Climate for Peanuts
For high yields and superior quality, peanuts require a moderate growing period (110 to 160 days, depending on the variety) with a steady, rather high temperature and a moderate, uniformly distributed supply of moisture. The growing season should be long, warm and moist, and the harvest season should be dry.
Soil for Peanuts
Light colored, well drained, sandy loam soils are ideal for growing peanuts. Since the tap root of the peanut plant frequently penetrates to a depth of 18 inches, it is important that the subsoil be deep and well drained and without tendencies to become excessively dry.
Peanuts should not be grown on the same land for successive years (rotate with corn, potatoes, not beans or tomatoes).
Raw peanut kernels with redskins, intact and unbroken, should be used for planting. Seed kernels may be left in the outer shell, however, germination will be faster if shelled peanuts are planted. Plan for 5 plants per foot of row (about 125 pounds per acre).
Raw shelled peanuts may be purchased in the produce section of most grocery stores, from health food stores, and most conveniently from peanut companies listed in our shop section. Commercial peanut farmers use seeds treated for disease, but this is not necessary for the home garden.
Soil Preparation and Fertilization
Soil should be worked until loose and prepared into rows spaced 24 to 36 inches apart.
Peanuts respond best to residual fertilization that has been applied to the crop preceding peanuts; however, if the area to be planted has not been fertilized during the prior 12 months, then ahead of planting, apply 10 pounds 0-10-20 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.
Plant as early as possible in spring after there is no danger of frost. Plant only when the soil is moist and at least 65E F. at seed depth (2 to 4 inches).
Space seeds 4 to 6 inches apart at a depth of about 2 inches. Cover furrow with soil and lightly pack. Plants emerge in 10 to 15 days depending on soil and weather conditions. When plants are about one inch high, thin stand to about 8 inches apart.
Control grass and weeds. In cultivating, never throw dirt on the peanut plant.
When blossoms appear on the peanut plants, apply Gypsum [calcium (CaSO4) sulphate] in a 14-inch band over the plants (does not burn) at the rate of 15 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. This is essential to the formation of the peanut kernels.
Growth and Development
As the peanut plant grows and develops, small yellow blossoms appear (are capable of self-pollination). With maturity, these blooms wilt and a stem or peg forms. Gravity pulls the peg downward into the soil where the peanut pod forms.
The outer shell reaches full size well before the individual peanuts mature. Each plant produces between 25 and 50 peanuts. Mature plants may be as large as 36 inches in diameter and about 18 inches tall.
The peanut plant has a fruiting period of about two months. All pods do not “set” or ripen evenly. The object is to harvest when the greatest number of pods are matured.
When a peanut is ripe, the veins of the hull are prominent and the inside of the hull has turned dark. If the inside of hull is white, the pod is immature. Pull a plant to examine pods for readiness. Dig when about 2/3’s of pods on a plant are mature.
If the soil is packed down around the plant, loosen it gently. Shake off as much of the soil as possible (if the earth is damp and sticks to the peanuts, shake again later when it has had time to dry.)
Drying (or Curing)
Allow plants, with peanuts still attached, to “cure” in full hot sun for 4 to 7 days (may be left, turned peanuts side-up on the garden row) or inside a dry, well ventilated area (may be hung or spread in garage basement or storage building). Ventilation is important to the curing process of reducing the initial moisture level of about 50% to a safe storage level of about 10%. Inside curing may take from 2 to 4 weeks.
When the curing process is completed, peanuts may be separated from the plant and used or stored.
Peanuts should be stored in a cool, dry place. They keep fresh indefinitely when stored in a tightly closed container in the freezer, ready for use.