TOBACCO GROWING DIARY 2012. (This is a diary of events. Comments on the original post are not carried forward)

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Post of 25. 1. 2012: Let the Growing Season Begin!

I have just today taken delivery of 96 fibre 2″ plant pots:

Golly! This grow your own is getting expensive. £8 pounds that lot cost me, plus £6 for 3,000 golden Virginia seeds. Still, nothing ventured…….

Can’t start today – daughter’s dog with us again. So I’m going to do a little checking on the net for some info about these fibre pots.

UPDATE 6PM

Well, we are off to a good start:

Plantable pots! Perfect for all your seeds and cuttings, these biodegradable pots are made from coir, which is the fibrous layer between the green skin and hard brown shell of a coconut. They won’t fall apart when wet and don’t steal moisture away from your plants.

When ready, simply plant the whole pot in your garden and the roots will break through the pot as your plants grow.

The sentence in bold is precisely what I wanted to know. The only thing that I am not happy about is the fact that there are no drain holes so I think I’ll just punch a hole in the bottom.

Post of 29. 1. 2012: Growing Season: Seeds in Pots.

A few days ago, I said that I had obtained 96 2″ fibre pots (see post dated 25. 1. 2012). Some interesting comments to that article. Today, I have sown seeds into the pots. I’ll describe the methods that I used hoping that readers will find it useful.

So I’ll start with this pic:

What you are seeing is a washing-up bowl. Because the bowl is uneven at the bottom, I first put a layer of sand on the bottom of the bowl. After putting the fibre pots in the bowl, I filled around them with sand up to about two thirds of the height of the pots. You can just about make out the sand. (The white patches are spilled sand – it will do no harm) The sand is there to stabalise the pots and retain moisture.

Once the pots were in situ, I boiled a kettle of water. After allowing the water to cool a little, I poured the really hot water all over the pots and the sand. I did this to raise the temperature of the whole thing. After a fairly short period of time, everything had cooled to a pleasantly warm temperature.

The next thing was to sow the seeds. Here is another pic:

This is to show just how small the seeds are. The round object is a penny (just for scale). The question now is how to sow small quantities of seeds into each pot. Here is another pic:

You are seeing two sheets of white A4 paper. On the right, is a pile of seeds sprinkled out onto the paper. On the left, I have separated a few seeds (about ten) onto a piece of paper slipped under the sheet on the right.

Moving the camera out, I can show the little idea that I had:

You can see that I have shaped the sheet on the left into a funnel. You can just about see the small group of seeds on that sheet (looks more like a black dot!). I found it very easy then to funnel the seeds into each pot in turn. The seeds slide off the paper into the pots easily. Also, as I put seeds into each pot, I put a paper-clip into that pot so that I would not lose track of where I was up to.

The bowl with its pots is now sitting on a shelf in the kitchen over a radiator:

What you are seeing is the bowl with a hot, wet hand towel draped over the bowl. The towel has been wrung out, but not completely. The towel is not touching the pots – it looks deeper into the bowl than it is. I’ll soak the towel in hot water two or three times a day for the next few days. I expect germination to begin in about five days.

As it happens, I have three spare bowls (don’t know how I came by them!), so the seedlings can stay in them.

Next report probably next Sunday. So far, so good.

Post of 30. 1 .2012: More re Fibre Pots.

Someone said, in a comment about fibre pots, that they can take months to decompose and resist  the efforts of plant roots to break through. That could be tricky as regards the roots of tobacco plants because, initially, they are very weak. I decided to do a little experiment.

I put a fibre pot in a cup and filled both pot and cup with water. I have left it standing for a couple of days. Last night, and again this afternoon, I checked the composition of the pot. Though the material had become pliable, it was holding its shape very well, but I noticed that when I pulled at the rim of the pot, it ripped away fairly easily.  This has given me hope that it may not be necessary to take any special steps to remove chunks of the sides of the pots. But it pays to take care, and so I’ll fill a pot with compost and stick it in the ground (as soon as the frost dissipates) to see what happens to it. I’ll also probably cut down the sides of the pots with scissors before planting them. We must wait and see what the experiments show.

Post of 1st Feb 2012 A Fibre Pot falling apart: Transplanting seedlings.

A FIBRE POT.

About four days ago, I placed a fibre pot in a cup and filled both with cold water. I wanted to test the effect of contact with water on the pot. Testing to destruction, I suppose. Here are a couple of pics:

In the first pic, you can just about see that the pot is torn. That is because I attempted to lift it out of the water. The fabric of the pot tore quite easily. Nevertheless, the pot has essentially retained its shape – it has not disintegrated.

The second pic looks odd. It can look to be just a mis-shapen mass. It is one of those photographic illusions! To get the right focus, concentrate your eyes on the black shadow. You should then see that the bottom half of the pot is intact, while the top part of the pot is torn away. The fibre definitely tears very easily.

I’ve now put the remains on one side to dry out. I want to see if the fibre becomes tough again when it dries out. I would imagine so. The result could be significant when I need to handle the pots at a later date.

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TRANSPLANTING SEEDLINGS.

Some time ago, as a little experiment I placed some seeds in a plastic 2″ pot to see if I could germinate them without using a propagator. The experiment was successful. Several seedlings appeared, I thinned them out until there were only three seedlings left in the pot. For people who are new to this site, I’ll show a few pics:

That was taken 14th Nov 2011. The seeds had just germinated.

There they are on the 4th Jan 2012. Look at the seedling on the left. Note the long white stalk. When transplanting, bury the seedling right up to the leaves.

Here they are now, 1st Feb 2012. They look to be level with the compost, but they are not. The white stalks are still there but leaves are obscuring them. The one on the right is a bit peculiar. It hasn’t developed like the other two, but it seems to be healthy.

Since I took  the last picture, I have transplanted the seedlings into their own pots:

There’s one of the two bigger ones complete with as much compost as possible. I levered it out with a teaspoon until I could handle it. And now the finished product:

All three seedlings are now buried right up to the bottom of the leaves. They are back on the kitchen windowsill, having been watered in. They can sit there now for as long as…..

But the process has taken two and a half months! I am sure that it is true that light has a lot to say in the growth of the seedlings. In fact, I know that Pat Nurse used a ‘grow light’ effectively. Even on the kitchen windowsill (which faces East and thus gets morning sun directly), there is little strong light and the days are short. But I am more than happy that they have survived. Another little chapter written.

Post of 2nd Feb 2012    The Fibre Pot.

An update on yesterday’s post – having dried out, the fibre pot has indeed returned to the tough state as expected after its soaking. Useful to know if one becomes concerned about the softness of these pots when damp.

Post of 4th Feb 2012 We have germination!

Last Sunday, I sprinkled seeds into 2″ fibre pots placed in a washing up bowl. Sand was poured into the gaps between the pots to stabilise them and to provide a reservoir of water. Here is a pic;

I covered the bowl with a hot, damp hand towel, which I re-wet with hot water two or three times a day. I then placed the bowl on a shelf in the kitchen over a radiator. Another pic:

Today, Saturday, six days later, we have germination:

The germinated seeds are the white dots.

In a few days time, they will look like this:

I’ll carry on covering them with the hot, damp towel for a few more days, but once they reach the stage as above, I’ll dispense with the towel. Once they have germinated, they need no long sit on the shelf over the radiator – they only need the extra heat during germination.  I’ll  then let them develop for a couple more weeks, and then I’ll thin them out to two or three seedlings. When they seem definitely settled and have reached the stage like this:

I’ll take out the two weakest seedlings leaving just the one.

The next job is to start the next bowl. I intend to do three bowls in all, giving me 57 plants. Plus the three plants that I already have going, that will give me 60 in all. That ought to be enough.

Off to a good start!

GROW YOUR OWN! (See sidebar)

Post of 5th Feb 2012    Update to ‘We have germination!’ 

Just about 24 hours ago, I showed some pics showing the germinating seeds. Little white spots, they were. Here is one of the pics from yesterday:

And now three pics 24 hours later:

We have stalks and the beginning of leaves!

Brilliant.

GROW YOUR OWN! (see sidebar)

Post of 10th Feb 2012    2nd Bowl of Seeds In Pots.

Tonight I go for a beer, even though I have to go out in the freezing cold to have a cigarette. Friday night is the most amusing night of the week, so one must put up with the cold.

I am taking a night off – feeling a bit harassed at this time. But, yesterday, I prepared my second bowl of fibre pots and seeded them with tobacco plant seeds. Here are a couple of pics:

The first pic is of the fibre pots, which have been seeded. I poured sand around and between the pots to stabilise them and to provide a reservoir of water. The second one shows the bowl covered by a hot, damp towel. I re-wet the towel once or twice a day. The whole thing is sitting on a shelf in the kitchen which has a radiator beneath it.

(Sorry for the repetition for those have seen all this before!)

In five days, I expect to see the seeds germinating, and, after seven days, they will have little stalks and leaves.

Post of 15th Feb 2012  Germination in bowl two.

Last Thursday, 9th Feb, I seeded my second bowl of tobacco plants. Here’s the pic:

And now, six days later, 15th Feb, we have germination!

One seedling is prominent at the top. The others are the white dots in the middle.

Here’s another pot:

In another couple of days, they will be about 1cm tall with little leaves. Once the seedlings have reached that stage, I’ll start bowl three. So I now have a total of 39 pots on the go, with 20 more to go. Excellent! All going to plan – so far.

Yesterday, I thinned out bowl one. Each pot has two, three or four seedlings, depending upon spacing. I’ll leave them for a couple of weeks and then decide whether or not to thin them further.

Post of 19th Feb 2012     3rd bowl of tobacco seeds. 

Today I have seeded the 3rd bowl of tobacco seeds. That will give me 60 plants in total. I think that I have space for them all.

I try to think of people who might be visiting here for the first time, and wonder what it is all about. All I can do is point them to the sidebar where I am keeping a diary of the process of seeding, growing, curing and finishing tobacco. For a reasonably comprehensive explanation of the whole process, people should read last year’s investigations. Remember, though, that the system is only suitable for cigarette tobacco – pipe and cigar smokers need different plants, and I cannot speak for the best methods in those cases. All I can say is that the system I describe work fine for me.

Anyway, for the last time this year, I’ll show the two pics of the bowl again:

 There’s the bowl with 20 fibre pots. The gaps between the pots are filled with sand. The idea is to stabilise the pots in their positions and to provide a reservoir of water. The pots are porous and will leak water without something to retain it.

The bowl is covered with a hot, wet hand towel which I re-wet once or twice a day. The whole thing is sitting on a shelf in the kitchen which is over a radiator. It is important to keep them warm until they have germinated. After that, it doesn’t matter – ordinary room temperature is sufficient.  After five or six days, the seeds will germinate.

All my posts about progress this year to date are in the diary. I decided that this would be the best way to provide easy access for anyone interested.

Post of 25th February, 2012     Germination in Bowl Three.

I’m posting this merely so that I can add it to the tobacco-growing diary.

The seeds are now germinating in some numbers, so that’s 60 plants on the go. Yesterday, I thinned out the seedlings in bowl 2. There are now up to four seedlings in each fibre pot. They can sit on the kitchen window sill for a couple of weeks until the seedlings get stronger, and then I’ll reduce the numbers again. In a month or so, I should be down to 1 seedling per pot. I think that I’ll also transplant a few into a large pot as a reserve.

I seem to remember from Confinails blog that the seedlings do not grow much in the first couple of weeks. It seems that their first job, after basic germination, is to build some roots.

I made an error after thinning out bowl one – I poured water into the pots. The deluge was much to heavy, and several seedlings were displaced; their roots are far too shallow for such a deluge. But I quickly re-positioned the displaced seedlings and they seem to have come to no harm. From now on, I’ll only ‘mist’ the surface until they are stronger.

I’m now aiming to be planting out mid-April.

Post of 20st March 2012: A couple of tobacco plan pics.

The virtue of getting started early with the germination of tobacco seeds is illustrated by the following pic:

The pots are 3″ across, so you can see that the plants are developing nicely. However, those plants were started off last November just as an experiment. I had no intention of keeping them at the time. There are previous pics of them in the ‘Growing Diary’ (see sidebar). Here is one of a different plant which I started off at the same time:

For some reason that I do not understand, that plant is not doing anything like as well as the other two. But it is still alive and so I shall persevere with it.

The new seedlings are still minute, but they are OK. What we have to remember is that the ones in the pics have had only the daylight available on a windowsill throughout the winter. I expect the new seedlings to grow much more rapidly now that the days are longer. I have taken to popping them outside on sunny days to get the best of the sunshine, being careful, of course, not to allow them to be burned. Light seems to be very important to their development. One has to think of the science! Light bathes the area of the surface of the leaves. The leaves are very small, and so they can receive only a little light, BUT, at the stage of the their development, that is all they can tolerate and all they need. They are not out in full, direct, overhead sunshine, but the light is available to them.

We await developments….

Post of 21st April 2012: The Tobacco Plant Seedlings

Disaster.

On 2nd Feb 2012, I reported ‘germination in bowl one’. Thereafter, with much joy, I reported germination in bowl two and bowl three. Some hundreds of tobacco plants had germinated. Before the end of Feb, I had a lot of tobacco seedlings. They were in fibre pots, and therefore needed not to be transplanted – merely to be thinned out from time to time. All was well.

Today, I must report that all is not well, by any manner of means. By now, April 20th, after two months, I should have burgeoning plants, maybe five inches across the spread of the leaves, almost ready to plant out. But these plants are still only half-an-inch tall. Also, they show signs of dying back. That is, instead of dark green, healthy seedlings, I have plants which are ‘dying back’. Their leaves are going pale – even yellowish. Some have gone brownish. But there is hope – some of the damaged plants are producing new greenery.

I have come to the conclusion that I have misled myself. I made a mistake.

I thought that LIGHT was the important thing to promote growth. I have come to the conclusion that this is not so. I have come to the conclusion that WARMTH is the key. (But that is not to say that plants should be kept in darkness!) When I attempted to expose the plants to more light, I put them on the kitchen windowsill. What I did not realise was that the sill was tiled and that the tiles were mortared directly onto the external wall. Thus, the bowls containing the pots were on a very cold surface. That surface drained the heat from the compost and thus subjected the plants to low temperatures. That was a terrible error.  I had become complacent.

I am now trying to rectify the error. I have put the bowls holding the pots onto makeshift shelves over my radiators, with the objective of raising the temperature of the bowls, the sand, the pots and the plants.

Not all the plants are suffering. I have just counted the seedlings and I have 140. Interestingly, once the seeds have germinated, they seem to be ‘long-suffering’. That is, they are quite tough. I hope to be able to rescue them. But it seems clear to me that they cannot thrive in cold conditions. This may explain why the three plants which I germinated in November have taken so long to gain any strength. I wondered about that.

WARMTH (but not HEAT) seems to be critical. We still have much to learn.

I have been pondering how to provide the plants with gentle warmth now that the central heating is not required so much. I had an idea tonight in the pub. (Many of my best ideas come to be in the pub!) It just so happens that I have an electric blanket which I have not used for ages. But it is still working OK. The thought occurred to me that I can plug in the electric blanket, put it on a table or something, and set it on the lowest setting . I can then place the bowls on the blanket and subject them to low, continuous warmth. At such a low setting, there ought to be not much cost. Of course, overnight, until the central heating is switched off, I shall continue to use the radiators during the night.

I have checked the roots of a few of the plants and they seem to be OK, despite the lack of development. I expect the plants to recover, but they need to develop much more rapidly.

There are lessons to be learned. Not everything is clear cut.

Post of 26th April 2012: The Seedlings (as at 26th April 2012)

I am having some difficulties with this new laptop – or rather, with IE9. I really liked IE8.

Whatever, I am sure that I’ll sort it out in due course.

In the meantime, I must mention the 140 seedling tobacco plants which I have in pots. Unfortunately, they are growing very, very slowly. In fact, a couple of days ago, they seemed to be on the point of pegging out.

I had the idea that they were simply too cold, and so I rigged up temporary wire shelves over the radiators for the bowls holding the pots of seedlings to sit on overnight. Also, I have an electric blanket which I have spread over the dining room table, and upon which I place the bowls holding the pots of seedlings during the day.  This ploy seems to have worked to some extent in that the seedlings have perked-up somewhat. But, for some reason that I do not understand, it seems to be awfully difficult to keep the compost in which the seedlings reside, warmish. Time is progressing, and the seedlings need to start to grow-on much more rapidly than they are doing. As an experiment, I have transplanted a dozen seedlings into pots of General Compost (Growmore). I wish to see whether or not the seedlings do better, once they have germinated, in that sort of compost rather than ‘seed and cutting’ compost.

But my biggest concern is with the temperature of the compost. Tomorrow, I shall fill an empty pot with compost and wet the compost with hot water then let it cool. I’ll then plunge a thermometer in the compost and see what the actual temperature of the compost is, once the hot water has cooled. Tobacco seeds need a warm temperature to germinate. Once they germinate, they are happy in ‘normal’ indoor temperatures (say, about 20c) But…………how well will they grow in compost at 20c? Would they grow more strongly in temps of 25c? Or, perhaps, even more importantly, how badly will the grow in temps of 15c or 10c?

These are serious questions in our climate in the UK, and I have not seen any info about such matters. It is not so much about plant surviving and growing in due course. With tobacco plants, it is about promoting rapid growth when you need to. For example, last November, I started off just three seedlings only as an experiment.  I had germinated them straight into pots without using a propagator. It is now April, and the seedlings from November are still not very advanced – two of the plants are some four/five inches across the leaves, the other is still only about two inches across the leaves. THIS DOES NOT MAKE SENSE! After five months, these plants should be much, much bigger. It is interesting to note that certain other seeds, not tobacco plants, which I also germinated five months ago, are also also growing very, very slowly.

It is hard to understand what is going on.

Does anyone know?

Here is a simple question. It needs a very simple answer.  If I germinate tobacco plant seeds in January, what do I have to do to ensure that I have plants which are sufficiently developed to plant out in April? I may be wrong, but I cannot see this problem as being one involving the nature of the seeding compost, or other, since it involves other types of plant. In any case, the three tobacco plant which I mentioned earlier are still in the original compost and they have now grown sufficiently.

There is something weird about this whole thing. It may be that no one knows!

There must be other people asking this question, surely? We need definitive answers!

Post of 30th April 2012: The Seedlings at 29th April 2012.

A couple of days ago, I said that I would try a little experiment with the temperature of the compost in which my tobacco plant seedlings are growing – or rather, not growing. I was concerned that, despite the fact that the seeds germinate some weeks ago, they are still only half an inch tall. This, despite being placed upon a sunny window sill during the recent warm weather. Also, they were showing signs of dying, in that leaves were turning yellow and some brown. In trying to figure out what was going on, I ’tested’ with my fingers the temperature of the compost and found it to be jolly cold. I mean, of course, jolly cold ‘to the touch’, which isn’t very scientific. Nevertheless, ‘jolly cold to the touch’ is a good, simple indicator of what might be wrong. The seeds require temperature around 25°c to germinate. Once germinated, they seem to be happy in normal, home temperatures – say, 20c. But what might happen if the temperature of the compost falls to 15c, or even 10c? Suppose that the seedlings are living in temperatures of 15c or less for long periods of time? Will the thrive? My seedlings were definitely not thriving.

I decided to take the bull by the horns and make it my business to warm up the compost. I did this by rigging up temporary wire shelves over the central heating radiators so that the bowls holding the pots of seedlings were warmed gently overnight. During the day, when the radiators were off, I placed the bowls on an electric blanket. I also watered them with warm water.

I am pleased to say that the seedlings have bucked up considerably in the past few days since I introduced this regime. New green leaves have appeared and they are showing signs of growing denser and bigger. I wish that I had realised the importance of the temperature of the compost some weeks ago! I might have had plants two inches tall instead of half an inch tall by now.

The phrase ‘cold to the touch’ is fine, but not very scientific. And so, I decided to try to be more precise about the temperature of the compost.

Today, I filled a plantpot with compost straight out of the sack in the garage. I then pushed a thermometer into the compost. Here is a picture of the setup:

[Can’t do it at the moment – mobile camera playing up] [Sorted – pic inserted]

At the time that I pushed the thermometer into the compost (4.45pm),  the thermometer read 18c. That was the temperature in the house where the thermometer was situated. After 25 minutes (5.10) in the cold compost, it read 13c. At that time, the compost did not feel particularly cold.  At 5.30, I poured warm water into the compost and into the glass cooking bowl in which the plantpot was placed so that the whole thing was about half full. After 5 minutes, the thermometer read 40c. I must emphasise that the water was only ‘warm’. (Warm water feels just ‘warm’, but is hotter in celsius terms than you think!) After 10 minutes or so, the reading was still 40c, and so I reasoned that the temp was not going to rise further. At 6pm, I checked the temp again. It them read 35c.

I had to go hospital visiting, and so was absent for a couple of hours. At 8.30pm, the temp of the compost was 21c, and at 9.30pm, it was 18c. At 11pm it was still 18c.

At that point, I emptied the water out of the glass bowl and replaced the plant pot. I then put it on the windowsill in the kitchen. The temp of the compost is now (1am) 17c. We shall see what it reads in the morning, and I shall update this post accordingly.

I am trying not to prejudge. We must wait and see how for the temp of the compost falls overnight, bearing in mind that, since it is so cold out, the central heating will be on all night. If I am right, then the reason that the seedlings which I started in November have grown so slowly is that the temp of the compost is unsuitably low for tobacco plants, and that is the reason that my recent seedlings have been so slow. THIS NEED NOT BE A BIG PROBLEM, but it must be recognised. It is simply a matter of finding an easy, cost-free way of keeping them at a reasonable temperature (say, 20c).

My intention now is to keep the thermometer in the compost in this pot, and to move this pot around with the bowls of seedlings, to check the temp all the time. Naturally, as a result of being kept warm, the compost will tend to dry out more rapidly. All that means is more watering – but with warm water.

We shall see.

Post of 1st May 2012: Further to The Seedlings 29th April 2012. 

Last night I said that I had placed a thermometer in pot of compost in order to check the temperature of the compost. The compost started at 13c, having been stored in the garage.  After adding warm water, the temp rose to 40c and then fell back, over the course of the evening, to 18c. I said that I would put the pot on the kitchen windowsill, and check again today.

Imagine my surprise, when I checked at midday, to find that the thermometer was registering a temp, in the middle of the compost, of 28c! The surface of the compost still felt cool, but when I poked my finger into the hole in the compost made by the thermometer, there was a distinct feeling of warmth within the compost. That surprised me – until I realised that it had been a really sunny morning. The kitchen window faces East, and the sun had been shining upon it for several hours. When the sun ceased to shine directly upon the windowsill, the temp of the compost gradually fell back until it reached 19c at 8pm.

I suppose that we must bear in mind the fact that the ‘feeling’ of coldness which we experience when we touch ‘cold’ things is only a contrast. The contrast is between our own body temperature (about 37c) and the object touched. This fact has been demonstrated many times – an obvious demonstration is that of plunging very cold hands into a bowl of cold tap water. If one’s hands are cold enough, the water will ‘feel’ warm.

Continuing my experiment, I then took the thermometer out of that pot and plunged it into one of my fibre pots in which the seedling are sitting. (The pot was one with only one  crappy seedling in it, which I sacrificed). The temp in that pot was 20c, which I took to be typical.

At that point, I had a think. I asked myself whether 20c is a sufficient temperature for tobacco seedlings to thrive.

I recalled entering one of these polytunnels favoured by garden centres. I do not recall ever experiencing a feeling of ‘coldness’ in these tunnels. I suspect that these tunnels are either warmed by the sun or by artificial heating. I suspect that the temp in these tunnels is kept quite high.  25c might be a minimum. Is this the meaning of the word ‘forcing’, and the reason that one has to allow plants bought at garden centres to ‘harden off’ before planting them out?

I am coming round to the conclusion that we do need to ‘force’ tobacco seedlings, if they are to be ready to plant out in April (having been germinated in February). The question is: How to ‘force’ them?

For the last hour, they have been sitting on stools in front of the fire in their bowls. My ‘control’ pot (holding the thermometer) is with them. I turn them occasionally. The temp in the control pot is steady at 24c. When I go to bed, I’ll put them on the radiator shelves and switch the central heating on.

There is no doubt that the seedlings have perked up since I started the warmth regime. The only question now is how long will to take for them to develop sufficiently to plant out? That we must wait to see.

Post of 14th May 2012: The Seedlings: Disaster

On the 29th April, I first reported that my tobacco plant seedlings were suffering. Many of the little leaves were turning yellow and some brown. One or two had just disappeared (presumably died). As much as anything, however, it was the sheer lack of growth which annoyed me. After all, it was some two months since they first germinated. I pondered what might be wrong and guessed that the compost was just too cold and that this was the reason for the lack of development. I therefore put the seedlings in a warm place.

There is no doubt that they bucked up rapidly. New little leaves were starting to grow. Even so, they were miles behind where they should be at. I transferred some of them out of the fibre pots into plastic pots for experimental purposes and, at first, they seemed to be fine. Then, first one, then two, then three just faded away. Then all the seedlings seemed to be wilting. I feared the worst.

A couple of days ago, I decided that ‘something must be done’, and so I sourced tobacco plant plugs from a site on the internet. Well, my two plots are ready and waiting, so there was no way that I was prepared to abandon the project! They have cost me just over £1 per plug. I have ordered 30 plants in the first instance. The site said that they were ready to plant out. I’ll check how much room I have when I have planted out those 30 and then order as many more as I need. I may be able to accommodate another 20 or so.

But I have not completely abandoned the seedlings. I’ve transferred them from the fibre pots into a bowl full of ordinary soil from the garden. It is way too late for them to mature, even it they don’t die, but I see it as a worthwhile experiment. Let’s see how they do in ordinary garden soil. Before I transferred them, I poured boiling water over the soil to kill off bugs as far as possible. As a further experiment, I filled the sections of my propagator with ordinary soil, again poured boiling water over the soil and allowing it to cool. I have seeded the propagator with seed from the batch which I bought last year – Maryland 609, Monte Calme yellow and Virginia (unspecified). Even after only four days, seedlings are sprouting. There is no chance of them developing sufficiently to be of use, but, if they grow well, then I can have some confidence that I do not even need to use compost at all in the future (although I probably will). Also, purely as an experiment, I have re-seeded the fibre pots (buried in sand in bowls, as I have previously described) with last years seeds also. I want to see if the it was the method of germination (in the fibre pots) which was the significant factor in the failure of the seedlings to develop. If the newly germinated seeds develop well, I might even find room in the house to mature them! I could certainly use Mr. Legiron’s suggestion of growing them in buckets.  Pat Nurse has shown that growing them in the house can be successful.

There is method in my madness. What I am concerned about is the quality of the Virginia Gold seeds which I bought from the internet. They germinated all right, but I wonder how mature the seeds were when they were gathered, or how old they were? Why did they simply refuse to grow? – The roots, such as they were, seemed to be perfectly ok.

So we learn and learn.

Post of  20th May 2012: Frank Davis’s tobacco plant seedlings.

Frank has written a post about his seedlings. It appears that he has been having problems similar to mine. His seedlings have developed somewhat, but seem to be wilting and to about to peg out. He has published some pictures of the seedlings. It is worth going to his blog and taking a look. Rose has made some sensible comments.

It is all very odd. The weather has not helped, but, there again, these plants are indoors at room temperature. In my case, last year, no such problems occurred, even though the weather outside was pretty rotten. I even had the experience of the dog (not mine but my daughter’s) getting at the plant pots and scattering the contents all over the floor. Many of the plants had been uprooted completely, but I replanted them and they grew on ok. This year has been a very different story. The Virginia seeds which I obtained via the internet germinated in a week during February, but then sat there, week after week, not growing. I thought that the compost might be too cold, and so I gently warmed the containers holding the pots. The seedlings seemed to ‘buck up’ a little for a short while, but then started to wilt again. In the end, I decided that they would never be ready to plant out, and so I ordered some ‘plugs’ via the internet. According to the text, they should be ready to plant out when they arrive.

I didn’t throw the wilting seedlings out. Instead, I transplanted them to a bowl of soil from the garden. It really is weird. They are sitting there, not dead, but not growing. As I transplanted them, I checked their roots and there seemed to be nothing wrong with the roots – they were white and seemed to be healthy. I am at a loss to understand. I’ll keep them in the bowl and keep watering them and see what happens. It has become an experiment.

It is far too late to expect any seeds sown now to reach a stage in their development where they will mature during our short summer. But, as another experiment, I have taken soil from the garden and filled the compartments of my propagator with it. I seeded the propagator a few days ago with seeds which I bought last year. There were three varieties – monte calme yellow, maryland 609 and virginia. It is interesting to note that the monte calme yellow and the maryland 609 have germinated with vigour, whereas the virginia have not germinated at all as yet. Since the propagator has 48 compartments and each compartment has seeds and the whole propagator has been subjected to identical conditions of heat and dampness, it is extraordinary that all the compartments with maryland and Monte calme seeds have seedlings growing, whereas none of the compartments with virginia seeds are showing any signs of activity. It is interesting to note that the seeds which I germinated this year were all virginia seeds.

As a further experiment, I have sown some of last year’s seeds in the fibre pots and compost in which the seedlings which did not grow were sown. Signs of germination are there, but the seeds are not germinating as readily as the ones which I have sown in my own garden soil. Again, this is just an experiment. I can compare the activity of the seeds which are in the propagator (in my own soil) with the activity of the seeds in the fibre pots in commercial, ‘seed and cuttings’ compost.

One way or another, I shall have tobacco plants growing in my garden this year.

WE SHALL OVERCOME!!!

Post of 28th May 2012: Tobacco plant seedlings experiments.

Some readers will have read about ‘the disaster’. I had 140 seedlings (which would have been thinned down to about 50 for actual planting out into the garden). These seedlings were all ‘golden virginia’ or ‘virginia gold’, as you prefer. For some unknown reason, the seedlings simply would not grow, and, in fact, began to die off. I began to panic since I had spent a lot of time and effort preparing two plots in the garden to receive up to 60 plants or thereabouts. I had double-dug the ground in the early winter (Nov/Dec) and spread cigarette ash on the surface during the later part of the winter. I had spread liquid fertiliser over the ground and dug it in. Thankfully, I found a website selling well-developed seedlings and ordered thirty. But little seems to go smoothly these days! My bank account was debited with the cost straight away, but I heard nothing from the source for three weeks. When I tried to email, I received an ’email not delivered’ message. Oh My God!, It wasn’t so much the money as the lack of seedlings. Anyway, having emailed again using a different provider, I got a reply today. The acknowledgement had indeed been overlooked (for which apologies were proffered), but that I need not worry. The order was being processed and I would be emailed at dispatch. The author explained that the recent bad weather had delayed things so that the plants were not maturing as rapidly as they would normally; that orders were dealt with on a ‘first come, first served basis’ so that, as a more recent customer, my order would take another couple of weeks.

I was relieved and content with the response. I certainly accept that a ‘bell curve’ can be expected in the development of the plants – first a few will become ready, and then more and more in an accelerating curve. In those circumstances, I can certainly understand the ‘first come, first served’ basis of allocation.  The explanation gave me more confidence that all was well.

Now to the real purpose of this post – the experiments.

I did not throw out the ‘dead or alive’ seedlings but ‘buried them up to the neck’ in a bowl of garden soil. There was no chance that they would ever be ready to plant out, but I wanted to see what might happen to them since the roots seemed to be ok. A few are starting to poke through, so I have some hope that they may not be completely lost. It is just an experiment, however. One might reasonably ask, “Why bother? Why not just chuck them out?” The reason is that, again, as an experiment, I started some seeds off last November! My intention was just to see whether they would germinate or not at that time of year with the simple application of heat by being placed near a radiator. They did – experiment complete – but rather than chuck them, I kept three seedlings and potted them in 2″ pots. Over the course of the winter, they sat on a bedroom windowsill just above a radiator. They grew extremely slowly, but they survived and are now the first plants to be planted out! They seem to be happy in their new environment. So that is six and a half months since they first germinated. Can you see now the method in my madness? In some circumstance, a very long delay time might be expected. These seedlings, buried in the bowl, might well become my stock for next year. That is the purpose of the present experiment. Let us see what happens.

Another interesting point about the three plants which I have just planted out is this: during the whole of the winter, they have sat in the same compost in which they were first planted. Since all three have survived, and indeed prospered in the last couple of months, it suggests that the nutrients in the compost are adequate to supply the requirements of these little seedlings for a long time. Recall that they were in 2″ pots only. In fact, I can go even further. I can say that the plants in those 2″ pots were not even remotely ‘root bound’. As I planted them out, I noticed that the rooting system was still quite small and by no means using all the compost.

Is it not all rather odd?!

Here is a pic of one of those plants. Notice my little greenhouse!

The ‘greenhouse’ is a two litre pop bottle with the bottom cut out. The objectives are, a) to guard against any sudden frosts, and b), to keep slugs and insects off the plants. In fact, I have also spread slug pellets around them. It isn’t easy to see the leaves because of the condensation inside the bottle. The white bit at the bottom is one of them (tho, of course, the leaf is green!).

My second experiment is to sow some seeds again, but this time directly into the soil from my garden without the intermediary of commercial compost. They germinated well – that is, the Maryland 609 and the Monte Calme Yellow did – the Virginia Gold did not germinate at all. Since then, I have thinned them out so that only a couple remain in each segment of the propagator. Since then, acting on a tip from Rose, I have transplanted a few of the seedlings into their own pots. Here is a pic:

Again, as you can tell, the soil is my garden soil and not compost. Whether they will survive or not, I do not know, but that is the purpose of the experiment!

I also had another idea for an experiment. This needs a little explanation.

While I was thinning out the seedlings, I noticed that, despite the fact that the seedlings were some 1 centimetre tall, they had no rooting system at that stage. I concluded that the ‘rooting system’ was still the seed itself! But the seeds are sown only on the surface of the compost, and so there is little attachment of the seed to the compost. That is, the seed is only barely attached to the soil (or compost) initially. This explains a mini-disaster which I had some time ago when I, unthinkingly, watered the seedlings by pouring water onto them rather than ‘misting’ them using a spray bottle. But even ‘misting’ could be dodgy if too much water is sprayed onto the little seedlings. Is it possible that the seeds (along with the stalk and the two tiny leaves) could be ‘floated’ off the surface of the soil/compost? Well worth considering.

