Peanuts are great for the soil, make tasty snacks for people, and can be grown in the Southwest right now! That said – they can be grown outdoors if you are in one of the warmer USDA zones, meaning 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Peanuts need 100 to 120 frost-free days , so if you have fewer than that (like in northern New Mexico) you will need to start them indoors.
Peanut Plant Requirements Overview Soil: well drained, ideally sandy to loam, not clay Soil pH: acidic preferred (6.0 to 6.9) will tolerate to 7.5 Sun Exposure: at least 6 hours of sun per day, afternoon shade in zones 9-12 good Plant: once soil temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit Space: 8 inches between plants and 12 to 24 inches between rows (36 for runners) Seed Depth: 1 inch Water: Regular. 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Stop watering 2 weeks before harvest. Harvest: can be after 85 to 130 days of sowing, depending on the variety.
Choose your peanut variety based on how you want to use your peanuts. Selling? Eating whole? Candy? Boiling? These are the four main categories.
Runners for marketing. These are some of the most common peanuts. Their uniform size makes them more appealing for mass growing and marketing purposes.
Virginia peanuts for eating from the shell. The reason to choose these peanuts is for their size, usually 3 to 4 nuts per shell.
Spanish peanuts for candy, because they are smaller. They have a red and brown skin on them, and you would most likely recognize them if you ever eat peanut candies (like peanut brittle). Because of how small they are, they are great for candy making.
Valencia peanuts make great boiled peanuts! They also have 3 or more nuts inside each shell.
Plant peanut seeds about 1 inch deep and at least 8 inches apart in loose soil. (Take them out of the shell first!) I just planted a few plants in the improved soil around the base of my pine tree. If you’re planting rows of peanuts, make them far enough apart for so they are easy to cultivate (see below).
Peanut plants need regular water, unlike many of our native plants that tolerate indifferent care. Be sure to water peanuts daily at first, then at least weekly and enough so the soil is damp 1 foot deep. Once plants are growing, let the soil dry somewhat between watering.
Once your peanut plants have reached 6 inches tall it is time to cultivate (loosen the soil) around each plant. This is to make it easier for the plant to spread out and grow. But BE GENTLE! Peanuts are fairly shallow rooted, so only rake about one-half inch deep. After loosening the soil, do this:
Hill the Plants
This basically means to build up a mound of straw or other loose mulch around the plants (pine needles work great). This is to protect the roots and help preserve soil moisture, making it easier for the pegs to burrow underground.
Watch Them Grow
After sowing and cultivating, be patient! Little golden-yellow flowers start to blossom and bloom on your plants. They form along the stem of the peanut plant.
Once the flowers are pollinated, the petals drop and little peanut-shaped ovaries form. The flower stalk then forms a peg that heads downward and will tunnel into the ground. (Why you loosened the soil.)
Harvest Your Peanuts
Mark your calendar! 120 days after planting you can harvest your peanuts. Cooler zones – you need to do it before the frost hits. Pull up the entire plant and shake off any excess dirt. If no rain or frost is in the forecast – lay them on top of the soil (or in your garage) to air dry for about a week before eating.
How to Use Your Peanuts
Check out the website called SavortheSW for some tasty ways to use what you grow (more than just peanuts!).
I (Jacqueline Soule) will be posting some peanut recipes soon, like how to make your own super savory Homemade Peanut Butter, or Spicy Southwest-Style Peanuts for snacking.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures that I mention on our Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we may get a few pennies.
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