Growing peanuts is etched into my childhood. My grandparents farmed when my dad was growing up, and my Granny also had a full time job at Southern Bell phone company. Anyone remember Southern Bell? I digress. In my earliest memories of visiting their house, they no longer farmed the fields, but they always had a large garden, and peanuts were a staple. Growing peanuts was something I always expected and eagerly anticipated. Any southerner worth their salt loves (or at least has tried) boiled peanuts. Pulling green peanuts out of the field and giving them a good washing is all the prep you need for southern boiled peanuts. But that recipe will come later…
So this past year I decided to try growing peanuts in one of our raised beds. Peanuts are a legume with edible seeds. Yes, those roasted and salted gems that the monocle wearing Mr. Peanut sells are actually the seed of the plant. They grow underground, and the entire plant is pulled up once they’re ready to harvest. Growing peanuts is fun for kids, especially those who love peanut butter, since it shows them exactly where peanuts come from. And if you love boiled peanuts, it gives you a chance to grow your own, and then invite me over for a bowl full.
You may reap the benefits of growing peanuts in the form of tasty treats, but your garden soil will also benefit. Since peanuts are a legume, they help put nitrogen back into the garden soil. So growing peanuts is a win for everyone!
As with most things in the garden, start off with good seeds. Peanut seeds aren’t something you see alongside the other seed packets at your local hardware store. You may have to search around to find a local source. Or you can order peanuts from your favorite seed company. I love Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and last year I ordered the Carwile’s Virginia Peanut seeds.
When you open the package, you’ll notice that the seeds look like shelled, roasted peanuts. Wait until later in spring or the early summer to plant. Peanuts love, and need, hot weather. Once you’re ready to plant, crack open the shells and take out the peanut seeds. Plant 2 to 3 seeds 1-2 inches deep and 12 inches apart in well draining soil. If you’re planting in rows, keep rows 2-3 feet apart. You can also plant peanuts in hills like potatoes.
Peanuts can be slow to grow at first, so don’t worry if you aren’t seeing plants immediately. If weeds are an issue in your garden space, you can grow a quick crop, like radishes, between the peanut plants. The radishes will keep the weeds at bay while the slow growing peanuts get going.
As peanut plants get larger, they’ll produce lovely yellow flowers. At this point, I sprinkle gypsum on plants. The gypsum, a form of calcium sulfate, helps the peanuts growing underground to fill out, and it is easy to apply. I simply use a garden glove and sprinkle it all over the plants. Putting the gypsum in a shaker would also work as well.
On average, peanuts need about four months to grow and mature. And while this seems to take forever, they’re such a low maintenance crop that you can just let them grow and not fuss over them much. In the late summer or early fall, the peanut plants will be ready to harvest.
Wait for several days of dry weather to harvest peanuts, so the soil is nice and dry. Avoid pulling the plants up without loosening up the soil. Instead, take a garden fork and loosen up the soil around the plants. Then pull the plant up and see your peanut harvest! This is a great job for kids to help with. They love seeing the magic of peanuts coming out of the ground!
Once peanuts are out of the ground, there are several ways to proceed. If you plan to boil your peanuts, take the peanuts off of the plant and wash thoroughly before boiling. For roasting, keep peanuts attached to the plant and allow to dry for two weeks in a well ventilated space. Once peanuts have been taken off of the plant, work the peanut plants back into the soil of your garden for enriching the soil.
Growing peanuts is really quite simple, and if you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to give it a try! I’d love to know if you’ve tried growing peanuts or just let me know your favorite way to eat peanuts. Have a great week and happy gardening!