For that reason, I decided to conduct a further experiment. Her is a pic:

It is unfortunate that the colours are wrong.  What you are seeing, around the seedlings, is sand. I have filled the space around the seedlings with sand, and tamped it down. Thus, I can water them (by misting, or even gently pouring) without the risk of disturbing the seeds themselves.

So there we are.  We wait to see how they develop.

Why am I doing all this? Sometimes I wonder myself. All that I can say was that I was astonished when the seedlings refused to grow. They seemed perfectly healthy. Why did they not grow? Even more, why did they start to die? Nothing makes any sense. Why have the Monte Calme Yellow and the Maryland 609 germinated happily while the Virginia Gold seeds have not germinated at all? (Those seeds were the ones which I obtained last year)

In conclusion, I must admit that this is only my second year. Perhaps I was made overconfident by the relative success of germination and growing last year. Certainly, next year, I shall be taking Rose’s advice to use loam based compost. Also, no more fibre pots – not that there is anything wrong with them per se – just that they seem not to be appropriate for tobacco plants.

Further reports at a later date.

Post of 30th May 2012: A funny thing happened……(Comments on Grow your own blog)

A couple of days ago, I joined the “How to Grow Tobacco’ (.com) website. By the most extraordinary coincidence, someone had just posted a comment on the forum referring to my article entitled “Growing, Curing, Flavouring and Finishing Cigarette Tobacco” (see sidebar). The commenter mentioned ‘the rapid fermenting of tobacco’ method and asked if anyone had tried it. Someone named Daniel was rather scathing about my efforts referring to me as ‘this fellow’. Frankly, I was rather amused (and, shamefully, I must admit to just a little gratification).

Someone named ‘jvdenmark’ said that he had come across a method of curing tobacco in 4 – 8 days at The Bolton Smokers Club. He asked it anyone had tried it. Daniel did not answer the question, but proceeded with an ‘ad hominem’ against me! Despite the fact that he himself has only had one year’s experience, he castigated me because I have only one year’s experience. He is, of course, correct, provided that experience is a significant factor.

In my article about “Growing, Curing….etc”, I said little about anything that I personally had originated. I mentioned Rose’s lengthy experience of ‘the towelling method’ of yellowing/browning tobacco leaves in about a week. I described the ‘fermenting method’ which I found on Utube, which also takes about a week. Thus, I was smoking my own produce in little more than a month after plucking the tobacco plant leaves. This is in comparison with hanging the leaves and curing in kilns and such – perhaps taking months. What’s the problem? I made no claim as the ‘inventor’ of any process. My only personal contribution was in the refinement of the detail of the methods. The real credit goes to Rose (regarding ‘the towelling method’) and to Whats-his-name'( for the ‘Rapid Curing Method’). It is such a pity that Whats-his-name has taken the video down – if, in fact, it was he that did it. Tobacco Control has a long arm, has it not?

Daniel pulled me up about the cost of running kilns. He said that his kiln runs on the cost of a light bulb. Far be it from me to dispute that, but the kilns which I have read about require heaters and fans, and I cannot see such equipment being so cheap when they are running 24/7. But far be it from me………….

The point is this:

If you can avoid hanging tobacco leaves up for weeks by ‘towelling’ them and completing that stage in one week, why not do so?

If you can ‘sweat’/’ferment’ the leaves by wadding them and completing that process in one week, why not do so?

I see no problem in that. But everyone is entitled to decide for himself.

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Yesterday, I described certain refinements of the treatment of the seedlings with which I am experimenting. So far, so good. They certainly seem to be happy and healthy. I am toying in my mind with the idea of heat, in the sense that plant generally seem to enjoy the sun’s warmth – or is it the light – or is it a combination of the two? Or is it the way in which they are watered (bearing in mind the possibility which I mentioned yesterday about seedlings being detached from the soil by watering).

I am still very perplexed. I still do not understand why the seedlings which germinated in February did not grow. I am still of the opinion that heat is the most important thing. But there is still much to be learned.

Post of 6th June 2012: The Experimental Seedlings.

The Seedlings.

As an experiment, without any hope at all that these seedlings might grow to maturity, I seeded my crappy little propagator with tobacco plant seeds a few days ago. I used my own garden soil rather than compost. Here is a reminder pic of what the seedlings looked like shortly after germination on 28th May:

I had thinned out the seedlings so that only a couple or so seedlings remained in each section of the propagator. I had also dribbled about 1/4″ of sand around the seedlings in order to stabilise them on the grounds that, at that stage of their development, they had hardly any roots at all.

Look at them now, only nine days later:

Are they not handsome?

Here now is a pic of the whole propagator:

The reason that I have shown this pic is that it shows how the different types of tobacco plant have grown. At the bottom, the best showing, are three rows holding Monte Calme Yellow; in the centre are three rows holding Maryland 609; at the top are two sections holding Virginia. The shadows hide some of the plants, but I can assure you that the Maryland 609 have done quite well, while the Virginia have hardly sprouted at all. But the Monte Calme Yellow have done very well indeed.

I have now transferred some of the Monte Calme Yellow into individual pots – again, in the soil from my garden. Here is a pic:

There are now several of them, and it just may be possible that they will develop sufficiently to plant out. But what is really important is that I have a feeling that Monte Calme Yellow plants may be the most suitable for my garden soil. What I have in mind is to buy a couple of ordinary buckets and plant a couple of Monte Calme Yellow plants in the buckets. They can sit outside until autumn and the come inside and go into the spare room upstairs. I want them to reach maturity and go to seed. It is the seed that I am really interested in. That is because Coffinails (whence I bought the seed) said that the plants become accustomed to your soil and that their seeds carry the characteristics of your soil. I can well understand that, although I’m not quite sure what it means!

Monte Calme Yellow is said to be a variety of tobacco plant which is ‘light’ and contains a ‘moderate’ level of nicotine. It is said to be very suitable for cigarettes. I wouldn’t mind having a supply of Monte Calme Yellow seeds.

Back to the FCTC.

UPDATE 7th June 2012.

Something that I forgot last night. I took a pic of the the root system on one of those seedlings which were doing well:

the image on the left is a pencil – there to give scale. You can see that the seedling root is pathetically weak. The dark bit at the top is the leaves – dried out somewhat after half an hour or so. There are shadows, but imagine a simple white ‘tap root’ and you have the picture. We can see why these delicate structures need care.

Post of 14th June 2012: Yaay! My tobacco plant seedlings have arrived.

Fellow tobacco plant growers will remember that I had a disaster with my tobacco seedlings. Having germinated perfectly, they refused to grow, and even started to die off. I have no idea why that was. I germinated those seeds some three months ago.

Anyway, in something of a panic (since I had made enormous efforts to ensure that my tobacco plant plots were ‘fit for purpose’), I ordered 30 tobacco seedlings from X organisation ( I shall say which organisation when the plants prove themselves in the garden).

The plantlets arrived today. Here is a pic:

Aren’t they pretty? There are five plants in that package. I am impressed by the way in which the plantlets have been packed. They are enclosed within a plastic holder, but what is important is that the compost ‘plugs’ are themselves sealed in their own compartments so that they are not disturbed in transit via the post office. In my pic, I have placed a fag packet nearby to give a sense of scale. I have six packets, each with five plants. Tomorrow, they will be planted out. Those plants are all Virginia Gold.

Interestingly, the seedlings which I mentioned a few days ago are doing much better than I expected, considering that they were just an experiment. Readers may remember this pic:

That pic was taken on 4th June. Readers might also remember this pic:

Between 4/6/12 and 11/6/12, those little plants developed massively.

So I now have 30 Virginia Gold to plant out in plot 1. I have high hopes that I shall have a number of Monte Calme Yellow to plant out in plot 2. What I am most interested in regarding the Monte Calme Yellow is the seeds which they will produce at the end of the season. That is because the Monte Calme Yellow seeds seem to have developed very well indeed in the soil from my garden (which is what the propagator contained in the two pics above). About three of those Monte Calme Yellow seedlings will finish up in buckets so that I can bring them inside should they not mature sufficiently during the growing season. I can bring them inside if necessary.

My experiments may be a complete flop. Who can say? But at least I have tried.

UPDATE 3.45 pm 14/6/12.

The plants are in the ground. Here is a pic:

As you can see, each plant has its own little greenhouse in the form of a 2 litre pop  bottle with the bottom cut off. I tried that trick before and it seems to work very well. Here, for example, is a plants which planted out on 28/ 5/ 12:

The whitish thing at the bottom of the bottle is the biggest leaf.

And here is the same plant now, only 17 days later:

I should have put something along side the plant for scale. The two big leaves measure about 7 cm each. I have spread slug pellets around copiously, including the foliage around the edge of the plot. Hopefully, the slugs will kill themselves in or around their hiding places.

Rose suggested that I pot them for a couple of weeks. Oopst! They were already in the ground before I saw her comment. But they should be alright in their little greenhouses.

‘Jacta est alea’.

Post of 21st June 2012: a peek at the Monte Calme Yellow seedlings

Readers will recall that I found that the type of tobacco plant which seems to suit my garden soil best is the ‘Monte Calme Yellow’ variety. That variety is described as ‘light’ with moderate nicotine. Here is a picture of the seedlings, still in the propagator, on 11th June 2012:

And now, on 21st June, just ten days later, here they are in individual pots:

And:

There are as many more besides these.

Aren’t they doing well? Despite the lateness of the time of year, I have high hopes that, when I transplant them into the garden, they will do very well, although I shall put a couple of them into buckets because, as I’ve said before, it is more the seeds of these Monte Calme Yellow plants that I am interested in. If the plants do not mature outside sufficiently to produce seeds, I should be able to bring the plants in buckets inside so that they can mature. Since my grandson moved to the USA, I can now use his former room! Great! If necessary, I shall buy a ‘grow light’, but we shall see. All this is massively good experience.

The 30 Virginia Gold plants, which I bought, are doing well in their personal little greenhouses (see post of 11th June). If anyone is interested in purchasing tobacco plants in the future, the firm I bought them from is called ‘The Little Tree Company’. Google the site.

If all goes well, I shall be ‘topping’ the Virginia Gold plants. That means that I shall cut off the flowering heads of those plants. The reason is that I do not want them cross-pollinating with the Monte Calme. There are 30 GV plants in plot one. I think that I can put about 20 MCY plants in plot two. So I should have a good harvest in due course.

I shall now add this post to the ‘Tobacco Growing Diary’ (see sidebar). I want a record of this year’s activity – the good and the bad – for future reference.

Post of 26th June 2012: Another peek at the MCY plantlets.

Readers will remember this pic from 21 June post:

That was of the MCY plantlets on the 20th June.

I thought that readers who are interested in growing tobacco plants might be interested in the continuing progress (and I want info for my diary), so here is a pic as at today:

And here is one of the biggest:

That is pretty good growth in only 6 days, I think.

The bigger ones can start to go outside as soon as I get a reasonably nice day. They will, of course, have their own little 2 litre pop bottle greenhouses for the time being.

There are two trays of well-developed plants, and one not so far advanced:

I don’t really know how many I can accommodate, so these are reserves.

All we need now is some reasonably pleasant, warm weather……….

Post of 29th June 2012: The MCY plantlets (again).

These reports are coming thick and fast! Only four days ago, I mentioned how rapidly the plants were growing. Today, I have transplanted three plants into buckets. Here they are:

As you can see, each plant has its own little greenhouse in the form of a 2 litre pop bottle with the bottom cut off. I’ve used one of the biggest plants, a medium-sized one and a small one. It might be interesting to see what, if any, difference there is in the way they grow which might depend upon their initial size when planted. These are the plants which I intend to bring inside at the end of the season, if necessary, so that they can produce seeds. It is the seeds which I want.

For the record, here is a close-up of the biggest one:

……………………………………………….

The Monte Calme Yellow tobacco plantlets (last time). Post of 4th July 2012.

The plantlets, which I have described before, are now out in the garden. Here is a pic of plot 2:

Since I took that pic, I have covered the open plantlets with their own, individual greenhouses. So I now have plot 1 with 30 plantlets:

and plot 2 with 22 plantlets, being 52 in total. I also still have ten plantlets in reserve, still in pots.

Last year, in addition to a couple of disasters, I made a really fundamental error – I did not prepare the ground at all. I made a space and stuck the plants in that space. That space had been compacted for twenty years. It is surprising that the plants grew at all. This year, I did everything that I could to prepare the ground. In December, I ‘double dug’ the plots (meaning that I deeply dug the soil in such a way as to transfer the lower levels of soil to the surface, and vice versa). I left the roughly dug soil open to rain and frost over the winter, thus ‘conditioning’ the soil (allowing oxygen and nitrogen in).  I sprinkled cigarette ash over the area in some quantity and added manure. Only in spring did I level the plots out. The only hard part was the digging, but even that was not troublesome.

If all this preparation does not work, then I shall give up smoking, give up drinking, lay down my head and starve myself to death.

According to Coffinails (whence I first bought the seeds for MCY), “It will take from 6 to 8 weeks for the plants to reach 1.5 metres in height. After  8 to 10 weeks, the flowers will show and the plants will reach 2 metres”.  It is now the beginning of July. We have July, August and September (some 13 weeks) for the plants to grow to fruition, so, other things being equal, all should be well.

I have read elsewhere that, if you are not particularly interested in the flowers, you should ‘top’ them so that the energy of the plant goes into the leaves. (‘Top’ means ‘cut off the top part of the stalk of the plant which carries the leaves’). The plants in plot 1 are all ‘Virginia’. As I have explained before, I am not interested in collecting seeds for Virginia, and so I shall top all the plants in plot 1. I am interested in harvesting seeds from the Monte Calme Yellow, and I shall allow some of the plants in plot 2 (all MCY) to mature, but I shall also take the precaution of placing a close mesh net over the flowers to stop cross-pollination from elsewhere. Who knows who else is growing tobacco plants in this area? I have seen estimates that you need to be two miles away from the nearest other grower to stop insects from elsewhere cross-pollination tobacco plants.

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I see no reason (disasters excluded) for any further reports for the next couple of months. Since I stopped playing golf (on which I spent a thoroughly inordinate amount of time (both practicing and playing all over the UK and annual trips to Spain, Portugal, Ireland etc), I have found my new hobby, which is growing tobacco plants and curing the stuff, and, above all, enjoying the pleasure of smoking it.

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Some time ago, I wrote an essay about ‘Growing, Curing, Flavouring and Finishing Cigarette Tobacco’ ( see sidebar). For months, only 1 or 2 views of this essay occurred. Just recently, the views of this essay have grown considerably. We are now talking about some 20 per day. After this season, I may revise it, but, as I see things at this moment, everything in that essay is still correct. The most important thing in it is the purpose of curing tobacco, which, as far as I can see, is to sweeten the taste. Curing converts starches into sugars, but leaves the nicotine content unchanged (because the nicotine is an alkaloid and not a sugar). It is possible to cure tobacco for cigarettes in a week. Tobacco Companies do. Why should not we? Why should we hang cigarette tobacco leaves for months when tobacco companies do not?

Post of 22nd July 2012: The Baccy Plants

The Baccy Plants.

I didn’t really intend to post much more about the baccy plants until they were much more advanced, but I do want to keep the diary (see sidebar) up to date, so why not?

My last report was on 4th July, just after I had transplanted my Monte Calme Yellow plantlets to the garden, which is sixteen days ago. They are doing OK in their individual little greenhouses. Here is a pic taken today:

The plantlets are not easy to see, but they are developing. The bottles are protecting them from insects and slugs and retaining what sun-warmth there is to some extent.

This pic of plot 1 is more interesting:

As you can see, I have removed the bottles from most of the plants. I’ve left a few for a few more days to let them develop a little more. Those plants are the Virginia Gold which I bought as seedlings. They were planted out on 14th June, a little over a month ago. They do seem to take quite a while to get going, but I do not anticipate any development problems. After all, the ‘Little Tree Company’ from which I bought them seemed to be quite happy with the timing. We shall just have to see. You might notice three larger plant – two on the right of the plot and one at the very back (top left of the pic). Those are the three plants which I started last November as an experiment! Some of the leaves have been nibbled somewhat, even though protected by the bottles. I do not know what creatures live in the ground which might have done that. But it does not bother me. I know from last year that the leaves closest to the bottom of the stalk hardly grow at all. It is the leaves further up the stalk which become very large. Suffice to say that there is a plentiful sprinkling of slug pellets both around the plants and in the foliage surrounding the plot. I was reading a gardening page in a newspaper today. The writer regretted the need to kill slugs and snails – as do we all. But what can you do? I always try to remind myself that, even though these creatures are ‘living’, they are not much different from weeds really. Do we eat eggs? We have no compunction in ‘short-circuiting’ the lives of chickens but worry about a few slugs.

