From seed to Swedish snus harvest and curing the tobacco

After a warm and sunny season with a good amount of rain, it's time to harvest and cure the tobacco. A new thing I'm trying for the first time is to cure the tobacco outside only sheltered from the rain. This has prevented most of the tobacco to dry in a green state. If it got dry during the day, the higher humidity during the night and the morning dew made it moist and supple again during the night.

From seed to Swedish snus harvest and curing the tobacco

After a warm and sunny season with a good amount of rain, it's time to harvest and cure the tobacco. A new thing I'm trying for the first time is to cure the tobacco outside only sheltered from the rain. This has prevented most of the tobacco to dry in a green state. If it got dry during the day, the higher humidity during the night and the morning dew made it moist and supple again during the night.

The summer of 2020

Watering

The summer of 2020 had varying weather with periods of warmth and sun with rainy days in between. When it was raining I didn’t have to water the plants but, when it was warm and sunny the soil dried out quickly and needed watering each day. But overall, I did not have to water as much as in previous years with warmer and drier weather.

Topping the plant and removing the suckers

To get a better quality of leaves you should remove the suckers that develop at the base of the leaf and the stem. Especially if you remove the top of the plant to prevent it from setting flowers. Not only do you get a better leaf quality, but the yield also gets a noticeable better leaf quality compared to the ones that flower.

Letting one plant flower

Of the four varieties I grew this year I let the first plant that began to flower keep the flower to get seeds for coming seasons. The Burley and the Shirey growing in the “green-house” was very late to set flowers, and with the Shirey, I didn’t bother to save any seeds. I got more than plenty from the last time I grew them, that time they had the sunny south wall spot.

The Burley began to flower in September, but I had to take it inside or the frost night would have killed them. Time will tell if they produce any seeds inside in a jar of water. But they are alive and well after a week inside and still putting on new flowers.

But as time went on the flowers on the Burley fell off without making any seed pods. But I have enough seeds from Burley and Shirey saved from the last time I grew them.

The first Adonis plant began to flower in the middle of July weeks ahead of all the other plants. In the middle of September when I harvested all the leaves many of the buds have turned brown in that Adonis and I hope they are full of seeds for next season. I have to dry them before I know, now they stand in a jar of water so the last flowers can do what flowers do to produce the bud.

Harvest

At the end of July and the beginning of August the bottom leaves began to turn yellow on the plants with most sun exposure. The Adonis and Little Dutch plants were the first to begin to get yellow leaves. A new method I tried this yea was to hang the leaves outside protected from rain, and not inside the barn as I had done before. If you hang your leaves outside the leaves don’t dry too fast as they get moist during the night with fog and higher humidity.

Even if the leaves appear to dry in a green state they got moist during the night, and early morning and continued to cure toward a brown color. But in the second half of September, the weather got colder and the curing slowed down.

Curing for 4 weeks outside

The leaves that I harvested in the first days of August and hang to dry, cured to a nice brown color at the beginning of September. But the leaves that I hang to dry after the middle of August did not turn yellow and brown as well as the earlier leaves. I suppose the cooler and drier weather affected this. After everything was harvested in September I moved all the green leaves inside and put them under a blanket along with the leaves from the final harvest.

Tobacco cured outside

Tobacco cured outside

Mold

Last time I grew tobacco I hang the leaves in the barn and there a lot of them got mold on them. But this year when I hang them outside I only got mold in one of the bundles. I did not notice the mold until I took them down and brought them inside in September. I have noticed that mold forms around the leaf stem, especially if it is a thick stem with high water content. A thick stem takes a very long time to fully dry out. But to speed up that process you can split a thick stem in half to let the water evaporate more easily.

Frost nights

We had the first frost night at the beginning of September, which was a bit earlier than previous years. But it was only one night and then the weather got warmer in the first half of September. But the frost night returned in the second half of September and I decided to harvest all the leaves that remained on the plants. But I did not hang those leaves outside, I took them inside and covered them with a blanket to cure them.

The plants seemed to be okay after the frost night, but on some of the leaves had pale spots developing on some of the leaves. I don’t know if that is going to affect the tobacco, but they seem to cure as usual, although you can see a color difference on these spots.

Curing under a blanket

As the colder weather slowed down the curing outside, I put the final harvest under blankets inside. In under a week, some of the leaves had turned completely yellow, but the youngest top leaves were still green. I guess they need more time to be ready for harvest. But if I had left them outside they had fallen victim to the frost nights.

Curing tobacco under a blanket

Curing tobacco under a blanket

As the yellowing seems to progress faster under a blanket I may consider using this method again next season. After the leaves have turned yellow I can hang them outside to turn brown and dry. I also noticed that the leaves that began to dry green outside began to cure towards dark brown when I mixed them with the fresh green leaves under the blanket. When they have turned yellow/brown I can take them out of the blanket and hang them to dry out.

What I have learned this season

The location and the sun

The first season I had all my plants in the green-house with the cover on, but I got no usable tobacco at they did not turn yellow before the frost. I kept them under a blanket, but they did not cure. All I got was mold.

The second season I had some in the green-house, with the cover on, and half outside and noticed that the ones outside were bigger and of better quality than the ones inside the green-house. The leaves also began to yellow on the plant, something the ones in the green-house did not do at all.

So this season I planted half in the green-house, but without the cover on, and half outside more exposed to the sun. The plants with more sun exposure grow bigger and began to yellow earlier than the ones in the green-house. So I saw the effect the sun exposure had on the growth of the plants. The ones in the sun grew much bigger than the ones in the green-house which was small and spindly compared to the others. The soil in the greenhouse probably also needs a lot of new compost.

The conclusion is that next year I will move all my plants to a different spot in my garden with even more sun-exposure than what I had this year. Hopefully, they will grow bigger and begin to yellow earlier than they did this season.

Curing

To cure the leaves outside you need warm and humid weather for the best result. Where I live September is often cold and that’s not optimal for curing tobacco. If the curing is too slow you have the problem of mold and/or rot in the leaves. Especially if you hang the leaves too tight and without enough space in between to allow air to circulate.

Update on the blanket curing

The leaves that dried green outside turned dark brown, almost black, under the blanket. My first thought was that they had begun to cure, but I read on a tobacco forum that they probably have begun to compost or rot. You have to turn the leaves each day and keep an eye out for molding or rotting leaves. Rotting leaves lose all their strength and break apart if you stretch the leaf. A properly cured leaf is leathery and you can stretch it much more before it breaks.

Mold

On some of the leaves, I got mold, but not as much as in previous years. The mold developed between the stems of leaf pairs. I have to think of a better way to hang the leaves for next season.

Mold can also develop if you keep then under a blanket for too long or don’t flip the leaf-stack each day.

Predators

In previous years I had a lot of leaves eaten by snails, mostly in the green-house. But this year I had almost no snail problem, not more than five or six leaves got a little nibbled by snails.

Next season

I have watched a lot of garden videos on YouTube this winter, and I have decided to learn the basics of how to grow plants in my garden. There’s a lot of things that I have done wrong in my ignorance, but that’s the beauty of ignorance. If you already know it all the excitement of learning new things is gone. So, I will try again next season…

Leave a comment

What’s your experience of growing tobacco or other plants in your garden? Leave a comment and let me know.

Take it easy and snus on Anders

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