maybe smell is ok but honestly be careful, don't snort any, don't let it touch your nose and don't inhale any even up your nose can kill you.
At this point you are ready to measure out and make e-liquid. Use a syringe. Weigh the syringe or "tare-out" the syringe on a tare scale. Draw in liquid nicotine and weigh. The rest is math. If you have 1000milliliters of vegetable glycerin or 1 liter and you want 20milligram per ml, then you want 20,000mg or 20 grams of liquid nicotine by weight. Add the twenty grams to the liter and mix well allowing the mix to even out over night.
Ok that's pretty much all you need to know. The rest below is just detail of the above. Keep in mind this was an experiment and a learning event. Some of the things I did was compensation for starting late in the summer instead of early in the spring like should have been done. It is amazing to see these gigantic plants grow from such tiny seeds and this is my first attempt to grow anything from seed.
6 September (transplanted to window sill planters):
2 October (transplanted larger ones to 12" pots and some back to 4" pots and spread out seedlings in window sill planters - ignore horseradish in rear right planter):
No picture, I had moved 8 of the better/taller plants back indoors as bad weather was on the way. The plants were about to the bottom of the window sill planters (about 36") but had not budded yet.
8 Nov (four of the plants have budded and are 4 foot tall):
Harvested the outdoor plants as well. Here are some leaves that are over ripe:
Here are some leaves and stalks that are just ripe:
Ok keep in mind these were the outside plants that saw cold weather and I had picked off the over ripe leaves and tossed those in the mulch/compost bin. These plants were small, never fully developed and there are still some outside in the yard while the nice big ones are inside just budding. I noticed two that I may move indoors tomorrow as they have slowly gotten almost 30-36" tall. Can you spot them? The pic below is before I discarded the over ripe leaves and harvested the ripe leaves and stalks.
I think all these pics above do a decent job of showing which leaves are ripe, over ripe and not yet ripe. But keep in mind that none of these plants ever developed fully. So now that we have leaves and stalks picked, it's time to thread them:
And after washing them in bleach and water mix we hang them to dry:
That's an interior house closet/wet wall but is very dry and with the red heat lamp, stays very warm for the drying process. I may make a flue cure... but this should work for now. Ok that concludes the activity on 8 Nov. Tomorrow I will move two more plants in from outside and now we wait until the indoor plants mature. Incidentally today, 8 Nov 2018 is when I started this page.
I had indeed moved two other plants back indoors and they are at 40" I am sure they will continue to thrive through at least turkey day if not the holidays. One of the buds finally opened to a beautiful flower and I went ahead and manually pollinated it with a q-tip:
Simply twirl the q-tip around the stigma and stamens. The tobacco flower is a perfect example of the classic flower biology lesson:
13 Nov I made my flue cure:
The rod is a piece of 9 gauge wire left over from a fencing project but you can use anything that's metal even a metal ruler. I couldn't find a baffle and a minion wasn't handy so I just went ahead and made a 9" circle out of some aluminum flashing. The vent pipe is 8", those are two 24" sections and an elbow. I just stood it in the corner of the garage. A piece of brick helps hold the flashing down. The heater is a typical ceramic heater found anywhere, set on low. You can see the leaves have already partially dried out from the closet. This shouldn't' take more than a day or two so we will see, also I am not going to leave this on at night / if I leave. In other words, don't leave this unattended as it is. The trim work is wood, the heater casing is plastic and of course the leaves themselves are flammable. the brick concrete and sheetrock will be fine although the paint and paper facing on the sheetrock can be an issue. Be sure to check it every so often to make sure nothing is being damaged. Not a bad idea to measure it's temperature too. Mine stays at around 95F on the pipe even in the corner against the sheetrock wall using a non contact IR thermometer. The heater has a built in thermostat set about half way so its not running constantly. This ensures the unit will not overheat. DO NOT set thermostat to max. Leave the thermostat at half way and the unit won't overheat/melt/catch on fire. The temperature of air leaving the baffle at top when it is running is around 195F.
After about 12 hours today and 4 yesterday the leaves are absolutely dry from this experimental flue cure system! I didn't think it would take long and it didn't. Remember low heat setting don't dry too fast:
I noticed in the garage as they were drying a rather pleasant odor that is difficult to describe but definitely you could tell it was from the tobacco leaves. At the end of cure or drying out there was no odor at all. So now it's on to the Ninja chopper to make little pieces for our extraction process:
Just the leaves although the stalks could be processed too, I don't see why not, but I did just the leaves. Then dumped in a zip-lock baggie ready for the anhydrous ethyl alcohol. Weighed 19Grams after tare on the baggie, a little more than 1/2 an ounce. I will wait until the indoor plants are ready to process before I perform the extraction...I would really like about 4 ounces of flake leaves if possible.