In addition to planting out the Monte Calme Yellow plants, I also put three in buckets, so that, if the worst comes to the worst, I have three plants which I can bring inside to mature them for seeds. Here is a pic:

In the “GROW YOUR OWN!” essay (see sidebar), there is a video of someone’s plants growing on a balcony. The plants are fully developed and they are in containers no bigger than these buckets.  There ought not to be any problem, but we must wait and see.

Post of 8th August 2012: Update Baccy Plants

The last post about the plants was on the 22nd July 2012 – today being the 8th August, that’s 17 days ago.

I have some new pics.

First, let’s look at plot 1. Remember this?

Look at the largish plant which is mid pic right at the top (just beyond the bottle). Here that plant is today:

The white thing is a 12″/30cm ruler. But the biggest leaf is the one above the one with the ruler on it. You can see that there is excellent development there. But we must remember that this particular plant is one of three which I started last November as an experiment to see how seedlings would survive the winter indoors!

Here is another pic of one of those 3 early seedlings:

Not as developed as the other one, but doing OK. Again, the ruler indicates the size of the leaf. This pic also shows that the Virginia Gold plants are also growing well, despite the crap weather. An overall pic of plot 1:

We can see that the plantlets which I bought have settled in OK and are growing well, although a period of warm, settled weather would be much appreciated.

And now to plot 2.

Here is a pic as at 22nd July:

And now we can see today’s situation:

Again, the 12″ ruler indicates the size.

So the plants are doing OK, but we need some decent weather to help them along.

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There are two things which have intrigued me about this baccy plant growing effort recently. One is:

“What is the significance of the temperature of the ground/soil? I decided to do a little experiment. I stuck a thermometer into the ground 2″ deep where my plants are. At 4pm, on that particular day, the temp in the ground was 15c. I then pushed the thermometer to 4″ deep, and at 7pm the temp of the ground was……………..15c. I await a couple of days of hottish weather to try the experiment again. I suspect that the temp of the ground will not be much more, or less, than 15c.

This leads me to my next point.

To what extent does the development of THE STALK of the plant depend upon the early leaves of the plant? I do not know. The early leaves ought not to influence the growth of the STALK. And the growth of the biggest and best leaves comes from the growth and development of the stalk. You might think of the stalk in a similar way to the trunk of a tree. As the trunk of a tree grows, lower twigs and leaves might be damaged, but that does not stop the trunk continuing to grow, provided that the trunk itself is not damaged.

It is all most intriguing………….

Post of 14th August 2012: The Baccy Plants at 13. 8. 12.

It is only 5 days since my last report about the plants so there is really not much change in the growth. However, I mentioned the fact that I took the temperature of the ground in my last report. At the time, the temp was 15c. We have just had a few days of warm, dry weather and so I have taken the temp of the ground again. Today, at 4 inches deep, the temp was 18c.

I was curious about the effect of soil temperature on growing tobacco plants, and so I did some googling. It is difficult to find anything about soil temperatures and tobacco plants, but I did find what seems to be a good investigation. Here is the URL:

http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/IND43968741/PDF

Here is a quote:

The extent to which the growth of tobacco plants is affected by soil temperature apparently has received little attention. Johnson and Hartman reported that white burley plants grew very little at temperatures below 13° C, best at 29° or 31°, and poorly at 40°; they noted that at the optimum temperature the plants grew low and stocky with broad but rather pointed leaves, while at temperatures near the maximum the plants were tall and spindly with short and rounded leaves. Godfrey, who also experimented with white burley tobacco, reported that there was a uniform increase in growth at temperatures from 10° to 25°, and some growth at 38°, the highest temperature which he used.

The study was also interested in certain diseases, but that was not what I was interested in. Here is another quote from their own experiments:

Experiments were conducted to determine the cardinal soil temperatures for the growth of transplanted cigar-wrapper tobacco seedlings. The minimum and maximum were found to be approximately 9° and 40° C, respectively, and the optimal range from about 24° to 32°.

There are some interesting graphs and tables in that study, but it is quite easy to read and quite short.

What I have learnt from it is that the best growth occurs at ground temperatures around 25c, but what was also important was that temperatures around 40c were pretty bad. Now, we are perhaps fortunate not to have high ground temperatures, but, as I noted earlier, the temperature of my soil is only around 18c (and was 15c a few days ago). I am contemplating (in fact, I shall) covering the ground around, say, half of the plants in each plot with black bin bags. It ought not to be difficult. I can cut a few holes in the bags to let rain soak through. Then I’ll check the temp again and see if it makes any difference. It will also be interesting to see whether or not there is any difference in the growth of the plants between the covered area and the uncovered area after a couple of weeks.

Another thing which is implied is that there is no point in planting out until the ground temp is reasonably good (say, not less than 15c) since growth will be slow. Better perhaps to keep the plants indoors in pots and thus protected from slugs and insects.

———————–

In the previous post about the plants, I mentioned the stalk. Here is a pic of the best plant in my plots at the moment:

You can see a good strong stalk growing in the middle. Here is a pic of the second best plant:

The good stalk is even easier to see.

It is now a matter of patience and some TLC.

Post of 18th August 2012: Backy plant observations: Soil temp, growing in  buckets, starting picking and curing

A few days ago, I talked about the significance of soil temperature in the growth of tobacco plants. I did some research, and found that, for decent growth to occur, ground  temperatures below 15c were unhelpful, as were temperatures above 40c. The best temperature was around 25c. At lower temperatures (say, 20c) tobacco plants would tend to be bushy with broad leaves, while at higher temperatures (say 30c) the plants would tend to be spindly and the leaves thinner.

I had already tested my outdoor soil temperature and found it to be 15c on 8th August. We then had a few days of warm weather. When I checked again, on the 13th, the temp was 18c. I have just checked again today and the temp is 21c. Now, I shall show a couple of pics. The first is of my star plant at the moment:

You can see from the ruler (12″) that the leaves are broad and the plant is quite bushy.

Now let’s take a look at Frank Davis’s plants:

We can see a difference in the development – Frank’s plants are longer in the stalk. But we must remember that Frank’s plants are younger than my ‘star’. They have a lot of developing to do. All I am pointing out is the difference in the development of the stalk from which the leaves grow. Frank told me in a comment that the temp of his soil is 25c, which is about perfect for good tobacco plant growth. [My thanks to Frank – I’m sure that he will not mind me using his pic]

As a result of thinking about soil temperature and Frank telling me what the temp of his soil is, I had a think about the three buckets which I had outside (in addition to the plants in the ground). I want to increase the growth of those plants in the buckets, and so I have brought them back inside. Here they are on the spare bedroom window ledge:

I expect the soil temp in the buckets to rise to the ambient house temp (which is about 25c) within a couple of days. We should then see growth similar to Frank’s. I shall also be able to observe any difference in the growth rate as compared with the growth rate outside.

This picture also indicates that a bucket sized container should be quite adequate to grow tobacco plants, but to reinforce that expectation, here is a pic from Leg Iron’s site [thanks also to Leg Iron]:

http://underdogsbiteupwards.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/2012baccy11.jpg

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Starting Picking and Curing

Growers should be aware that there is no need to wait until the plant is fully grown before picking leaves. Take another look at my ‘star’ plant above.  There is no reason that I should not pick (by snapping the leaf off the stalk in a downwards direction) the bottom-most leaves now, although I’ll give them another few days. They are unlikely to grow any bigger. It may be that, if I leave them for some time longer, they may start to yellow on the stalk, but I do not see anything to gain thereby. Leaving them on the plant merely extends the time for insects to chew them without adding anything to the nicotine content. But I have also seen on some of the lowest leaves of the other plants what I think is the beginnings of rot (which is not surprising in view of the rain we have had lately and their proximity to the ground).

In this connection, there is a little experiment which I can conduct.

One of my plants has broken at ground level (probably as a result of the high winds which we had yesterday, unless it has been chewed or caught a disease at that point). Here is a pic of the break:

When I took that pic, the stalk was still attached, but it broke off when I tried to straighten it. The leaves had begun to wilt, which is how I came to notice the break.

Not to worry. I decided to ‘cure’ the leaves, immature though they may be, So here is what I had to work with:

The longest leaf is 12″ long. A couple of things to note which are not obvious from the pic. The very small leaf at top right has already gone a light brown colour. The bottom leaf, although somewhat chewed, has partially yellowed. Notice the thick midrib on the biggest leaf – I’ll be mentioning the midribs shortly.

While I was at it, I decided to pick those small, bottom leaves on other plants which were pale green or yellow. The leaves are very small, but this is an experiment, so I am not bothered about the quantity of tobacco produced. Here is a pick of some of those small leaves:

None of them is bigger than 4″. The three smallest in the centre are yellow. A couple are yellow in parts while the others are pale green.

The object of the experiment is to observe how towelling (drying slowly while wrapped in a towel) affects the differently coloured leaves. I expect the yellower ones to change rapidly while the greener one change colour more slowly. I expect the final colour to be a very deep brown (as per last year).

I mentioned the thick midrib. Last year, I cut them out, but this year I have decided (on this occasion at least – another bit of the experiment) to take a tip from Coffinails. The tip is to squash/crush the midrib. They suggest using a bottle, but I used the rolling-pin. Here are a couple of pics:

You can yourself judge that there is quite a reasonable volume of stuff in the midrib. The estimate that I have seen is some 20%. Why not use it? Tobacco companies do. Here now is a pic of the leaf after squashing (well, half leaf since I had to cut it in two so that it fits in the towel):

(I didn’t quite squash it all the way up, but I shall tomorrow). That should substantially aid the drying process.

The next step is the towelling:

There we have a nice pile of leaves. All we do now is wrap the towel over the leaves and put the thing in a warmish place. Rose says that she puts them on a sunny window ledge. I prefer the hot water cylinder cupboard. The temp there is a constant 30c-ish, despite the insulation. Tomorrow I’ll take them out and rearrange the leaves. Some of the top ones will go to the bottom. Thus the leaves will rotate through the pile. If the leaves show signs of drying out too rapidly (that is, while they are still green), I’ll give them a little spray with water.

Nothing will appear to be happening for about four days, and then, quite suddenly, the leaves will start to change colour, becoming yellow then brown then almost black. That is what I expect.

After the colour change, we shall go to the wadding stage. I won’t go into that here.

Fascinating……….

Post of the 23rd August 2012: The Towelled leaves: Day 5

Regular readers will remember this pic:

That is a pile of tobacco plant leaves which I was obliged to towel for drying purposes because one of my plants had broken off at ground level. Also included were some small leaves which had yellowed and a few which had turned a pale green.

This is the fifth day since I towelled them (see post of 18th August).  Here is a pic of a couple of the leaves now:

The leaf on the right was yellow and has now become brown. The leaf on the left was pale green and is now yellowing. In a few more days, that leaf will also begin to brown like the leaf on the right. The ‘freshest’ leaves are still green, but they will begin to turn shortly. After that, we move on to the curing process, which, as anyone who has read “GROWING, CURING…..” (see sidebar), should only take a few days also. Once cured, the baccy is fit for use.

Today, I have picked four leaves (and a bit) from the very bottom of my ‘star’ plant. Here is a pic of them:

The 12″ ruler shows that they are a good size.

In order to fit the leaves within a folded towel, I have cut the leaves in two. I have also crushed the main rib with a rolling pin. I have also rinsed them in cold water to remove loose detritus. Here they are lying on the folded towel:

All I need to do now is fold the towel over and put the lot in the hot water cylinder cupboard with the others.

Post of 24th August 2012: Update to yesterdays post re Baccy Plants

This is not something that I would normally do. Normally, a least a few days would elapse between posts about the drying of tobacco leaves using the towelling method. The reason that I have decided to do this update is because a rapid change has occurred in the last few hours. This is a little story of the change in plant leaves over the last few hours and is copiously illustrated by pictures.

Where to start?

OK. I showed earlier a leaf which had gone brown and one which was going from green to yellow. Also, I said that the ‘freshest’ leaves were still green. Below is a series of pics which show as clearly as it is possible how the leaves age, dry, change colour, and what the ultimate result of drying can be expected to be.

Let us start with the final result:

Scrappy though the bits of leaf may be, they illustrate the colour which we want the leaves to be after drying. But note that the middle of the big leaf in the centre has a green area right in the centre. What I have done is just soak that area with a spray of water. I want to see if that particular bit will go yellow/brown or if that bit of green is ‘sealed in’. I need to know. UPDATE 12 MIDDAY 24TH. The green bits on the centre leaf are still there. But it doesnn’t matter since the area involved is so small. the leaf will still cure satisfactorily enough.

Next up is the leaves which are half and half – partly yellow and partly brown:

I expect those leaves to become the same colour as the first batch in the next couple of days at most.

The next stage is those leaves which were still very green a few hours ago:

Clearly, the greenest leaves are changing.

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I had a good idea tonight (as a new experiment). The leaves above, when they are all brown, are unlikely to be worth ‘wadding’ for curing. So, once they are uniformly brown, then I’ll store them temporarily until the next batch is ready. No problem at all – just make sure that they are dry and seal them in a resealable plastic bag pro temp. Or even just chuck them into a cardboard box in a dry place. UPDATE 12 MIDDAY 24TH AUG: I have taken out the brown leaves and put them on one side to dry fully in the ambiant air in the house. The rest of the leaves are now mixed in with the second batch which I described yesterday. I want them to continue to to dry slowly. What happens inside the towel is that the moisture in the leaves is absobed by the towel and only slowly dissipates. It seems to be quite important to have quite a few leaves piled on top of each other and to rotate the leaves in the pile daily. It only takes a few minutes.

Learning all the time.

Post of 28th August 2012: The Plants. More info: stalk

I need to post this. I was thinking further about the stalk. I had supposed that the stalk must continue growing even though slugs or whatever might have got at the young plants. Unfortunately, this is not so.

Let me first show you this pic of the stalk on my ‘star’ plant:

We are talking about the plant at the top centre of the pic. Here is a close up:

Bear in mind that I have removed the bottom four leaves for processing.

That is the sort of stalk that we want. Nice and sturdy.

I had thought that, provided that the roots are working well, the stalk would grow and grow and thus lift the plant off the ground above the ground-based slugs etc. Erm….. No. Many people will already know why it is not so, but, for ignoramuses like myself, here is the reason.

I was led to it by thinking about the roots and how they grow. Searching around on the net, I found that roots grow by extending from the tip. I had always thought that the whole root gets longer all along its length, but it doesn’t. Special cells in the tip elongate and push the root into the ground. Those cells are then replaced with new cells at the tip which repeat the process. Thus, if you cut the tip off a root, it will stop growing longer.

By searching around, I have found that a similar process occurs in the stalk. When the plant starts to grow, the tip of the stalk extends using special cells. The tip is right in the centre of the leaves – barely distinguishable from the leaves at the top of the plant. The important thing is that if this tip is destroyed, by being eaten by slugs or snails, for example, the plant stops growing taller. Here are a couple of pics:

You can see that the stalk is elongating nicely in the middle. Here now is another pic. A close-up of the centre of another plant:

There…. Right in the centre is the part of the stalk which needs to be protected.

UPDATE 7.15 pm 28th Aug.

Here is a pic of what might happen if the tip of the stalk is damaged:

You can see that leaves are trying to grow but have little or no stalk to grow on.

My plants are growing very well, so I doubt that I shall need to bother about the problem of protecting the plants this year, but I am trying to think of a simple way to protect this most vulnerable place for the future. Some sort of really strong deterrent spray in a can would be ideal. Something that you can spray on weekly or whatever which will repel creepy-crawlies of all kinds.

Are you reading this, LI? Want to make your fortune? Of course, it may already exist. Does anyone know?

——————–

Talking about this matter has just reminded me. Last night I was intending to pop outside in the garden, about this time (1am) and do a slug and snail check. I have just done it. Damn and Blast! Despite the fact that I spread some slug pellets on Sunday evening, there must have been fifteen of the buggers on flowers and baccy plants. I’m worried about the pellets. They used to be blue and they survived rain without dissolving. The ones that I have just recently bought are white, and they dissolve in the rain. Bloody useless!

Don’t tell me that the sodding EU has got at the manufacturers of slug pellets!………………

Post of 29th August 2012: Plants

The Plants.

No big comment tonight. Just to say that I have again inspected for slugs and snails. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! The buggers are gaining world-wide control (remind you of anything?)

Come on, LI!!! Give us a formula which can be sprayed onto plants which to deter and poison the bastards!

Post of 30th August 2012: Slug Pellets

I knew that the sodding EU would be involved! Look at this:

http://robertsturdymep.com/2009/04/22/robert-sturdy-opposes-ban-on-slug-pellets/

That was 2009 when the EU seems to have wanted to ban slug pellets “to protect the water supply”. It seems that the amount of poison in slug pellets, which drained into rivers, was higher that EU regulations. Needless to say, for any harm to come to a human being, a person would have to drink 1000 litres per day…. but ‘exceeds permitted levels’ is the cry. Have we heard similar cries before? You bet we have! “There is no safe level…. (as regards second-hand smoke)” Those of us who have read up on the American Surgeon General’s remark know that he/she totally distorted the real science. The real science is, “We have been unable to determine any specific level which is unsafe at low levels!”

