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How To Grow Peanuts

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Hey there, fellow plant enthusiasts! Today, I want to share my experience with a crop that’s both delicious and fun to grow: peanuts. While they might seem like a commercially produced snack, peanuts are surprisingly well-suited for the home gardener. With a little know-how, you can be shelling your own fresh peanuts come harvest time.

Know Your Climate

Peanuts are all about warmth. They thrive in long, hot summers with plenty of sunshine. Ideally, you’ll need a minimum of 100 to 130 frost-free days for a successful harvest. So, if you live in a region with short growing seasons, you might want to consider early-maturing varieties like ‘Early Spanish’ and plant them in a south-facing location for extra warmth.

Finding the Perfect Plot

Now, let’s talk about where your peanuts will reside. Peanuts love loose, well-draining soil. Sandy loam is ideal, but if your soil is on the heavy side, don’t despair! You can amend it with some aged compost and coarse sand to improve drainage. Peanuts also prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. A quick soil test will reveal your starting point, and if needed, you can add a little sulfur to lower the pH.

Planting Peanuts: Shells On or Off?

There’s a bit of debate about whether to plant peanuts directly in their shells or remove the seeds beforehand. Both methods work, but here’s my take:

  • Planting in Shells: This is the more natural approach. Simply buy raw, unroasted peanuts (not the salted ones!), crack them open carefully to avoid damaging the seed inside, and plant them shells and all, about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. Planting in shells can deter some pests, and the shells decompose over time, adding nutrients to the soil.
  • Planting Shelled Peanuts: If you’re impatient (like me sometimes!), you can remove the shells and plant the naked seeds. Just be very gentle to avoid damaging the delicate skin around the seed. Plant these shelled peanuts about 1-2 inches deep and 4 inches apart.

Whichever method you choose, sow your peanuts after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up.

Giving Your Peanuts a Happy Home

Once your peanuts are planted, it’s time to focus on good growing practices:

  • Watering: Peanuts need consistent moisture, especially during flowering and peanut development. Aim for weekly watering sessions, but adjust based on your climate. The soil should be moist but not soggy.
  • Sun: Full sun is best, at least 8 hours a day. Peanuts are sun worshippers!
  • Hilling Up: Around the time your peanut plants start flowering (usually 30-40 days after planting), you’ll witness a fascinating phenomenon. Small yellow flowers will appear above ground, but then peanut magic happens! These flowers will actually elongate and burrow down into the soil. To aid this process, gently mound soil around the base of the plants to cover the developing peanut pegs. This is where the peanut magic happens – the actual peanuts will form underground on these pegs.
  • Fertilization: Peanuts are legumes, which means they have a special relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root systems. These bacteria take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a usable form for the plant. Because of this, peanuts generally don’t require additional nitrogen fertilizer. However, a light feeding of a balanced fertilizer during vegetative growth can be beneficial.

Dealing with Pests and Disease

Peanuts are relatively trouble-free, but there are a few common issues to watch out for:

  • Deer: These hoofed garden bandits love peanuts. If deer are a problem in your area, consider using fencing or row covers to protect your crop.
  • Aphids: These tiny sap-sucking insects can stunt plant growth. Insecticidal soap or neem oil spray can be effective control methods.
  • Leaf Spot: This fungal disease can cause brown spots on the leaves. Proper watering practices (avoiding overhead watering) and crop rotation can help prevent leaf spot.

Harvesting Your Reward

The big payoff! You can typically harvest peanuts 130-160 days after planting, once the foliage starts to yellow. Carefully pull up the peanut plants by hand and allow them to dry completely with the peanuts attached for about a week. Then, you can remove the pods from the plants and spread them out in a single layer in a cool, dry place to cure for

Bonus Tips for Peanut Success

  • Rotate Your Crops: Peanuts are legumes, and like other legumes, they fix nitrogen in the soil. However, it’s still a good idea to practice crop rotation. Avoid planting peanuts in the same spot for consecutive years.
  • Be Mindful of Pests: While peanuts are generally fairly resistant to pests, keep an eye out for common garden culprits like aphids, leafhoppers, and whiteflies. If you notice any infestations, opt for organic methods of pest control whenever possible.
  • Variety Selection: For beginner peanut growers, early-maturing varieties like “Early Spanish” are a good option, especially in areas with shorter growing seasons.

 

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