1. About January, prepare a starter tray of tiny pots with seed starter mixture.
2. Place seeds on a tea spoon and sprinkle a few into each pot. (I use a knife to push the seeds off so that I dont shake too many into any given pot. ) Cover lightly with additional seed starter/soil. Do not pat down.
3. Keep watered so that they are moist, but not wet. We generally water about every other day with just a few drops of water, depending upon the humidity of your household. I find that it is better to not use the clear top of the starter tray because, for some reason, the tobacco dies or develops mold whereas other seedlings do not.
4. Place tray in sun. (We have patio doors and have shelves there for seedlings.) Check plants/soil daily to make certain they do not dry out. Rotate the tray once in a while so that the plants will not be tilted one direction to reach the sun. Rotating them will help them remain straight and vertical.
5. Keep plants warm. If you want to use a grow light, that might help. We dont have one, but it might help if you dont have a warm, sunny spot.
6. When the plants begin to spring up, allow them to get about 1-2 tall, then thin if necessary.
7. Continue to maintain the plants in the same way. Do not let them dry hard. Keep them moist but not wet. If you want to use a mister instead of a watering can, that would provide enough moisture.
8.When about 3-4 inches tall, move them into larger pots. Peat pots are good. Then you can just plant the whole plant without disturbing the roots. If you have to use something else, it is still okay. If you are using the peat pots, set them in a tray or pan and place water in the tray so that the roots will be forced to work their way down to the water. This will build a better root system than watering from the top.
9. When the cold weather has past, start setting your seedlings outside a few hours at a time (in the sun). Increase the amount of time over a few weeks. Be sure to bring them in at night. This is called hardening the plant so that it can adjust to its new outdoor climate. If you plant directly , it will put the plants into shock and most likely kill them off. dont forget to bring them in as soon as the temperature starts to go down in the afternoon.
10. After a couple of weeks and when the weather is reliably warm, it is time to transplant. They like full sun and reasonable watering. Do not over water, but also, do not let the earth get powder dry. If your area is prone to inclement weather, you can cover your plants with garden material to help keep them warm in their early stage, but you will have to continue to check on their moisture as these materials frequently dry out the soil. Such material protects them from bugs, animals and harsh winds or downpours. When I use them, I put them on at night and take them off during the day. I use sticks to keep the netting off the plants (cant have metal in the wheel). If you are planting in a garden rather than a sacred area, you can use the wire hoops available. However, if the threat of bad weather is past, you dont need to do this. I find it helps to further jump start the plants. I do this with my gourds as well. With a short growing season, this is a great help. But do not let the netting touch the plants.
10. When the yellow blossoms begin to show in early summer, pluck them off. This will encourage the plant to continue to make leaves and allow it to grow taller. Dont worry, they will continue to flower over the term of the summer. Your plant will grow to at least two-three feet in height.
11. As the plant progresses and when leaves are large enough to pick, start by picking those which are lowest on the plant (from the bottom up).
These are generally the wider leaves. Take only a select few at a time or you will stunt the plant. Check the plants frequently to select the leaves as they mature.
12. To dry the tobacco, use a needle and double thread or fine sinew to string the tobacco for hanging. Hang in the house or in a dry place away from animals or possible damage. The leaves will begin to turn brown. and wrinkle As they become brittle, place them in a bag and remove the string. If they crumble you are all set. If they are still a little moist, cut them into little pieces and keep the bag open so they can dry some more. Once they are thoroughly dry, just crunch them up to a finer textured tobacco. This can be used alone or in combination with other tobaccos or plants to create pipe tobacco. Used alone, it can be used for prayer ties, blessing or gifts. It is best to store in cloth or paper, but if you must store them in plastic, make absolutely certain they are bone dry first. Otherwise, you will wind up with mold or mildew.
13. Along about mid to late August, allow the yellow flowers to remain on the plants. These flowers will disappear and small bulbs will form where the flowers were. These will eventually turn brown. As they turn brown and begin to crack open, collect them. These are the seed pods. I found by putting them into a mesh strainer, I can simply stir them with a spoon on a regular basis and the seeds fall thru to the dish under it. Do not collect the pods when they are still green as the seeds are not fully mature.
14. Place the collected seeds in a paper envelope and mark where they are from and the year. This way, when other people share seeds with you, you will know which are which and how old they are. You now have your seeds for next year or for sharing. You will find that you will most likely have more than you need.
Note: We raised about 8 plants and collected about three, half gallon zip lock bags of crushed tobacco. We have mice and keep it stored this way until we are ready to make prayer ties, etc. If you also suffer from mice, you may have to store your seeds in a zip lock also as they will eat any kind of seed when the winters are long. If you have a hanging basket, we find the mice will not bother them. I guess they dont do that much climbing except in cabinets! Little buggers.
Grandfather Phil sent me less than a teaspoon of seeds initially and thru the plants which grew, that has multiplied at least 50 times over. It is a great pleasure to share this memory of Grandmother Minkler with others. In this way, she continues to bless all of us.
P.O. Box 88
Winsted, CT 06098