Is it any wonder that slug pellets no longer kill slugs? Well, not before they have devoured your plants. It seems that the way that pellets work is to destroy certain parts of the body of the slug, once the poison has been ingested. But, at very low levels of the poison, the poison will still work, but there will be a significant delay. So the slugs, having eaten a bit of slug pellet, can go on to scoff half a lettuce before getting indigestion. CRAZY OR WHAT! This is similar to the light bulb fiasco, isn’t it? By EU dictat, ordinary light bulbs are verboten because they make too much heat, which contributes to global warming, ergo….. But when you fly over Europe at night, the whole continent is ablaze!

The horror of the EU is that it has turned a perfectly reasonable general trade agreement regarding standards of manufacture etc into a totalitarian regime, using ‘standards of manufacture’ (in this case, the poisons in slug pellets combined with water standards) artificially to empower itself with CONTROL.

But, as we consumers are beginning to realise, the EU can only function in this way if it has great big commercial entities to bully. The EU cannot work at local levels, no matter how it might disguise its intentions. This is the reason that ‘free enterprise’ tobacco products are replacing ‘monopoly’ tobacco products (the Government being the monopoly). Despite what the megalomaniac MSM might imply, the fact is that the EU is losing out to local activities, and the longer it lasts, the more that it will lose contact with reality. As with almost all tyrannies, it will consume itself as millions upon millions of ordinary people use their initiative to remove themselves from the tyrant’s control.

It would not upset me one bit to see the end of massive, multinational, powerful Tobacco Companies. The best scenario would be thousands and thousands of little tobacco companies (which are not really ‘companies’), producing their own tobacco products and selling them any-which-way they can. Remember that there is no law to stop such activity. The law requires only that ‘tobacco product creators’ register and pay tax. Well, OK…. “Sorry, Your Honour. I’m just trying to make ends meet. I grow a couple of acres of tobacco plants, and me and the missus make rolling tobacco and sell it to people we know (NOT TO CHILDREN!) who are poor. We are also poor. Send me to prison if you must, but remember that you will have to look after the wife and our nine children (shades of terrorists!)”

There is a serious point to the above which refers to the New Zealand totalitarian who wants to ban anyone born after 2000 from buying tobacco. Erm…. liberty? Stringing up? Sack-cloth and ashes?

Only because of the iron grip that the Tobacco Control Industry has over the MSM, has the mumbo-jumbo, quack, junk science, propaganda, lies, etc, promoted by the ‘advertising specialists’ (aka University Media Departments and ASH ET AL) been of influence, especially with politicians.

I seriously feel that we smokers must get to our MPs. I have said it before. We must somehow get our MPs to understand that they are personally responsible for the harm that they are doing by NOT opposing the Tobacco Control Industry.

Post of 4th Sept 2012: The Towelling Method………….

This post is especially for our friend Legiron and his ‘fans’. I want to show some pics of what can be expected of the towelling method for drying and colouring tobacco leaves. [‘Towelling’means wrapping the leaves up inside a folded towel] Here is pic 1:

You can see that the leaves are rather scrappy, which is not surprising since they are the remnants of the first, small leaves from the very bottom of the plants. They have been nibbled by slugs and what have you, but they are ok for experimenting with (and they are still tobacco!). They had begun to age and were beginning to yellow around the edges a bit. All the leaves are brown, but they vary in shade. The middle top one is a light brown, cardboardy colour while the bottom is a distinctly deeper brown. I find that curious, and I have no idea why it should be so.

Pic 2:

You can see in that pic a similar variation in colour, but you can also see some greenish parts in the middle of the leaves. I suspect that I did not quite get the timing of the drying process quite right.

Here is pic 3:

You can see that there is very much more green in the middle of those leaves than the previous pic. Those leaves are completely dry and that greenish colour is sealed in.  The leaf at the bottom right is especially curious. It is a lovely brown shade around the edges, but rather green in the middle. But notice the shape of the pieces of leaf. Those pieces came from a couple of leaves from my ‘star’ plant. I rather think that they were not quite ‘mature’ (that is, ready to start going a paler shade of green with the possibility of going yellowish). Last year, I had some similar events, but it didn’t seem to matter when they were fermented – they were still ok to smoke.

I have now enough pieces of leaf to start to cure/ferment. Tomorrow, if I have time, I’ll start the ‘wadding’ process. If last year is anything to go by, then I should have cured tobacco by about this time next week.

———————-

In the last couple of days, I have picked a large number of small leaves from the bottom of the plants and towelled them. A few are small and quite yellow, but mostly they are a slightly paler shade of green than the leaves which are still growing and developing. One or two are pieces of a fully grown leaf which I accidentally broke while weeding. Here are four pics to illustrate the situation.

Pic 1.

Ignore the leaves on the right. That individual small leaf has its own little history. It is the bottom leaf from one of the plants which I have in buckets on the window ledge in the spare bedroom. It is a nice pale shade of yellow with just the end of the centre rib pale green. I shall watch that particular leaf closely over the next few days.

Pic 2:

I now have three towels going. This is the ‘Yellow’ towel. The leaves and pieces of leaf in that pile are the yellowest ones. Look at the centre leaf and the one beneath it. Note how dark they are going. It really is odd! Some are still rather green in part, but they are predominantly yellow. Don’t be misled by the size of those leaves. As I said, they are the oldest from the bottom of the plants. The biggest leaf on my best plant measures about 22″ by 12″!

Pic 3:

This is the ‘Yellow/green’ towel. There are about thirty pieces in that towel. As you can see, they are rather more green than yellow. There are some leaves in there which could probably go into the ‘Yellow’ towel, but I want to keep the leaves spread out among the towels – not too many (which retains too much moisture) and not too few (which loses moisture too quickly). Rotating the leaves within each stack is important and I do it daily. It only takes a few minutes.

Pic 3:

These are the greenest of the leaves. There are maybe 20 pieces. As you can see, the leaf on the right is half a full leaf. In about three days time they should start to ‘go’. What happened last year was that the tips of the leaves started to go yellowy/brown first, followed by the edges, followed by the spaces between the minor ribs.

Last year, I cut out the main ribs (the white bit in the middle of the leaf on the left). This year, I have just squashed the main rib with a rolling-pin.

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So there we are as things stand at the moment. I should be able to report in a few days time how things are going. The time for action is nigh.

Post of 4th Sept 2012: Wadding the Dried Leaves

This is an update of yesterday’s post about drying tobacco leaves by ‘towelling’ them.

Readers will recall that I showed pics of a group of leaves which had already been dried and stored until there were enough to be worth wadding. I have wadded them today. Here is a pic of the finished wad:

It’s about 4″ long. What should happen now is that the tobacco will ferment and the starches in the leaves will turn to sugar, which will sweeten the taste when smoked.

To facilitate and speed up the ‘curing’, I have put the wad into a container:

I have sealed the container and have put it on top of the hot water cylinder (which is insulated, but still allows heat to escape). The temperature inside the container will go to about 30c. Tomorrow, I’ll take the wad apart and rearrange the leaves in the wad. The leaves will feel sticky and start to smell ‘pooey’ – sickly sweet. The whole process should take only a few days. After that, I’ll dry them out thoroughly. When thoroughly dried, they can be crushed mostly, with only the ribs needing to be snipped. Then I’ll put the tobacco into another container until I want to use it.

The whole process is described in detail in GROWING, CURING, FLAVOURING AND FINISHING TOBACCO FOR CIGARETTES (see sidebar).

5th September 2012: ROSE’S METHOD OF TOWELLING.

“Sweating the leaves” – Towelling Method of Curing Mk11

Materials and Method.

Bath towel approx 46″ 117cm by  26″ 66cm.

Button Thread (colour of your choice).

Large darning needle.

Dowel rod.

Thermometer.

Large heated propagator. (the internal dimensions of mine are 22″ 56cm by 15″ 38cm) Available at your local garden centre or online at about £30.

After the plants have started flowering, (lower, scrap leaves having previously been removed), start harvesting, taking no more than two leaves per week so as not to weaken the plant. Place your thumb on the top of the midrib of the leaf where it joins the stalk and press down,if the leaf is ready it will snap easily.

Rinse the leaves if necessary and peg them out to wilt on the washing line.

After a few hours wilting, pile the leaves into a neat stack and place in position across the shorter edge of the bath towel.

Roll the bath towel up loosely as if you were making a swiss roll with the leaves in the middle. Several layers of towelling will protect the leaves from the heating element.

Put the bundle in the propagator, put on the lid and turn on.

Using the thermometer make sure that the temperature where the towel roll meets the base of the propagator never exceeds 41°C or the leaves may scald.

I turn it on for about half an hour in the morning, turn the roll so both sides have been warmed, then turn the propagator off so that I don’t exceed 41 degrees. Turning it on again at around lunch time and in the evening.

On a sunny day the towelled roll can simply be left on the windowsill until around tea time.

After two or three days some of the leaves will have turned entirely yellow, so using the button thread doubled throughout, select a pair of roughly matching leaves and push the threaded darning needle through both midribs, leaving a long thread and tie both ends in a knot, then hang them over a dowel rod in the window.

Mine is suspended from a bit of garden twine at both ends, from two small brass cup hooks screwed into top of the window recess, so that I can still shut the curtains.

The surprising advantage of this, if the sky is nearly permanently overcast, is that you can leave these leaves to hang all day without worrying about the sun drying them too quickly. If the sun does come out take them down early.

Every evening put the yellow leaves back into the centre of the stack to be warmed, they will begin to brown and after a further day or two when they are completely brown except for the veins and midrib. Sandwich them between sheets of kitchen roll for around 12 hours under a heavy book, then they can be hung up and left for the midrib to dry out entirely.

The pressing means that you can slide them together on the pole so that they don’t take up much space.

Do not leave yellow leaves hanging overnight, when they cool down, mould can start to form on the moist surfaces.

At any point in the process new, green, previously wilted leaves can be added to the roll to keep the moisture up, and to replace the hanging brown leaves. Put them equally on top and underneath the yellowing and browning leaves in the stack and roll them up in the bath towel as before.

In this way you can steadly go through harvesting and curing the crop regardless of the weather.

When the midrib on each leaf has completely dried out and looks like a thin stick, I leave them in a cardboard box in a dry warm place to age for a while.

Post of 8th Sept 2012: The Mid Rib

I’m having a night off, but I could not resist posting this.

A few days ago, I described how, last year, I cut out the centre ribs of leaves and discarded them. I have since found that the centre ribs contain up to 25% of the volume of the leaf, and so it is worth using the centre ribs if possible. I decided to squash the centre ribs before towelling the leaves. I have now discovered that the centre ribs still have far more moisture in them than is desirable – so much so that they have a tendency to turn into mush. For this reason, I have introduced a small change in the way I treat the centre ribs before I towel the leaves. I still use a rolling-pin to squash them, but I put the leaf onto a length of kitchen paper roll and really squash them a flat as I can. The paper absorbs the liquid and thus renders the material of the centre rib much drier.

I shall not know how effective this process has been for a couple of days, but it ought to work.

People are starting to harvest leaves, and so I think that this suggestion is apposite for anyone intent upon using the towelling method.

Post of 10th September: Tobacco Growing.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to major on tobacco plant growing. My essay on that subject (see sidebar) is attracting more and more views every day, from all over the world. If one googles the words ‘growing tobacco’, my essay appears only on page 4. This is to be expected since an awful lot of firms advertise seeds and there are some anti-tobacco adverts and some utube videos. But if you google ‘curing tobacco’, my essay appears as 8th item on the first page. The words ‘flavouring tobacco’ and ‘finishing tobacco’ bring my essay up as the 1st item on page one. It is easy to understand why this is so. Most commercial ventures are only interested in profits, and these profits come from selling seeds (and possibly young plants). There is no profit to be made from curing, flavouring and finishing. Obviously, I am more than pleased to see my essay so prominent on google. Who’d have thought it?
Post of 13th Sept: Tobacco Plant Growth.

Frank Davis has published a pic of his tobacco plants:

What is very obvious is that, unless Frank’s window ledge is absolutely enormous, the plants are growing in small pots. And yet they are well established and have excellent growth in that they are tall and have lots of leaves.

Contrast Frank’s pic with this one:

That is a pic of my ‘star’ plant. The white thing is a 12″ ruler. That pic is now old in that the plant has grown much bigger since that pic was taken a couple of weeks ago.

What are the very obvious differences?

In my pic, the leaves are huge but there are not many of them.

In Frank’s pic, the leaves are small but there are lots of them.

In my internet researches, I came across a study of the effects of SOIL TEMPERATURES on tobacco plant growth. It seems that the very best SOIL temperature for plant growth is around 25 – 30 degrees C. Below about 10C, growth will be almost non-existent. Above 40C, the plants will die. The soil temp in my garden is around 19C. Height growth is poor, but leaf growth is great. Frank told me that his soil temp is about 25C. He gets tall plants with lots of small leaves. In macro terms, will the overall production of leaf be much the same for Frank’s plants as compared with mine? It may well be so.

I have three plants growing in buckets in the house. They are on a window ledge in a spare bedroom. They are not well-developed, but that does not matter since I intend to keep them inside and allow them to grow to their maximum potential. Specifically, I want the seeds, because they are Monte Calme Yellow variety. Here is a pic which I have just this minute taken:

You can see that they are in standard buckets in standard washing-up bowls. What is important is the development of the stalks as compared with the development of the leaves. More energy is going into growing tall than into growing leaves. But, as Frank’s pic has shown (and as Legiron’s pics have also shown), the trade-off is size of leaves and number of leaves and length of stalk. I suppose that the optimum situation would be best height of plant, best number of leaves and best size of leaves. It seems that the best places to achieve the optimum results are in a bands of territory which are spread around the globe a little North and a little South of the equator.

[NB. The reason for the washing-up bowls is that I could not be sure how much water was in the buckets – it is easy to see that the soil in the buckets could be absolutely drenched. I drilled a small hole near the bottom of the sides of the buckets so that excess water could drain out. Also, the soil (just my garden soil) could re-absorb water from the bowls, but, because the holes are so small, that effect would be very small. The important thing is that I can water the plants as much as I wish – excess water will drain out, and it is a simple matter for me to empty the bowls when necessary.]

This summer has been absolutely lousy. The constant rain and cloud has not allowed the soil to gain a sufficiency of heat to promote the best growth. Nevertheless, we still have a couple of months for growth to continue and for the plants to mature. I do not see the possibility of frost affecting the plants above ground, provided that frost does not penetrate below ground. Having said that, my experience (for what it’s worth!) from last year, is that the plants will simply stop growing around 1st November or thereabouts. That seems to be fact where I live. If my thinking is correct, then the roots of the plants should be well-developed and should be powering the growth of the plants for some time to come. I thus expect a certain exponential acceleration of growth over the next six weeks or so.

We are all pretty new to this game. The business of soil temperature is very important in that it is pointless planting tobacco plants in March in this country since the soil temp will be very low. We have to learn. We have to understand that it is better to grow the plants indoors (or in a greenhouse) until the soil temp is high enough to be worth planting them out.

I am already thinking about next year. In December, I’ll dig my plots over deeply and leave the ground very lumpy. I’ll save fag ash over the winter and spread it onto the plots during Feb/March. I’ll then level the ground when I am ready to plant out. Manure? Sure. My daughter’s dog poos on the lawn. Fine. I’ll bung the dog-poo on the plots, along with a fair amount of human pee (of my own!).

The word ‘squeamish’ must be removed from our vocabulary. Get used to picking up slugs and snails and killing them. Just pick them up, slimy though they are (imagine that each slug is Deb Arnott) and put it on a paving slab and squash it. That reminds me – I have to nip outside now (2.30am) and collect and squash slugs………. Only two! And even those were very small. I really do believe that my nightly inspections by torchlight are paying off. I have not seen a black slug for ages, and the big brown slugs have become fewer and fewer. Only juveniles and babies seem to be left. DO NOT MESS ABOUT – KILL THEM!

Perhaps I shall have more to say about the subject at a later date when a particular slug pellet manufacturer replies to my request for info….. if it does.

We are not so destitute that we cannot afford to buy fags, even with the extortionate amount of tax (is there not a law against usury?) I personally am creating a ‘last ditch’ scenario. It is a matter of fact that tobacco plants can be grown indoors without the sort of give-away high temps which cannabis requires.

When the Holy Zealots achieve their ultimate aim of ‘tobacco companies having no business in this country’, I shall be prepared.I have a big garden. Far too much 0f it is lawn…………….

Post of 14th Sept: The Midrib of the Leaf: My Star Plant: Identifying Varieties: Produce

In a post a few days ago, I described my new treatment of the midrib of a tobacco leaf. I decided to really squash the midrib with a rolling-pin. I am still not happy. In the vicinity of the midrib, the ‘lamina’ [meaning the rest of the leaf other than the midrib] tends to still absorb moisture from the midrib and go black.

I have a new plan. I shall cut out the midribs (or rather, cut the lamina off the midrib!). The lamina should yellow much more evenly if my experience from last year stands. But I’ll still squash, dry and cure the midribs. I’ll towel them with the leaves, but separate them from the lamina with a piece of paper towel. They will take longer, that is all. They can still be wadded with the leaves when they are dry and brown. I’m glad that I have figured out a way to deal with the midribs because I shall shortly be harvesting much bigger leaves with much bigger and thicker midribs. But we must still wait and see! Nothing is yet certain.

