Friday, May 10, 2013

Planting and Plowing

"Setting Tobacco"
16x20 oil on canvas
Burley tobacco is planted or set in late May.

The seedlings are grown from seed in a greenhouse where the styrofoam trays are floated in water.

A tobacco setter is pulled through the plowed field behind a tractor. There are seats for four men and a tank for water.

The setter has two rotating wheels with slots.

As the wheels turn, the men take turns placing a seedling in each slot.

They have to work quickly to place each seedling at just the right place so that it will be mechanically planted at the correct depth. Otherwise, the plant will not live.

As the machine plants each seedling, it gets a squirt of water with fertilizer.

Up and down the field, the setting crew works

planting two rows at a time.

If a seedling doesn't live, it has to be replaced the hard way... by hand!

The plants grow quickly. By early June, it is time to plow.

Plowing is a slow and tedious job. Pa is very picky and usually does all the plowing himself.

He adjusts the plow so it cultivates the plants at the right depth.

The crop will be fertilized, sprayed for disease, and topped to prevent suckers. By late August, it will be 5-6 feet tall and ready to be cut.


  1. Interesting, Peg!....and a wonderful subject for your painting. There is nothing as interesting as real life - and farming is as real as it gets!

  2. Peg..I have two questions..musings

    The crop will be sprayed for disease...tobacco is often used and was used in the past to help other plants repel disease, so was surprised that tobacco needed help fighting some diseases.

    You say the tiny plants are in styrofoam trays floating in water. So, does that mean they are hydroponically grown? I am thinking yes.

    Just so very very interesting. Tobacco isn't a crop I've seen grown in Nova Scotia, only once in a field many years ago. I do love the nicotiana sylvestrus which is in the family...big white blooms. Oh, there is another question..does this tobacco bloom or do you cut it before it blooms.

    So enjoyed the four links to growing tobacco.

    1. The crop is sprayed with fungicide to prevent diseases such as blue mold.

      The tiny plants are indeed grown hydroponically now. In years past, seeds were sown in dirt beds which required covering and watering.

      Tobacco does bloom, but the small white cluster of flowers is broken off to stop the reproductive growth of the plant. This causes the plant to put all its growth into the leaves, making them larger and weightier.