Either roasted, toasted, or boiled - peanuts are traditionally chosen as the go-to snack in sports events and afternoon lounging. Its delicious taste, bite-sized shape and easy availability boosts this legume’s popularity.
Having a steady supply at home will make anyone happier. Fortunately, peanuts are simple to tend to, even for those without a green thumb for gardening. And in addition, growing your own peanuts is a great and tasty hobby.
Often referred to as “nuts,” peanuts actually form part of the Leguminosae single plant family. Originally from South America, peanuts have made their way around the world in a variety of forms such as oil, butter, flour and flakes.
Their nutritional benefits and physical structure are closely linked to other legumes, but their taste resembles other nuts. Sixty-seven percent of the total nut consumption in the United States consists of peanuts and peanut butter. It is no wonder that the U.S.A. is one of the leading commercial producers of the legume, including China, Nigeria and India.
Thanks to their culinary versatility, many people reap the health benefits a handful of peanuts offers. There are research and studies that have shown that there is a lower risk of stroke, colon cancer and cardiovascular disease with regular peanut consumption.
However, you might wonder how this is possible. This is because peanuts contain rich amounts of monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients like copper and vitamin E. Therefore, having a small peanut harvest from a home garden will allow you to procure the nutritional benefits they provide as you see fit.
About the Peanut Plant
Peanut plants grow annually and are anywhere from 1 to 1.6 feet tall. Leaves grow on opposite sides and yellow flowers with red veins bloom into existence during the right moment. The flower stalk will grow and eventually bend until the ovary is pushed below the ground. Then, the peanut will develop and reach maturity underground.
Peanut plants are herbaceous plants, meaning they have no woody stem. Herbaceous plants will die completely at the end of the season, or after flowering and fruiting. However, they may grow again from seeds. During cultivation, the entire plant is removed in order to extract the peanuts underneath.
Before You Begin
Before embarking on your peanut-growing adventure, there are a couple of points to go over. The first topic is the existence of four types of peanuts that have different sizes, colors, flavors and oil contents: the Runner peanut, the Virginia peanut, the Valencia peanut and the Spanish peanut.
Each one has a different use - for example, the Spanish peanut is predominantly utilized for the elaboration of peanut butter. On the other hand, the most prevalent types in the United States are the Virginia and Valencia peanuts. That is why you have to select the type that best suits your dietary needs.
Last point to consider before growing your own peanut garden is the season. Peanuts take anywhere from one hundred to one hundred and thirty days to reach maturity. Frost can easily kill off the plant - therefore, timing is important. If you live in a cold region, starting the plant indoors a month before the last predicted frost would be perfect.
Choose the Right Peanut Seed
It is essential to choose a raw peanut seed because roasted peanuts will not grow. You may use a raw peanut from a local grocery store, or ask for raw green peanuts in a gardening store. You must also remember that the peanuts to be planted should still be inside the shell until the very last moment.
This is because the external shell keeps the seed from drying out and protects it from damage. If you cannot find peanuts with shells, ones with the reddish skin intact may also be used. However, they will need to be planted as soon as possible to avoid potential drying. A dry seed is similar to a roasted seed, which means it will not germinate.
Fill Your Container with Soil
Have at hand a four inch or deeper flower pot with holes on the bottom ready. Fill 2/3 of the container with potting soil. If you live in a warm, tropical area, you do not have to spray the soil with water preferably using a regulating garden hose. However, if you live in an area with a drier climate, use a spray bottle or watering can to moisten the soil.
If you’re using recycled material as a pot such as plastic bottles, make sure to clean it with warm soap and water, drying it before use. Paper or peat pots are the best choices because they can be planted directly into the ground once the seed grows.
Additionally, any wetting of the soil should be done before planting the seeds. The soil should be moist to the touch but not soaking wet. To keep the soil temperature warm, which peanut seeds love, place the pot in a sunny area. Do not transplant the seedlings to other pots or outside until all dangers of frost have subsided.
Place the Seed in the Soil
Proceed to take the shells off the peanut seeds, leaving the reddish-brown skin untouched. Because as previously mentioned, damaging this thin outer coating may prevent germination. If you decide to plant the seeds with the shells, be aware that sprouting time may extend because of the extra hard shell the seedling will have to push through.
Place four seeds on top of the soil and gently press them into the soil. Cover with an inch of loose, moist soil afterwards. Moreover, leave an equal distance between each seed to give proper room to grow.
If planting outside, holes should be approximately two inches deep and eight inches apart from each other. Afterwards, cover with soil, which should be moistened if needed before arranging the seeds.
Transfer to the Garden
Before transferring the seedlings to the garden, locate a sunny spot for the plant to grow. Remember to always transfer peanut seedlings after the last frost has passed, whether you are intending to transplant or directly plant the seeds in your garden. Peanuts require a soil temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and enough sunlight for photosynthesis in order to grow well outdoors.
