The peanut is a great plant that feeds the world and produces many useful products. Without a doubt, peanuts are a favorite locally and are consumed "green" or roasted. Peanuts are also often part of wild bird seed mixes. The peanut plant itself is fascinating to both youth and adults with above ground flowers that eventually form underground nuts. Home grown peanuts are worth a space in your garden this year.
Select a piece of your garden that is in full sun, well-drained and has not had peanuts planted in least two years. While a soil test is always a good idea, a pH of 6.0 and generally average fertility will perform best. It is noted that peanuts do well on residual fertility if the crop before was well-fertilized. As peanuts are legumes, they will use nitrogen fixing bacteria to obtain nitrogen. This bacterium is usually common in most soils or can be added as a commercially available inoculant. The seed should be planted in late winter to early spring once the danger of frost is over. Plant the seed two to three inches deep, and two to four inches apart in rows twenty-four to thirty-six inches apart.
Interestingly enough, there are four different types of peanuts that can be grown in the home garden. Valencia peanuts are commonly used as they are early (75-85 days) and have three to four kernels per pod. 'Tennessee Red', 'New Mexico A', 'New Mexico C', 'Georgia Red', and 'McRan' are good-tasting Valencia types. Virginia type peanuts are good for boiling and roasting. They are large in size; require a longer time to mature than Valencia types - up to one hundred and fifty days! Suitable varieties include NC 7, NC9, and NC-V 11. Spanish peanuts such as 'Pronto' and 'Spanco' are small-seeded, mature early, and are especially suitable to roasting. A final variety, runners, produces high yields and includes varieties such as 'Georgia Runner' and 'Georgia Green'.
Shallow cultivation will help keep out weeds while they are small without damaging the nuts. Peanuts will flower over a long period of time and continue to set nuts. Experience will tell you when is the best time for harvesting based on your need for green or dry nuts and standard maturity dates. Green nuts can be harvested by hand, washed, and are ready to boil. Dry nuts for roasting should have seventy-five percent of the hulls with a dark interior surface before picking. These nuts are allowed to dry in the sun for a few days. Dried to ten percent or less moisture, the nuts are then ready to be stored in a cool dry place until used. Watch for mold and/or rots by occasionally inspecting the nuts. Use within a few months before the flavor and taste declines.
Grow some of these interesting plants in your garden this year and enjoy the nutty snacks to come! For more information on plants to grow or to eat, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don't forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times - http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.
Resource: Whitty, E. B. (2001) Producing Peanuts for Home Use, The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS.