Mon 16 Feb 2009
Peanuts are a fascinating crop to grow. When they first start growing, their leaves are a pleasure to look at, nicely shaped and a rich, green. Then the little buttery yellow and orange flowers appear. When fertilized - usually by bees - they form “pegs” that dip down and dig into the ground. The buried tips of these pegs then swell out to form the characteristic peanut shell; filled with delicious and nutritional legume seeds.
They grow best in fertile, sandy soil and should be planted about the same time as corn they may also be used as we prefer to do for a second crop after early vegetables have been harvested. Peanuts grow best during hot weather, so they must not be planted until all danger of frost is past arid the soil thoroughly warmed up. They do fine, even up into the north, if given four or five warm months in which to grow. Planting too early may result in seed decay and poor germination. Do not plant any deeper than necessary to place the seed in moist soil, two to four inches being considered adequate, depending on soil moisture at planting time, or location of rows.
The plant blossoms continuously for about two or three months, the flowers opening wide at sunrise. During the morning fertilization takes place, and they usually wither and die by noon.
They are ready for harvest when the leaves begin to turn yellow, the kernels are fully developed, and the veins inside the pods begin to darken in color. At this same time the skins of the peanuts are light pink and papery-thin. In order to decide when to dig, examine a plant or two from different parts of your rows. Don’t be too anxious to dig! Harvest when at least 80 percent of your peanuts are mature.