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People will have seen the pics of my ‘star’ plant. I am hoping that there is still enough time for it to flower, because I want its seeds. The flower ‘bud’ has formed in the centre of the plant with its individual flower buds well-formed and distinguished. It just needs to get going! Tomorrow, I’ll remove the two huge leaves for processing. That should help power the growth of the flowers. We’ll see.

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The trouble is that I do not know which variety of tobacco plant my ‘star’ plant is! It could be Virginia or Maryland 609 or Monte Calme Yellow. After much searching, I have found pics of the flowers (or at least a description) of all three. Unfortunately, they all have pink flowers! There are only minor differences in leaf shape, thickness and pointedness. Whatever! That plant has performed magnificently, and I want its seeds. Again we must wait and see – still learning.

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I have had a wad fermenting for several days. Today I decided that it had fermented enough and so I have thoroughly dried the leaves out. I used the microwave in 30 second bursts until the obvious moisture was out. I then crumbled and ripped the leaves apart and then snipped them as I described in my article about ‘GROWING, CURING…….etc’ (see sidebar). Her is a pic of the first produce from my efforts of  2012:

If I get time tomorrow, I’ll make a couple of thingies using half of my own and half of commercial stuff. The container is about 7″ by 5″.

Post of 16th Sept: Ground Temperature: My Own Stuff

I have my ‘star’ plant and I really want it to flower and seed, but I am not sure whether or not it will have time to do so since the nights are drawing in. I had a think about this and decided to remove the two lowest big leaves in order to try to persuade the plant to push on with the flowering. Yesterday, I had another think. I wondered if I could, in effect, put a sort of blanket around the bottom of the plant to try to keep the heat in and raise the temperature of the ground at that place. I had in mind the situation as regards snow. As we know, unless the ground under a blanket of snow is frozen, snow melts from the bottom up. The snow holds the heat of the ground in and responds to that heat by melting. Anyway, I decided to try something. I cut the bottom off a black refuse sack so that I had a black plastic sheet (for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with UK refuse sacks, they are roughly 3′ long by 2′ wide). 3′ by 2′ was quite enough to surround the base of the plant, so I left the sheet doubled. I cut a slit half way across the middle of the sheet and placed around the plant. I then put pieces of cardboard on top of the plastic sheet and cut another refuse sack similar to the first and placed that around the plant base on top of the cardboard. This is what it looks like:

Whether or not it will have the desired effect of increasing the temp of the soil around the roots of the plant, I do not know, but it is worth trying. I took the temperature of the ground at a depth of about 4″ beforehand. It was just under 15C. I’ll leave it a couple of days and then check again. If it works, then it might be useful to know for next season, should the summer turn out to be as cold and damp as this one.

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As I said a couple of days ago, I have today made a couple of thingies with the stuff I have grown myself. Lat night, I put enough for two thingies into a small tub along with some orange peel in gauze pouch. When I opened the tub, I found that the stuff was not wet but soft to the touch. It hardly felt moist. I used half of my stuff and half of commercial stuff to tube two thingies. I tried the first straight away to see what if any effect the slight moistness of the stuff had. It burned down ok but was slightly more difficult to drag. The taste was just a little stronger than I am used to, but very palatable. I’m letting the second one dry out somewhat before I try it. I’ll give it another quarter of an hour……

UPDATE: I have tried the second thingy and very nice it was too! Burned nicely, easy to draw on, nice taste. That’ll do for me!
Post of 21st Sept: Ground temperature for Tobacco Plants

Readers may remember that I tried to insulate my ‘star’ plant by covering the ground around the base of that plant with cardboard and black plastic sheets. the intention was to try to raise the ground temp in the immediate vicinity of that plant. I have to report total failure. The ground temp, outside the covered area, was 13C. When I lifted the insulation, and tested the ground temp near the plant, the temp was…. 13C. 13C is very low. It means that plants grow very slowly.

This year has been really difficult. Lots of slugs, cold rain, low temps and (for me) a bad start. Even so, despite the bad conditions, by virtue of expanding my planting area and preparing my two plots better than last year, my produce is far, far greater than last year. I may have been mistaken about extolling the virtues of Monte Calme Yellow varieties. Frankly, I am coming round to the idea that all these varieties of tobacco plant are only very slightly different from each other. The difference may be significant for growers on an immense scale, but are insignificant for us amateurs. I am moving towards the idea that the best varieties for us are the most prolific varieties, but our home soil must be considered.

My star plant is trying its best, but, unless the weather improves dramatically in the next few weeks, I fear that it will not reach seeding fruition. WHATEVER! We shall start again.

We shall NEVER surrender…………..

Post of 28th Sep 2012: The Backy Plants.

After all the heavy stuff of the Doll Doctors Study, I thought that we might look at the tobacco manufacturing events chez moi.

I started this growing season with great hopes and expectations. Seeds had germinated around January/February and I had vague expectations of being able to plant out around the end of March. Fate, as usual, intervened. My seedlings failed to prosper and I had to buy 30 Virginia Gold. But I also germinated a lot of Monte Calme Yellow seedlings. I finished up with about 50 plantlets, but it was mid-June by the time they could go outside. Fair enough, there is still plenty of time – best part of four months. But then came this dreadful summer. The worst part was not so much the rain as the low soil temperatures. Readers will remember me mentioning the research that had found into the effects of soil temperature on tobacco plants – very low soil temps (say, 9C) equal slow growth – which has turned out to be the case since soil temps here have rarely exceeded 15C. Around 25C to 30C is said the be best. On the other hand, temps over 40C are very bad news – tobacco plants will die above that soil temperature.

And then came the slugs and snails – presumably, aided and abetted by the rainy weather. Last year, they had very little effect, but this year has been quite different. About a month ago, I went out at about 1am. I was astonished. There must have been about two dozen slugs and snails munching away at the tops of my bedding plants! Note – at the tops. They had climbed up the stalks deliberately to get at the juiciest parts – the new growth at the top of the plants. Since then, I have been going out every night (about an hour after dark) and collecting them with my bare hands (squeamishness must go) and squashing them in a paving slab. I was advised by a garden centre man (when I went to restock with bedding plants) to just KILL THEM! Don’t mess about. I think that I am succeeding slowly in my eradication plans. Every night, I find and kill about a dozen slugs and snails. I haven’t seen a black slug for a couple of weeks – only brown ones. There are still a few bigish ones about, but none of the really huge ones. Most are adolescents. I found out that slugs and snails lay eggs. I have observed little clusters of baby slugs on single leaves – sometimes as many as four. Could it be that the slugs lay their eggs on the leaves themselves? From my observations, I think that they are responsible for the little holes that appear in the leaves here and there. Whatever, they are being eradicated. I am thinking more about next year than this. As I have said before, they go for the growing point of the plant. When they destroy the growing point, the plant will not grow upwards and will become stunted.

I have some pics to show to illustrate: If you look carefully at the pic, you can see that the plants around the edges are not growing at all well whereas the plants in the middle are good. Right at the back of the plot (top left in the pic), they are particularly poor. By the way, there, at the top, is my ‘star’ plant. The flowering buds have formed strongly and I am still hoping that there is time for it to flower and produce seeds. That is Plot 1.

Her is a pic of Plot 2:

Again, you can see that it is the plants around the edges which are stunted.

I am trying to figure out a way to physically protect the growing point (which is right in the middle of the leaves). I have in mind something like a hollow, egg-shaped, soft plastic ball with little holes punched in it (to allow air to circulate). The idea would be simply to cut slots in the ball and slot it over the growing tip of the plant, lodged between the leaves. The shape I have in mind is something like this:

I’ m going to try to construct a prototype. I like that shape because one can cut a little off the bottom (the glass end and not the metal end!) and cut slots in it to fit the plant when it is small, and then cut a bit more off and make the slots bigger as the plant grows. Heavens! If I get the right type of plastic sheets and the right design, it would only take me a few hours in the winter to construct 50 or so!  When I have made the prototype, I’ll take a picture of it. PROTECT YOUR PLANTS FROM SLUGS AND SNAILS!

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So I have had a good moan. But I am still really pleased. Things could have been a lot better, but I shall still have several times the amount of produce this year as compared with last. I have already made some ‘stuff’ as readers will know. I now have two big wads fermenting. After only a couple of days, when I opened them up, the leaves glisten and are sticky and smell sweet.

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A week or so ago, Legiron said that he was thinking of using the towelling/wadding method. He said that he might use paper kitchen roll instead of towels. Then he decided that he had plenty old T shirts and would use those. That should work perfectly well. But his mention of using paper gave me an idea.

I have been having trouble with the leaves in the centre of the piles wrapped in the towels. Sometimes, they have become so wet that they have started to disintegrate. That is no good. The problem seemed to originate from the centre rib, which holds a particularly large amount of moisture. LI’s idea of using paper gave me an idea. I though that it might be a good idea to cut out the centre ribs and separate them from the ‘lamina’ (the rest of the leaf) and put them inside a sheet of paper kitchen roll. So I did, and it worked very well, although, of course, those parts of the leaf dried more slowly. But that gave me another idea – why not leave the midribs in place and put paper sheets between the leaves so as to absorb the moisture of the ‘lamina’ and the ribs at the same time equitably?

Because I am going on holiday in a couple of weeks, I have been stripping the plants of their lowest leaves (they are the ones which constitute the wads which I mentioned above). I now have six towels going with several leaves in each towel. What I have done is this. In one towel, I have separated each leaf individually. In the others, I have stacked together varying numbers of leaves with a absorbent paper sheets between each leaf in the stack. Remember that I squash the midribs with a rolling-pin in advance. I have found that the absorbent paper is sucking up, but holding, the moisture from the squashed midribs. It is all looking very promising indeed. What I am looking out for is whether or not separating the leaves with these paper sheet will affect the yellowing/browning. So far, everything is looking good, but a few days will have to elapse before I can be sure.

Is all this endeavour just too much trouble? Is it too time-consuming? Well….suit yourself. If you want to go on paying ridiculous amounts in tax, don’t bother. But there is another thing. With experience, the time involved becomes much less. One gains ‘expertise’.

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One last thing for tonight.

As readers will know, I have three plants in buckets on the window ledge of an upstairs bedroom. Again, it is all experimental. I showed this pic of the plants about three weeks ago:

Those were the remnant of the Monte Calme Yellow plants which I had germinated again after the disaster. Here is a pic of them now:

They have developed quite well. But we notice that they are not even remotely growing to the same pattern as those outside in the ground. (NB. I have removed and towelled the lowest leaves because they went yellow on the plant!) The leaves on the plants outside are huge in comparison, but they do not go yellow on the plant). You can judge the size from the buckets, but there is also a 12″ ruler in the bowl on the left.

You can see immediately that those plant are developing very differently as compared with the plants outside, and yet the soil in the buckets is the same soil. You can see that, although the plants seem to be perfectly healthy, that the leaves are very small in comparison with the outside plants, and the stalk is thinner and longer. Such little leaves are no use to me whatsoever, really. But I will continue with this experiment because, essentially, it is the Monte Calme Yellow seeds that I am interested in. We shall see. It is curious, however, that the pattern of growth is so different. I have no idea why really, but I have a clue, which has come from a very unusual place. In Richard Feynman’s ‘Lectures on Physics’, he mentions that plants get the carbon that they need from the CO2 in the atmosphere. As regards the leaves, I am sure that this is the case, but what about the roots? The roots come before the leaves, and are also principally carbon. It makes sense to believe that the roots (since they are not exposed to the atmosphere) get their carbon from the earth.

So in the buckets, the roots have ample carbon, but can the same be said for the leaves? Remember that, in an enclosed room, there is only so much carbon dioxide. But one can leave a door open so that the CO2 is replenished. But that may not be the most important point. Plants outside have the atmosphere passing rapidly over the surfaces of the leaves all the time. Indoors, there is no such movement. It occurred to me that, perhaps, in an indoor situation, the CO2 at the surface of the leaf becomes deplenished, because of the lack of atmospheric movement. Of course, the air in the room circulates – but nowhere near as rapidly as it does outside. If that is true, then the leaves of the plants indoors are simply not getting the supply of CO2 to encourage growth.

What to do? In the pic above, the plants are on the window ledge. Maybe just leaving a window slightly open will suffice to create the circulation of CO2 which the plants need to grow their leaves.

Enough for tonight. Is it not all the most curious and amusing thing? We have Tobacco Control to thank for that. Sod their Doll et al studies and their propaganda. We will beat them in the end….

Post of 3rd Oct 2012: Processing leaves.

I have been processing leaves for a few weeks now. They have been the small, scruffy leaves from the bottom of the plants. I am now starting to process the bigger, less slug-eaten leaves from further up (especially since I’ll be away for a few days in a couple of weeks).

A couple of weeks is sufficient to process the leaves through drying and fermenting by the towelling and wadding method.

Now is the time of year when leaves are starting to come to maturity thick and fast, and so I am quickly going to go through the towelling and wadding process once more, despite the fact that everything is explained in my article “Growing, curing…..etc” in the sidebar. A few pics are in order:

You see there leaves which have been cut up to fit into the folded towel. They are leaves which I picked yesterday. There may be twenty or thirty pieces. About every five pieces, I have inserted a sheet of paper kitchen roll. The reason is that moisture tends to build up in the middle of the stack. It helps to have the paper absorb the moisture without actually taking it away. The idea is to allow the leaves to dry out very slowly. In fact, the objective is to control the drying so that the leaves do not actually dry out! As you can see, it can be a tricky process. In addition, I rotate the leaves through the stack – top to bottom, top to bottom, etc. I do that daily.

If the midribs are big and thick, I cut them out and treat them separately:

Being thicker and wetter, they take longer, but as you can see in the next pic, they do go brown.

Nothing seems to happen for about three or four days, but, quite suddenly, the leaves start to go yellow or even brown:

For a change, the colours picked up by my mobile have turned out pretty well! The green pieces on the left are starting to go yellow, while the pieces on the right are very yellow with dark brown patches. The twig like structure at top right is a piece of midrib.

The final stage:

There are a lot of leaves in that stack. Not all are a brown as the ones you can see. Sometimes, it is pretty clear that some of the leaves are actually fermenting (they become sticky and very soggy and tend to fall apart), but they are in the minority.  The problem is that you cannot wad such a small quantity. What I have been doing is simply placing those specific leaves inside a couple of sheets of kitchen paper temporarily, just as a holding situation until I have enough to wad. Fermented or not, they go into the next wad. We should note that, as the leaves ‘dry’, they shrink substantially.

When I have enough brown, or nearly all brown, leaves I wad them:

(Notice the 6″ ruler to give scale). Each wad has a numbered tag so that I know when I wadded it. I write down the wad number and the date. In that pic, wad no. 2 is the oldest. it has been wadded since the 29th Sept. I have opened the wad up every day and re-arranged the pieces of leaf so that the outermost pieces become the innermost. I do that re-arranging in groups of leaves. They are very sticky and so I just pull them apart carefully, but not individually. When I open the wad up, the inside is sticky and stinks sickly sweet.

That wad was wadded  5 days ago. I just know, through my experience, that it is now ’cooked’, ‘fermented’, ‘cured’ – whatever word you wish to use. The critical thing is that the starches in the leaves have become sugars, and therefore make the tobacco taste sweetish. That is what ‘curing’ is for – to make the tobacco taste sweetish. In addition, of course, as we all know, the enjoyment of tobacco calms us and banishes some of the demons (which we create in our own minds) and thus removes blockages in our ability to think. But we humans are not all the same – we are all different. Not everyone will gain – some will suffer. C’est La Vie.

What is the point of wadding? That is a question which has been floating around in my mind for some time. I do not know who came up with the idea. I suppose that someone just noticed that leaves packed together ‘cure’ better than when separated. But there is a better way to think about it. When leaves ferment, starches turn to sugars. By wadding, the sugars are retained within the wad. It is very difficult the sugars to evaporate, which they are quite capable of doing, when exposed to the air. Wadding stops evaporation.

The final step is to take the fermented wad apart and dry the tobacco out as thoroughly as you wish. I used to carefully take the fermented leaves apart as best I could and place them on a tray and place the tray in front of the fire and allow the pieces to dry out gently in that way. But I have decided to speed the process up by microwaving the fermented leaves. I take the wad apart as carefully as I can, so as to separate the leaves (which are very thin) from each other. I then heap them on a plate and shove the plate in the microwave. I subject the stuff to 30 second bursts, re-distributing the leaves on the plate after each burst. The leaves become ‘leathery’ – dry but tough. It is a matter of judgement when they are just sufficiently dry to crumble. If you get it right (and it is not difficult!), you can dry the leaves so that they crumble when crushed. It is interesting to note that, when they crumble, they do not go to dust – they break into little pieces. There is very little dust indeed. Again, it is a matter of judgement and trial. What I have been doing is giving the leaves four 30 second bursts and then checking the ‘crumbleability’. If the leaves do not crumble correctly, I give them another 30 seconds. It seems to work perfectly!