Here is a better pic of the tobacco flower, suitable for a desktop background, I remembered to put the camera in macro mode this time! BTW the camera I use for most of these shots is a Nikon P7000. If the pic name starts with DSCN, then that's what took it. The few that start with IMG are from a Canon G10. Just FYI I have had the Canon since it was released, I just picked up the Nikon used cause I wouldn't pay that much new, but I much prefer the Nikon. There really is no comparison. The low light ability of the Nikon is legendary, great for a compact. Not quite as good as my D700 but impressive and in movie mode. The D3300 is a bargain now used, it's fairly close in low light but the D700 is still king. Still if you are looking for a quality camera that will do HD1080 movies, look at the D3300 and P840 you can find them for less than $150 and $100 respectively. If 720P HD is good enough, it's hard to beat the compact but sturdy frame and great low light of the P7000. The canon...well it just isn't in the same class. Great frame, nice built in flash, but it just doesn't perform nearly as well as any of the nikons mentioned.
A couple more blooms and another string of leaves to dry. I have noticed that when the leaves are ripe, they not only have that golden glow to them but they are also sticky. Two buds I had pollinated are finally closing up, I'm waiting on about 8 more and a dozen or so buds to flower yet. So understand that leaves are already ripening on plants that have budded but have not blossomed as yet. It may be due to my starting late in the season, the temperature even inside the pool room and my artificial light.
Several of the buds have been successfully pollinated as evidenced by the flowers falling off and bulb enlargement. Now I shall wait for the bulb to turn brown. It is unclear to me if the bulbs can be plucked while still green and successfully produce seeds.
Many of the leaves have that golden glow, some a little tinge of brown which means they are ripe and ready to be harvested before they go over-ripe. In fact all but two plants. Here are some pics as determining when it is time to harvest has been the most difficult for me:
After stringing the harvested leaves and flue curing them, this is the dried string I ended up with. I just left it cure overnight so about 14 hours. You will see that some of the leaves are a nice brown color, most have a soft tan or yellow color but a few are green. The green ones were picked a little early but some of them had brown spots on them indicating going over ripe. Like I said before I'm not an expert at this, I'm not sure why that is but I am sure for our purposes it's not a problem.
I did record a couple takes for a movie that will be uploaded on youtube eventually. After harvest though, the plants look kinda funny, still waiting on the buds to fully mature I think they will turn brown.
90 grams about 3.1 ounces is what I ended up with. I may harvest the rest of the leaves when they are ready and chop them up but it won't be more than a 1/4 ounce if even that. True there are two more plants left to be picked but in general if you have followed along thus far, this gives you a good idea of what you can expect for a harvest from around 10 plants potted in big pots that can go to maturity and 10 plants potted in pots too small that got maybe 1/4 way there and a few pickings from the window sill planters that were just over seedlings. So all in all I'm going to say around 12-15 full grown plants worth. Also for out purposes I am pretty sure the stalks can be utilized but as this is an experiment this batch I won't use them.
10 January 2018
Ok so the first experiment didnt work so well. When the extract was finally boiled off there was no liquid left in the jar. Nicotine is a liquid so it also boiled off. And that was at room temperature. At first I tried a little heat then I left it set for three weeks. Gotta wait for spring to plant seeds and start over. Speaking of seeds, the seed pods are just starting to turn here are some pictures:
By the end of January I was plucked pods off and storing in a jar, the pods all turned brown and on a few they were starting to open. Each pod has hundreds of seeds and I have over two dozen pods collected. So it is real easy to get seeds for next years crop.
Ok it is 14 April 2019 and I am starting the second round of my tobacco planting experiment. This time I am using Nicotiana Rustica seeds. I have gobs of seeds from my plants last year and still have the seeds from Germany but I am going to try and plant Rustica. I have 200 Jiffy 7 pellets so...I'll try a little of last years, some of the Germany seeds and these Rustica that I purchased from https://strictlymedicinalseeds.com/product/tobacco-hopi-nicotiana-rustica-packet-of-100-seeds-organic/.
The two rows closest to the window are Rustica, the next two are the German seeds Tobacco Nicotana, the next two are Russian seeds, the last two are mine from last year, actually just one small pods worth. The tray is an old appliance tray, like those you get at Lowes and put under a washing machine.
All the information contained in these pages are only the opinions of the author and the author is not an expert at anything.