Confirm that the soil quality of the garden bed is conducive - peanuts thrive in warm, loose, well-drained soils. So, if the soil is hard, dig and mix it with sand using a rake or a shovel to improve its texture. Avoid transferring seedlings onto clay soils in order for your peanut plant to thrive.
Add compost to the soil if you’d like to, but limit its amount to avoid high nitrogen concentration in the soil. Determine the soil acidity level and add a little amount of agricultural lime to balance the soil’s pH.
Dig a hole in your garden and fill the bottom with some potting soil before planting the seedlings about 6 inches deep. Transplant the seedlings at an interval of 25cm apart to allow the roots, stems and leaves to grow freely.
Afterwards, fill in the hole with loose soil. You are able to place the entire container in the hole if you are using a decomposable planter. However, if not, tip the flower pot or container onto your hand, so that the seedling comes out in a clump and then transfer the whole seedling.
In addition, note that the roots should not be exposed during this process because they are still small and delicate. When the seedling has been successfully transplanted, water the soil using a hose or watering can to moisten it, but avoid soaking it.
Take Care of Your Plant
Your peanut plant should be well taken care of by watering it regularly with about an inch of water every week. Peanuts require less water content and thrive in slightly dry soils.
Thus, do not pour excess water. You are able to determine the amount of moisture in the soil by dipping your fingertip into it and checking how deep it gets before you feel some moisture.
Loosen and mix up the soil once every few weeks after your peanut plant gets to about 15.24cm. This is done in order to get it to spread evenly and stick its roots into the ground. With time, the plant will grow runners and in turn, flowers, which will bend down and fall to the ground - but don’t pick them up.
The stems that bend are referred to as pegs and peanuts will grow from these pegs into the underground soil. When the plant grows to about 30cm, gently form small hills around each buried peg and the base of the plant using soil. This is to provide some protection and warmth to the peanuts growing on the buried pegs.
To prevent weeds from overgrowing and sprouting from the ground, spread about 5cm of grass or straw after forming the hills. The mulch maintains the warmth, moisture and soft nature of the soil. Avoid using heavy mulches like wood chips, which might block the pegs from breaking into the soil due to the hard texture.
Animals like chipmunks and other critters are a threat to your peanuts and should be prevented from getting anywhere near your plant. Set up a mesh fencing which is cheap and easy to get, to protect your plants and at the same time save money. Push the fence 5 to 7.6cm into the ground to prevent mice from digging into the soil and getting to the peanuts.
Avoid using fertilizers at any instance, because peanuts produce their own nitrogen. High nitrogen contents will reduce the overall yield and produce thick foliage. However, you are able to start treating the plants with calcium fertilizers the moment they start flowering, which will also maximize nut formation.
Spray the leaves with pyrethrin-based pesticides to prevent and kill insects like cutworms and aphids that eat up the plant leaves. Organic alternatives involve the use of ground pepper, which can also be sprinkled on the leaves.
Harvesting your peanut crop
Peanuts should be harvested before another frost season begins, due to their intolerance to harsh frosty weather conditions. You will know when they’re ready to be harvested because the leaves will turn slightly yellow. You also have the option to dig up a few seeds to check if they are ready for harvesting before proceeding.
Dig up the whole plant using a spading fork, carefully shaking off the soil that is on the roots. Don’t just dig up the upper part of the plant, but dig deep enough to get the part that holds the peanuts, which is underground that. Once that’s done, the yield should be an average of 30-50 peanuts.
Dry Your Plant
Peanuts planted in gardens are cured after harvesting has taken place. Peanut curing is possible by either mechanical or natural drying methods. For those harvested in the garden, you are able to air dry them. For commercial use, on the other hand, use mechanical techniques to cure the peanuts.
Uproot the peanut plant and hang it upside down in a warm and dry place for about a month until the leaves are crumbly and start to fall off the plant. Either leave the peanuts on the plant or remove them, but they should be dry and ready in a month’s time.
The peanut kernel should have a moisture content ranging from 8 to 10 percent from the 35 to 50 percent when the peanuts were dug up. Humid conditions result in bad taste, low quality and causes rotting of the peanuts. Rainy conditions towards the end of the curing period will also cause insect and mold infection, as well as discoloration of the shells.
After curing, place the peanuts in mesh bags and store them in an area or room that is cool and well-ventilated - such as in the garden shed or garage - until the time that you want to roast or sell them. However, due to their high oil content, peanuts tend to go bad fast. So, in order to increase their lifespan in the storage area, store them in a sealed container in a refrigerator or freezer from months to years.
You can be on your way to a yummy treat with these simple steps. Just a bit of tender loving care and you’ll be able to harvest and eat your peanuts in no time. And remember, warm and moist soil is the key to germinating peanut seeds.