It would be remiss of me not to publish a pic of the finished product:

Again, the 6″ ruler is there for scale.

Let me say plainly that there is not much reward for the effort involved. This is why one should regard growing one’s own as a hobby. It is interesting and amusing and tricky and uncertain – it is just for fun. But, like playing golf, the enjoyment is in ‘playing the game’.

A note regarding protecting the growing point of tobacco plants.

Plants grow taller by extending ‘the growing tip’. They do not extend the stalk all along its length. If the growing tip is destroyed, the plants cannot grow tall, and this the leaves have no stalk to grow from. The plant is destroyed for all intents and purposes. Slugs and snails particularly like the growing tips. Their predations must therefore be resisted at all costs.

I have devised what I hope will be a simple but effected way to protect the growing tip. The idea is to use a simple food bag. The medium size (about 12″/30cm) seems about the best. What I did was to simply cut four slits up the sides of the bags. The bag is placed over the growing tip and pulled down as tightly as possible at the base of the topmost leaves and then the loose emds are tied. Here is a pic:

You can see (with a little difficulty!) the bag sitting between the topmost leaves and the bottom parts, having been slit, are wrapped around the stalk and tied. I have punched a few holes in the plastic of the bag. It is hard to be sure whether or not this will work. It ought to be OK, unless the slugs eat plastic or somehow force their way in. Will the bag somehow damage the growing tip itself? It is hard to see why it should. As the tip grows, it should push up against the top of the bag. It should be obvious when the bag needs to be replaced. It seems to me (on good authority) that the slugs lose interest in the growing tips when the plants start ot mature somewhat. Viz:

http://www.powen.freeserve.co.uk/advanced/slugs/Slugs.htm

23rd October 2012.

THE BACCY PLANTS

It is usually true that after a week away from home, one notices changes in the garden more than is normally the case. That is even more so after a fortnight’s holiday. Even after only a week, however, some changes are quite pronounced in a minor sort of way. For example, my ‘star’ tobacco plant is beginning to flower. Pink petals are just beginning to emerge from the buds. I hope that there is still time for the flowering and seed pod development.

In order to expedite the flowering, I have removed the biggest leaves from the lower part of the plant. Whether that will ‘force’ the flowering or not, I do not know. But it makes sense if it is true that the opposite is true! That is, if it is true that ‘topping’ (cutting off the flowering part of the stem/stalk) promotes leaf development, then ‘bottoming’ (snapping off the big, lower leaves) ought to produce flower development, don’t you think? My star plant is big and has a thick stalk. Its roots must be pretty deep and thus protected from day-to-day temperature changes. The problem is that I do not know how changes in the light levels which hit the leaves percolate down to the roots. It may be that the roots shut down when the dying of the leaves tells them to. It is all most intriguing.

Anyway, a few days before I went on holiday, I had little choice but to begin the process of drying and curing certain leaves which were being chewed by slugs and such. By picking them, cutting them and towelling them (as previously described), I got them to yellow and brown to a certain extent. And then I had to leave them.

When I returned, those towelled leaves were as brownish, yellowish (with green singes here and there) as one could expect. I was pleased. But had they cured? Had they fermented? I cannot be sure although some of the leaves may have. What was definitely true was that they were very dry. I toyed with the idea of assuming that they had fermented and just crumbling and snipping them, but  I decided to re-hydrate them. That means to get them damp again. I tried steaming them by putting them in a colander placed on top of a pan full of boiling water. It worked, but not very well. In the end, I placed them on a towel and sprayed them with warm water. I left them for a few hours in the folded towel. They became soft and malleable and so I wadded them. If my thinking is correct, and they are not yet fermented (starches turned to sugars), then they should become sticky and any yellow/greenness should disappear. A couple of days should be enough. The simple idea is that leaves might become yellow and then brown without fermenting, if the temperature is not high enough for the chemical changes to occur. By wadding and keeping the wad in a sealed container and putting the container in a warm place, we force the leaves to ferment. When I open up the wad tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if the leaves have become sticky. If they have, then I have gained something and lost nothing. If they do not, then I have lost nothing.

The operatives in the DoH know nothing. At the end of the working day they go home. Nobody cares. The Minister herself knows little or nothing. Only the Zealots in the DoH matter. But there must come a time when the Minister refuses to accept the advice of the experts. Then the Experts cease to be experts and have to justify their assertions.

24th October 2012: The size of tobacc plant leaves.

really must get back to the Doctors Study, but I have to amuse myself somehow, don’t I?

This is a really odd situation that I cannot understand at all.

Here is a picture of a leaf from a tobacco plant growing in the ground in the garden:

The 12″ ruler indicates the size of the leaf. You can see that the leaf is of a good size, although it is not the biggest that I have had. Now here is a pic of leaves growing on a plant in a bucket inside the house:

The 12″ ruler shows just how pathetic the growth is. And yet the plant will not be long before it flowers! The thing at the top of the plant is the flower buds! It almost seems as though I have somehow managed to grow dwarf tobacco plants.

I have seen pics of full-sized plants on the internet growing in buckets similar to the ones above. The soil in the buckets is the same as that in my garden. The room is at an ideal temperature and the position is the sunniest window ledge in the house.

Is that not really weird? Why should the plants, in ideal conditions, grow from seedlings to flowering and yet be so thin in the stalk and have such small leaves? Anybody got any ideas?

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Another oddity is the colour of the bottom leaves. Here is a close-up of the left-hand one:

Isn’t that a beautiful colour (but it is very dry)? I have been growing plants outside now for two season and I have still to see a leaf go yellow on the plant, other than the very early ones, and even those go yellow and not that beautiful shade of brown. You can see on the earlier pic that the lowest leaves on the other plants have also gone light brown. Leaves higher up are also starting to go brown.

It’s as though the plants have rushed through the process of normal development; as though they have grown a stalk, grown a leaf, grown a bit more stalk, grown another leaf, grown flower buds and started to die back – all as rapidly as possible.

I said earlier that I have seen plants grown in buckets to a normal size. Now that I think about, I seem to remember that the buckets were on a balcony outside. Is there a lesson there? I mentioned in an earlier post that, because of a lack of movement in the air in the room,  there could be a lack of carbon dioxide in the air at the surface of the leaves. By that I mean that the leaves may absorb the CO2 in the air in their direct vicinity. Thus, although there is always CO2 in the room, the CO2 in direct contact with the leaves is diminished rapidly and replenished slowly – as compared with the rapid changes of air in contact with the surface of the leaves outside. But I have no real idea at all.

Enough for tonight. I have in mind to retire somewhat earlier that usual.

25th October 2012: We have a flower!

So there is hope yet that seed pods will form on my ‘star’ plant of the year. In order to enable the plant to put all its effort into the flowers and the seed pods, I have removed all but the smallest leaves at the top of the stalk. I have also removed side-flowerbuds (buds growing out from the stem lower down).

I have collected a load of leaves today. I have taken pictures of the process of squashing the midribs, washing, cutting up the leaves and towelling the pieces. But I shall not bore everyone by showing the pics – they can go into the Diary.

I intend to revise the ‘TOBACCO GROWING….’ article in the sidebar as soon as this season is finished. The Diary will remind me of all my cock-ups and errors so that I can, hopefully, assist other new growers to get off to a good start.

The ‘TOBACCO GROWING …..’ article seems to have been a great success. Looking at my stats, I see that some 4100 views of that post alone have occurred. That is an awful lot for one single post which I wrote almost twelve months ago. I had hoped that, if that post became popular (as it has), then people would make it their business to look at the rest of the Bolton Smokers Club stuff. Maybe they have – I have no way of knowing. But we must persevere and hope that, one way or another, we can spread the word that there is a strong movement to have the persecution of people who enjoy tobacco terminated.

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Having returned from my hols and sorted the leaves out on my plants, I now intend to give some time to the Doctors Study and to sorting out my computers. I have three, all having assorted groups of ‘favourites’, being information discovered on the net of one sort or another. There are press releases from ASH, CRUK, etc, assorted papers, hundreds of pictures of tobacco plants and seedlings. Everything needs to be sorted because I am drowning in stored information.

I shall keep on blathering, but the blathering will be trivia. Please put up with it!

1st Nov 2012: Towelling baccy leaves.

Now that I am getting good-sized leaves, I have decided to try a variation on the towelling method. The variation is one suggested by Rose in a guest post a couple of months ago. I’ll put some ;pictures in for illustration purposes.

You are seeing six leaves of which I thoroughly squashed the midrib and have washed. The washing consists of simple running some warm water in a washing-up bowl and rubbing the leaves with my hand. Detritus comes off very easily.

Rose’s suggestion was to roll the leaves up in the towel.

Above is the biggest of the leaves. You can see that it fits comfortably in the towel.

And there are the six leaves stacked up. The next step is simply to roll the towel up. An elastic band is holding the towel together.

That’s all there is to it. Clearly, it will save quite a lot of time.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the midribs since they are so much thicker and damper than the rest of the leaves. I suppose that I could always cut them out later.

And so the experimentation continues….

Post of 8th Nov 2012: The madness of tobacco plant growers

I must be going crazy.

A couple of days ago, we had quite a vicious little overnight frost. I had a geranium thingy in a pot. After the frost, the leaves went black. I noticed also that some of the leaves of my baccy plants were wilting. I had hoped that my star plant would go to seed. When I saw the effect of the frost, I realised that there was no chance at all that it would reach the seed stage.

I dug it up. I mean that, starting about a foot away from the base of the plant, I shoved my spade vertically downwards into the soil. I went round the plant so that I was creating a circle of 2′ diameter deeply into the soil. I then gently removed the soil at the edges of my circle. Then I dug down even deeper. Then I applied leverage under the plant and lifted it up. Interestingly, the roots seem not to spread out a great deal. I have noticed this before. They seem to be localised near the base of the plant but are quite dense. Not dense as grass plant roots are dense, but not spread out as rose-bush roots are spread out. Sort of in-between.

So I got the plant out of the ground with lots of soil adhering to the roots and popped it into a box.

I just happen to have a plastic container which measures about 2′ x 1′ x 1′. I took this container upstairs into the spare room. I put soil into that container. I took the plant upstairs and placed it into the container. I then filled the container up with soil. Here is a pic:

Not the best of pics, but ok considering that the light is a wretched long-life thing.

I have already stripped and processed most of the leaves.  You can just about see the flowers right at the top. After two days, the plant seems to be happy enough. With a bit of luck, it should run to seed. I know that these plants do not need to be fertilised by ‘male’ plants. They can fertilise themselves. Maybe I should use a soft brush to stroke the sex bits of the flowers. Not quite as much fun as stroking Angelina Jollie with a soft brush, but more remunerative mi-thinks. Here is a close-up of the flowers:

There are lots of buds still unopened.

I’m not quite sure which variety that plant is. It could be ‘Virginia’ (variety unspecified), or it could be ‘Maryland 609’ or it could be ‘Monte Calme Yellow’. I don’t think that it is the last. MCY tend to have thinner leaves which make them suitable for cigar outer wrappers (but are still good material for cigs). It does not matter. It has been a ‘star’ this year and I want its seeds if possible.

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I must be mad. Think of the idiocy of going to all that trouble when seeds are freely available at a low cost. Mad, I tell you. But at least it is a CONSTRUCTIVE madness, as compared with the madness of Cunningham MP, who seeks to DESTROY social cohesion and many industries which are connected to the enjoyment of tobacco. People like Cunningham MP (and Williams MP and Milton MP and the rest of the clique) are beyond redemption, because they do not, and cannot, realise that there would be no smokING without smokERS. When they say that smokING kills babies, they are accusing smokERS of killing babies. They say these things without any sort of proof at all. Let them PROVE, in court, that a parent killed his/her baby by smoking.

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The experimentation will continue until I am satisfied that I have the best systems that I can devise. Already, the virtues of ROLLING UP THE TOWELS WITH THE LEAVES INSIDE is looking very good. (I should have thought of it sooner). Wadding to encourage fermentation works superbly well. The discovery of the wadding video (which has since disappeared) was a ‘paradigm shift’ in our understanding of what curing tobacco means. It is a key thought and changes everything.

The next really, really important thing is to find out why baccy plants grown indoors do not produce BIG leaves. There must be a reason. My own tentative opinion is that there is an airflow problem indoors. Baccy plant leaves grow by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. They do not grow from the provision of nutrients from the roots. Airflow over the surface of the leaves (no matter how small they may be when they start to grow) provides a rich source of CO2. Stagnant air in an indoor room does not. Next year, I shall try growing indoors and use an electric fan to simulate natural airflow over the surface of the leaves. In order to simulate ordinary wind, the fan need only be on for, say, an hour a day.  Coupled with an open window, my plan should work. I have been particularly encouraged in my thinking by seeing videos of plants growing very well on balconies, even though they were planted in ordinary buckets. As I said earlier, the roots are compact.

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We must prepare for the imminent criminalisation of all things tobacco related. There is no other expectation while MPs like Cunningham and Williams rule. Baccy plants will grow indoors, without any excessive need for heat and light (as cannabis does). Sort out the leaf size and we have cracked it.

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The wonderful thing about all this is that Tobacco Control is greatly encouraging ‘grow your own’. If baccy plants can be grown well indoors, without special heat and light, then tax revenue will fall and fall without the enjoyment of tobacco diminishing. In fact, if ‘grow your own’ indoors became easy and prolific, then even the Tobacco Industry could go to hell.

Rolling up full leaves in a towel

Well! I am very impressed by the results of rolling up FULL leaves in towels.

Eight days ago, on the 1st Nov, I said that I was going to try rolling up full leaves inside a towel to induce colour change in the leaves. I showed some pics. Here’s one:

During the seven days since I rolled up that package of leaves, changes have occurred. Here is a pic:

It is a peculiarity of my mobile that it does not get the colours right. The green parts on the leaf on the right are actually yellow.

Hang on – here is a much better pic which I took yesterday (in better light, I suppose):

There……you can see the correct colours now.

Some sort of fermentation is beginning to occur, as can be seen by the black-looking parts (which are a bit shiny and sticky in parts). So I have wadded them. Here is a pic of me wadding them:

The wad contains the two leaves which I showed in the previous pic plus some smaller pieces. Here is the wad finished and tied up with string:

The white thing is a numbered tag. I note down the number and the date so that I can keep track of how long it that specific wad has been fermenting. It is now in a sealed container on top of the hot water cylinder. It will achieve a temperature inside the container of about 30C. After a couple of days, the leaves will become sticky as the starches in the leaves turn into sugars. Tomorrow, I shall open the wad up and re-arrange the leaves so that they are rotated. I expect that in about four or five days, all the leaves will have turned a dark brown, at which point they will have fermented. They will also become sticky and will stink like shit. Do not be put off by that.

Wadding works, but only recently have I given any thought as to why it should work.

I suspect that wadding stops the sugars from ‘oxidising’. The sugars are retained within the wad. But it is also important to open them up every day. I suspect that opening them up allows gasses to escape. Ammonia is one such gas.

But I have been through all this before. It is all in the “GROWING, CURING, ETC…” article in the sidebar. At the end of this season, I shall revise that article and bring it up to date.

I have been thinking about people who do not have in their homes a constant source of gentle heat. I am particularly concerned about those who have combi boilers in that they do not have hot water cylinders. As an experiment, I have towelled (rolled up) some leaves but kept them in the living room without a special warmth. I am not happy about progress. Here is a pic:

You can see that the top leaf has darkened but the second leaf is still stubbornly green. Also, they smell like wet leaves and they are rather cold. I don’t see them yellowing. I’ll see the experiment through, but I am not happy. A level of warmth seems to be important. Using the towelling method to dry the leaves slowly seems to be not much use if the leaves dry out when they are cold! I have been testing a couple of ideas, of which more later.

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In the meantime, I continue with the 40 year Doctors Study Report. I have done the Tables. Only the Graphs need to be attended to.

Post of 18th Nov 2012: The Baccy leaves hot box

Let me introduce you to the HOT BOX.

My method of drying and curing tobacco for cigarettes requires a certain level of more-or-less continuous heat. Some time age, one of my commenters said that she did not have a source of continuous heat. In my case, the continuous heat came from the hot water cylinder, which is situated in a cupboard at the top of the stairs.

I suppose that my heating system is antiquated. Many people these days have had their heating systems changed to ‘combi’ boilers which do not have hot water cylinders. Also, there is the complication that many people have their hot water cylinders in the loft.

Rose said that she did not have a hot water cylinder. Instead, she used the top of her modem as a constant source of heat. But, inevitably, the modem is not on all the time. Even then, the top of the modem does not provide much space. Also, few of us use separate modems these days. Most of us hardly use fixed PCs – we use laptops.

And so I cast about in my mind for a little system which could be used to supply a constant source of heat at negligible cost and which would WORK. That is, supply enough constant heat to ‘power’ the chemical changes required by the towelling/wadding method of drying and curing.

It took me a while to discover a viable system. Here is the result:

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new printer for my computer. It came in a box:

The dimensions of the box are 18″ x 15″ x 8″. I thought that, with a bit of ingenuity, I could turn this box into a HOT BOX. I lined it with polystyrene:

This is a heath-robinson device! The polystyrene lines the bottom and sides of the box. It has come from stuff I have hoarded. Note the two small cross-strips – they are there to raise the level of the hot water bottle above the level of the base. The reason for them is to avoid CONDUCTION into the surrounding polystyrene of the heat in the hot water bottle. We want CONVECTION and RADIATION.

