Past Articles Library | Growing Peanuts
Have you ever wanted to grow peanuts but felt you could not because you did not live in the south? Well, the belief that peanuts are only a southern crop is an old-wise tale. Today, there are early varieties that can grow even in the southern parts of Canada. But before you jump into the car to go to the seed store, learn a little about the biology of the peanut.
First, peanuts are considered legumes. What does this mean? Believe it or not, peanuts are in the same plant family that beans and peas are. This means the “fruits” of this plant are located in a pod like structure verses a shell like other nuts.
The peanut is also unique in how the “fruits” are formed. First, the peanut is self-pollinating. The flowers are above the ground and when pollinated the blooms fall off. The flower stalk once pollinated becomes known as a “peg.” These “pegs” begin to elongate and touch the ground. They then continue to elongate until the fertilized flowers are underground. At this point, the plant begins to produce peanuts.
Starting peanuts indoors
In the south, you will not need to start your peanuts indoors. The reason for this is simple. The growing season is long enough, which means it is between 100 and 120 day. If you live in other areas, you will need to select an early variety and/or start your peanuts inside five to eight weeks prior to your areas frost-free date.
When selecting your peanut “seeds,” do not use the ones from the grocery store. These are roasted and salted, which destroys the “seeds” ability to germinate. What you need instead are peanuts that have not been treated for human consumption.
When you get your peanuts home, you can either shell them or leave them intact. If you decide to hull them, make sure not to remove the paper-like pinkish covering. Without this covering, the “seed” will not germinate.
Now that you have your peanut “seeds,” the next step is to prepare your flat or pot for planting. To do this, one will need to clean and sterilize the container you plan to use. This is done by placing the container in a bucket of warm water and a little dish soap. Scrub as needed. Once the container is clean, place the pot in another pan of water with a capful of bleach and swish around. After the container has been rinsed, place out in the bright sunlight to dry.
Now the container is ready to plant. If using a flat, simply fill with an all-purpose potting soil mix and tap down. Next, plant the peanut “seeds” one inch deep and cover well. After the flat has been planted, gently water from the top or place the flat in a shallow pan of water. The holes in the flat will allow for the soil to take up the water.
On the other hand, if you are using a pot make sure to place drainage material in the bottom and fill with soil. Continue with the directions above for the flat.
After the flat or pot has been planted and watered, place in the sunniest location you can find in your home. Check soil moisture before watering.
Prior to planting your peanuts outside, make sure to harden off the plants. What is hardening off? Well, it is gently exposing your plant to the outdoor environment. This should be done about two weeks prior to the date you plan to plant your peanuts outside.
While the hardening off process would be easy if you just placed the plant(s) outside but the result you will get is the same as if you go outside for 12 hours in the bright sun without sunscreen. To ease the plants into their new home will take a gentle exposure that starts off with a few hours in the shade and then moves on to full sun in a two week period.
Once hardened off, it is time to place the plants in the garden. You will need to place your plants in the sunniest location in your garden. After you have selected the proper garden location, prepare the soil as you would for any garden. Next, create hills like you would for potatoes. These hills need to be eight inches apart. Plant one peanut plant per hill and do not plant the plant any deeper than it was in its container. Once that is done, top the “hill” with two inches of grass or straw.
Plants peanuts directly into the garden
If you live in the south, you can simply plant your peanuts directly into the garden. When doing this, keep mind that while peanuts have no pest problems they are sensitive to the amount of sunlight they receive. In doing so, one will need to pick the sunniest location possible.
After the location has been selected, you will need to prepare the garden space as you would for any garden project. Once that is completed, you will need to measure off rows that are two to three feet apart and the spacing on these rows needs to be eight inches. To mark this space, one can use flags or spots of powdered milk.
Once the locations have been marked, you will need to plant your peanut “seeds” two inches deep. Cover the seeds with soil and water in.
When the peanut plant reaches six inches in height, it is time to “hill” them. To do this, loosen the soil up around each plant and create a “hill” with this loosened soil. Top this mound with grass clippings and/or straw. This step is very important because it creates an environment by which the “pegs” can find the ground quicker.
Regardless of how you start your peanuts, you will reach a point that you notice your plants turning yellow. This is a sign that the plant is coming to the end of its growing cycle. When you see these symptoms, it is time to start harvesting. This process is simple and starts with a garden fork. Gently place the garden fork into the soil and under the plant. Push down on the handle and the plant will lift up. Once the plant has broken the ground, pull the plant out, shake the soil off, and hang to dry indoors for one month. At that point, your peanuts are ready to eat.