Top Tips to Growing Peanuts in your Home Garden
Where to Grow Peanut Plant
When most people think of peanuts, they think of roasted, salty treats that come from the snack aisle. But where did they grow before that? Peanuts aren’t as foreign as you may think—you can even grow them in your own backyard.
There are four varieties of peanuts (Valencia, Spanish, Virginia, and Runner), but only Valencia peanuts are typically grown in Canada and they’re the only type grown commercially in Ontario. They mature earlier than other varieties and are the best choice for Canadian gardeners. Racz says they’re medium-sized and the sweetest variety, too.
Here’s what you need to know to grow your own peanuts:
How to Start Growing Peanuts Plant
All you need to start is an unroasted peanut with its skin still on. You can get these from some Canadian seed companies, including OSC Seeds.
Plant the peanut, skin and all, about 1/2 an inch deep in May, when the ground reaches about 26 degrees Celsius.
Racz says you can start plants indoors, but it’s not imperative. Your plants will mature in about 120 days.
Where to Grow Peanut
Peanuts want to grow in loose, sandy soil that drains well and holds warmth. They need plenty of sunshine, so grow them in full sun. “They’ll take a lot of hot, dry weather,” says Racz. “But they don’t like to get their feet wet for a long time.”
It’s also important to give each plant plenty of space to grow. In about June, says Racz, you’ll start to see yellow flowers appear. These will self-pollinate and then your peanut plant will start to send pegs down into the ground. A peanut pod will grow at the end of each peg, and your plant will continue to send these down until the first frost.
Keep the soil around your peanut plants weed-free so the pegs can grow properly. Too many weeds can reduce your overall yield.
Peanuts will fix their own nitrogen, so you don’t need to worry about fertilizing them.
Pests and Diseases and Harvesting Tips
Pests and Diseases
Racz says the only pest you need to worry about with peanuts is the potato leafhopper, a tiny insect that sucks the juice out of the peanut plant’s leaves, which will eventually start to turn yellow.
“Sometimes a good downpour will knock them off,” says Racz. So, if you find some on your plant, try hitting them with a blast from the hose. Otherwise, pick these little green wedge-shaped pests off your plant as soon as you see them.
Harvesting and Eating Peanuts
So far, so good, right? When it’s finally time to harvest your peanuts, be prepared: it won’t be as easy as picking a ripe tomato and biting into it right in the garden. “This is where a lot of gardeners find problems,” says Racz.
He says as soon as the first frost hits the top of the plants, it’s time to harvest your peanuts. “Leave them out as long as possible for the best yield.”
To harvest, pull your whole plant up out of the ground and hang it upside down in your garage or basement—anywhere with good airflow, says Racz. Leave it there until the peanuts are sufficiently cured.
“If you can shake it and it rattles inside it, then you can shell it or roast it,” says Racz. Many people don’t let their peanuts dry long enough and there is still too much water in them when they try to roast them.
When peanuts first come out of the ground, they are about 60 percent water. If you try to get them in the oven right away, “that’s more like steaming them,” says Racz. If you let them dry, then their water content will decrease to about 10 percent—and that’s when you want to roast them.
You can roast peanuts in or out of their shells, but for a whole other flavor experience, Racz says you can take peanuts straight out of the ground and boil them with a bit of salt.
And that’s part of the beauty of growing your own peanuts: you get to control how much salt and fat they’re dressed with.