I said that I would be using a ‘hot water bottle’. In the event, what I used was ‘a bottle of hot water’! The bottle in question is a 1 litre pop bottle:

Again, I do not want to place anything DIRECTLY onto the surface of the bottle in order to avoid CONDUCTION, and so a made a ‘bridge’:

It’s just a piece of polystyrene with holes cut into it. Air can circulate around the bottle and through the holes.

Next, I placed the container with the wad in it on top of the ‘bridge’:

(I want it to be as close to the bottle as possible without actually touching it)

After that, I have another set of leaves rolled up in a towel. There is room in the box for that rolled-up towel to fit:

Finally, the ‘lid’ goes onto the top:

The polystyrene at the sides and on the bottom of the box is only about 1″ thick, but the top is about 2″ thick. This is an accident since it was all I had left to make square pieces of! But it does have the advantage of putting thicker insulation at the top where heat congregates most.

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The important thing is that it works! I built this prototype about 10 days ago and have used it to follow the process of towelling and wadding through, using it. The leaves yellowed/browned in the towel and fermented in the wads. Perhaps the process was a little slower, but not much.

While the towel and the container were in the box, I repeatedly checked the temperature in the box. I filled the bottle with water which was as hot as it comes out of the hot water tap. After about 15 minutes, I checked the temperature inside the box (I had put my thermometer inside the box, but not touching the bottle). The thermometer read about 30C. I tested it several times, and there were variations, of course. Roughly, the temperature fell at a rate of about 1 degree C per hour. Thus, for the temperature to fall from 30C to 24C, 6 hours elapsed. That is sufficient to give time for the chemical processes to occur. When the temperature is too cool for the chemical processes to occur, then they stop – but they resume when the temperature is raised again.

This seems to me to be the answer for people who have no reasonably constant source of heat. Of course, if I really needed such a HOT BOX, I would build it much more carefully. I believe that sheets of polystyrene can be obtained from B & Q and places like that quite cheaply. Polystyrene is very easily cut up with a hacksaw (or even an ordinary saw). Sheets 1″ thick should be sufficient.

Even now, I am using it. I have lots of leaves still to process, and it is a useful addition to my armoury at this time.

Post of 29th Nov 2012

Last night, we had quite a hard frost. When I got up, I noticed frost on the leaves. Many of them were wilting. Although I know that the leaves can stand a certain amount of frost, there’s no way that they are going to develop further. So I decided to strip them all. Here is the result:

The basket is quite deep so there are more than there seems. I’ve put them in the garage to stay cool. I don’t want them drying out. Tomorrow, I’ll make a start on processing them.

I haven’t touched my stuff yet (apart from making two fags to check the taste). When I’ve processed this last batch, I intend to put the whole lot into a big bowl and stir it all thoroughly. I read somewhere that the nicotine is concentrated more in the top leaves than the lower ones, and that the sugars are more in the middle leaves. So I’ll stir it all up and mingle it all together. I have a sealed tub having a volume of some 385 cubic inches. It is full. It will certainly be overflowing when I have finished. When you take the lid off, a very strong sickly sweet smell emerges! Should be wonderful.

It is quite sad to see all the denuded stalks. The harvest has been good, but not nearly as good as it could have been had I not had the disaster of my seedlings dying and having to buy plantlets. The second batch of seedlings was very late. The lousy weather this summer, together with the damned slugs and snails has not helped at all.

But valuable lessons have been learnt. In a couple of weeks time, I’ll get my big spade out and deeply turn the soil over. I’ll leave it over winter in big lumps to let frost in deeply. I’ve started saving cigarette ash again. That can be spread over the plots as the winter progresses. I also have some plans about fertilizer. Did you know that human urine is superb fertilizer? Think about it…. Even the stalks will not go to waste. I intend to chop them up and let them become desiccated and rot down. Then they can go back into the soil whence they came.

And then, mid-December, I’ll start off next years seedlings. With my second batch this year (after the disaster) I used my own soil in the propagator. The seeds germinated fine, but I did take the precaution of pouring boiling water onto the soil before filling the propagator. Once the seeds have germinated, the propagator can sit on the spare room window ledge through the winter. If they grow big enough, I’ll pot them on into single pots, but they do grow very slowly.

So there we are then. Another little blow struck against our persecutors. They’ll get as little as possible of my money. Let the non-smokers pay for their own health care.

Last of the Wads: Wadding Green Leaves: Post of 9th Dec 2012.

I found myself in a funny position yesterday. I had wadded all the sections of leaves which had turned yellow/brown in the towels. I had left several leaves which were in various stages of yellowing/browning but which had substantial portions of solid green. Indeed, some of the remaining leaves were very small and still totally green. So I thought that I might conduct a little experiment and see what happens if I wad green leaves together with greenish/yellowish/brownish leaves.

Today, I have been pleasantly surprised to see that most of the greenish/yellowish/brownish leaves have turned completely brown and are fermenting. Even the totally green small leaves are ‘going’. So I thought that I would show a couple of pics:

091212-1508

That pic shows the browned pieces which were greenish/yellowish/brownish. You can see that they have gone almost completely brown.

091212-1506

Those are the ones which were bright green when I wadded them yesterday. As you can see, they are turning brown.

So I’ve rearranged the leaves in the wad and slipped those little leaves in among them. Tomorrow, I’ll see what has happened to them. I expect them to have browned and that the whole wad will have fermented and can be dried, although I might give it another day.

I have found this year that the leaves have only needed wadding for a couple of days. After two days, the leaves are brown, sticky and smell sweet with a tang which I think comes from the ammonia.

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Readers will remember that I dug a full-grown plant out of the garden and moved it indoors in a big container. I had hoped that it might carry on to seed. Unfortunately, although it continued flowering, the flowers, including the seed pods, all fell off after a few days. But an odd thing has happened. Shoots have appeared from the side of the stalk. It looks as if the plant is growing new leaves. I’ll let it go on to see what happens.

And so this season is finished. Must get onto digging the plots over and getting next year’s seeds germinated soon.

UPDATE 1.30pm 10th Dec

I have taken the wad apart and had a look at those leaves again. Here is a pic:

101212-1415

They are not exactly the same leaves – I could not find them! But you can see that they have substantially browned.

The wad as a whole was ready and so I have gently separated the leaves. It is not easy because the leaves are very thin and stuck together. A little patience is required. Here they are, sitting on a tray in front of the fire drying:

101212-1510

As they dry, any remaining greenish colours seem to change to a cardboardy colour. There is a variety of shades of brown, from light to very dark. I’ll let them dry thoroughly so that they crumble. They will crumble into flakes and little bits, but there will be very little dust. Last year when I did this, I did not observe any tendency for the ash on the fags I made to fall off any more than manufactured fags. But it is a good idea to ‘nip’ the tip of the tubed cig after tubing. By ‘nip’ I mean squeeze with thumb and forefinger. (Better to be clear!) Readers will recall that I use half my own stuff and half commercial stuff when I make a fag.

Once this batch has dried out, I’ll add it to my tub-full then I’ll empty the lot into a big bowl and thoroughly mix it all up. This is because different leaves have different quantities of sugar and nicotine.

It will then be ready for use.

UPDATE 4,30pm 10th December

Right. The leaves have been thoroughly dried and crumbled. Here is a pic to show how they crumble:

101212-1707

As you can see, there are lots of little bits, but not a lot of dust. So I’ve just made and consumed my first fag made therewith. As I have said before, it is a bit ‘intense’, which is why I mix it half and half with ordinary cigarette tobacco. Also, it does need to be moistened a little to make it more pliable when filling the tubing machine. But we are off to a good start.

Allowing Home-Grown Tobacco to Age: Post of 22nd Dec 2012.

This is a difficult area. A lot depends upon what type of tobacco plants you have been growing and your reason for growing the plants.

I am not into pipe, cigar tobacco. I am into cigarette tobacco. I have been growing my own. It has been interesting to observe the characteristics of home grown tobacco. It is interesting to observe that recently fermented tobacco has a slightly acrid taste. It is also interesting to observe that, if the tobacco is allowed to ‘mature’ a little, then the acrid taste goes away. I am, at this moment, smoking one of my own, and it tastes really good. Having ‘matured’ for only a few months, it has lost the ammonia and has become a very nice smoke.

I do not know whether or not ‘ageing’ makes any difference, but it certainly seems to do so.

But the curing of tobacco is tricky, but, at the same time, really easy. People should disregard the blandishments of Tobacco Control.

A Tip About Tubing: Post of 26th Dec 2012.

Sometimes, it takes a while for simple improvements to techniques to come to mind. A case in point is the use of tubing machines. Last year, I tubed hundreds of fags, but the idea never occurred to me. Now it has.

Last year I was using tubes named ‘Concept’. I bought and used 500. Those tubes rarely split or broke at the tip. This year, I have bought what I thought were the same tubes, but have turned out to be different. I bought them from ‘Make Your Own’ which company produced the tubing machine that I use. But the tubes are not ‘Concept’.

The new tubes seem to be not as strong as ‘Concept’ and tend to burst/break more easily. But I have discovered a very simple way to reduce enormously the tendency of tubes to break.

When you place to tube onto the ‘spout’, rotate the tube so that the glued joint of the tube is uppermost so that the little gummage which ‘grabs’ the tube,  grabs the thickest part of the tube, which is where the glued joint is. I have found tonight that this simple action makes A HUGE difference to the potential of tubes to break at the tip.

I offer this suggestion to people who use the same sort of cheap-muck machine that I do. I know nothing about more complex machines. But, there again, my objective is to avoid unnecessary costs. Also, since tobacco growing is my hobby, I enjoy discovering ideas and spreading them.

Believe it or not, this ‘tip’ is a major tip. It gives some reasonable assurance that the distribution of tobacco in the tray is not as critically important, since the tube is less likely to ‘burst/break’ when it is grabbed at its strongest point.

A Bit More about Tubing: Post of 27th Dec 2012.

Last night I mentioned the idea of rotating tubes so that the glued strip of the tube was gripped by the ‘gummage’.

This little, but important, discovery was entirely accidental. I just happened to notice, when tubing a fag, that the glued bit just happened to be the part of the tube which the ‘gummage’ had gripped. I would never have thought about it had it not been for just noticing.

When I noticed that the glued bit where the edges of the tube are united was in just the right position for the ‘gummage’ to grip the tube at that precise point, it occurred to me that that point is the strongest point of the tube since it has double the paper.

Tonight, I made about 20 fags. On no occasion did the tube rip away from the gummage which grips the tube. I did burst two tubes, but that was because I deliberately allowed myself to ‘accidentally’ overfill the tray with tobacco.

The importance of this simple discovery is that it very much simplifies the filling of the tray with tobacco. The only real problem is overfilling to such an extend that the tube bursts (apart from the odd occasion when a tough scrap of tobacco actually rips the side of the tube).

I found tonight that the process of tubing is much speeded up since there is not such much need for care in deciding just how much tobacco to put in the tray. As I said, tonight, when I made 20 fags, not a single one ripped at the point where the gummage grips the tube. I burst two tubes, but that was semi-deliberate in that I did not watch exactly how much tobacco I was putting into the tubes. I allowed myself to ‘accidentally’ overfill them. Certainly, the process was significantly speeded up.

My own Monte Calme Yellow seeds!: Post of 28th Dec 2012.

Well, blow me down.

The MCY plants which have been on the bedroom window ledge have been striped of leaves for over a month. All I have been waiting for before I throw them out has been for them to go to seed. I have been somewhat concerned since some of the seedpods have been falling off, even though they are not fully brown. I was beginning to think that they were following the same path as the big plant which I brought inside.

A seedpod fell off which was partially brown. I picked it up and put it on the fireplace. That was a few days ago and I had forgotten about it. I remembered it today and so I opened it up. It is as well that I had a sheet of paper under it because a couple of hundred seeds fell out!

I wondered if they will be viable and so I have sown some in a 2″ plant pot. The pot fits nicely into a mug without going all the way in, so I have been able to put a little warm water in the bottom of the cup as well as wetting the soil in the pot with warm water. I’ve covered the pot with kitchen towel paper, just to retain the moist atmosphere to some extent. It is now sitting on the fireplace in a spot which is not too warm.

What a nice little experiment to be conducting at this time! If the seeds are viable, I should see then beginning to sprout in about five days time.

Whiskey Flavoured Cigarettes: Post of 29th Dec 2012.

Tonight, I was intending to construct some fags. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I had not prepared some tobacco. People will recall that I prefer to moisten my tobacco with orange peel by putting the peel in a gauze pouch and inserting the pouch in a container holding very dry tobacco which I have grown myself.

But, despite the fact that we have every conceivable Christmas concoction, we just happen to have run out of oranges.

I decided to take advantage of the situation and decided to flavour my tobacco for use tomorrow with whiskey.

So I took a lump of cotton wool. I soaked it with whiskey (not a lot). I placed the wad in my gauze pouch and enclosed it within the container holding tomorrow’s tobacco.

Wehey! When I opened and sniffed the stuff inside the container, I nearly fell over. The pong is very distinctive. God only knows what it will taste like when smoked.

Is it not interesting that we have Tobacco Control to thank for these erudite tobacco experiences? If it were not for them, we would still be slaves to Tobacco Companies’ products. THANKYOU, TOBACCO CONTROL!

Tubing Dry Tobacco: Post of 3rd Jan 2013.

I ran out of oranges and whiskey (her upstairs, the daughter, nicked the whiskey) yesterday. Thus, when I came to stock my little tobacco container up and put my gauze pouch in, I was at a loss to decide what to put in the pouch. I decided that it was moist enough for the purpose, and put it into the pouch. In the event, the pouch was not sufficiently moist, so when I came to make up some fags, I had some trouble. I split three tubes in quick succession. Not good enough, even though they cost only 1p each. Dry, home-made tobacco can have very hard bits, which can block and rip the tubes. Remember that tubing machines are designed more for expanded tobacco (at least, the one I have is). Also, dry tobacco is not easily compressed. It is far easier, and more successful, to tube your own stuff if it is pliable, which it is when it is slightly moist, but not when it is dry.

I made ten fags and then stopped. As an emergency gesture, I soaked some cotton wool in sugared, warm water. It works OK, but it is surprising how much more moisture there seems to be in orange peel. It is also surprising how readily the very dry tobacco absorbs the moisture. But that is a good thing. In my mind, at the moment, I am going away from alcohol as a moisturizer. It isn’t as though the tobacco tastes like whiskey, although it does add a little ‘je ne sai qua’ to the taste. But everything has been a bit topsy-turvy over the last several days, so maybe I’ll try again later with rum or brandy.

My God! How wonderful! Worth any number of 1p tubes.

Flavouring Commercial Tobacco: Post of 4th Jan 2013.

When I first contemplated growing tobacco as a hobby (having decided to terminate my miserable golfing endeavours (although I did get down to a handicap of nine for a while)), I had no idea where it would take me. My first thinking, consequent upon the smoking ban, was, “I’m damned if I will give my money, via duty and vat, to a government which is too stupid to realise that it is being used to persecute me” And so, I bought abroad and started to grow my own. Financial considerations are not involved since I am ‘comfortable’ in that respect.

One of the unexpected consequences of growing my own stuff has been the realisation of how bland commercial cigarettes are. They have little taste of any noticability, although they are tolerable.

Regular readers will know that I mix my home-grown stuff with commercial cigarette tobacco. What I do is cut a ‘Coronas’ fag (a product of Japan International tobacco co and sold in Spain) in two and mix one half with my own stuff. Thus, the blandness reduces the ‘strength’ of my own stuff.  But I also discovered on the net the idea of flavouring. And so, in recent weeks, I have been flavouring my home-grown stuff before mixing it with commercial stuff. I tried apple peel, banana peel and orange peel. Of the three, orange peel seemed to be best. In the last couple of weeks, I have tried whiskey and a combination of orange peel and whiskey, and also just simple sugared water. What is important to me is that I have discovered how exquisite the taste of tobacco can be. I say can be because I have not, as yet, been able to produce consistency. Suffice to say that I have now reached a stage where I much prefer my own stuff, mixed with the bland commercial stuff and flavoured, to the bland commercial stuff.

I have a new little experiment in mind. Instead of using commercial fags, I have in mind to use rolling tobacco. But I think that I shall bypass ordinary rolling tobacco and go straight to expanded rolling tobacco. I have it on good authority that using expanded tobacco can cut costs by 40%. I am assuming that expanded tobacco, when sold in drums etc, is sold by weight rather than volume. But costs in the UK might be different form elsewhere, and so cost is not the real factor. The real factor is the ease of tubing.

Is it not interesting how complex things can become? But the complexity is temporary since it is a product of experiment. Once one decides, the complexity disappears.

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THE DIARY FOR 2012 IS COMPLETE. MANY A BODGE AND MANY A SUCCESS HAVE BEEN CHRONICALED. LET US HOPE FOR SUCCESS IN 2013.

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