Peanuts are an interesting crop to grow. I find them to be easy to care for with very little pest concerns. If you find you have a problem with aphids (the most common peanut pest), try using diluted Neem to help deter the ants that milk the aphids for their nectar. Many consider peanuts to be nuts, but they are actually legumes. Legumes include vegetables like peas and beans. I like to grow them in loose organic compost hills. The plants will first shoot up & as they mature they send peduncles back into the ground which is where the peanuts in their pods will eventually form.
You can plant the peanuts in their hull (shell) or remove the hull. I prefer to remove it. The key is to not remove the thin skin that protects the peanut seed. If starting indoors, you will want to use large peat pots or something similar like large composable growing pots and OMRI seed starting soil.
Because peanuts are legumes, they supply their own nitrogen. Don't add nitrogen fertilizers. Example: don't add manure. Quality soil and moderate water (about 1" per week) is all the plants need. It is very important to keep the weeds down by carefully hand weeding. Letting weeds get too deep of a root system can damage the pods growing in the soil. Hand weeding while weeds are still small works best.
When the plants are about 1' tall, hill the earth around the base of each plant. The peduncles will grow about 1" - 3" into the loose soil you have hilled around the plants. If the soil is compacted, it will make it difficult for the peduncles to penetrate the soil. Note: The peduncles must be able to form pods under the loose soil for a successful harvest. Peanuts grow under the ground.
Peanuts are ready to harvest in the fall when the leaves turn yellow. As long as you don't wait too long to harvest, you can pull the plants up out of the loose soil at harvest. If you wait too long, the peduncles can become brittle and the pods may break off. If this happens, you will need to carefully dig up each plant.
If there is no rain in the forecast, you can flip the plants over or on their side right where you harvested them. The idea is to get the pods exposed to as much air & sunlight as possible so they can start to dry. If this is not possible, bring them in a sheltered area to dry that is inaccessible to predators. About two or three days later, remove the pods from the plants and lay them out to dry fully. This takes about a month. You can use old screens, build your own drying screens, using hanging screens, or even a dehydrator on it's lowest setting (typically 95˚F). Be sure that wherever you choose to allow the pods to dry, predators cannot access the pods and steal all your hard work.
When left in their shells, peanuts can stay fresh for years. You can also use these dried peanuts for next seasons crop.
Start indoors: 1 month before last frost
Transplant: When soil warms to 65˚F - 75˚F
Sow outside: After the danger of frost has passed
Seed Planting Depth: 1 " - 2"
Seed Spacing: 6" - 12"
Thinning: 10" - 14"
Rows: 2' - 3'
Plant Size: 1.5'
Water: Moderate (with good drainage)
Days to Germination: 3 - 10 (65˚F min.)
Days to Harvest: 100 - 110
Living in northern West Virginia, I have had much success with starting outdoors after May 15th. Harvest feels a little late come fall, but it has been working well for me. Everyone has a different micro climate. The more you work in your own environment with various plants, the better able you will be to judge what works for you.
With so much uncertainty around our food and concerns about delivery and shortages, growing your own crops just makes sense. Even if all you can manage is a few tomato plants in pots on your balcony. Just start somewhere. It is never good to be 100% dependent on outside sources for your food. FYI: Peanuts can be grown in pots too!
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