Days to Germination:3-10 days
Peanuts are usually thought of as a southern crop, but they can be grown in other areas of the country, too! In cooler climates, start seeds indoors, 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date, and then plant them outdoors 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost date. In warmer climates, direct-sow seeds two to three weeks after the last frost date, around the same time as Bush Beans, to which Peanuts are related. To sow, remove the peanuts from their shells carefully, taking care to leave their red skins intact. Sow seeds 1-2 inches deep and 8 inches apart. Seedlings can take more than a week to germinate and grow slowly at first, but they will take off after the roots have had time to establish themselves. The plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and wide and prefer full sun and loose, fertile, well-draining soil—if your soil is heavy, add compost and dig it in deeply before planting. The seedlings and young plants are prone to fertilizer burn, so if you do fertilize, either apply organic fertilizer to the soil well before planting or wait until the plants are a bit more mature. Peanuts are legumes, so they fix nitrogen in the soil, feeding themselves and improving the soil for future crops, which makes Peanuts a welcome addition to a crop rotation schedule. The way the peanuts form is fascinating. First, yellow pea-like flowers form low on the plant. Each self-fertilized flower then sends a stem, or peg, down to the ground, where it burrows down and forms a peanut pod below the surface of the soil. When plants begin to flower, gently scratch up the soil below them to make it easier for the pegs to penetrate. Calcium is important to the formation of the Peanuts. If your soil is low in Calcium, amend the soil with gypsum as the plants begin to bloom. As the plants grow, weed carefully, taking special care to not disturb the pegs. Add straw mulch to suppress weeds if necessary. Water regularly and deeply, tapering off at the end of the season. Before the first frost, when the leaves have yellowed, gently fork the entire plant out of the soil, peanuts attached. Hang the plants to dry in a protected spot for 1 to 2 weeks before removing the peanuts.