Gardening Uncategorized

The Bountiful & Beneficial | Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea)

The Bountiful & Beneficial | Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea)

By H. Zell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10546164

The herbaceous plant Arachis hypogaea, which is commonly known as peanut, earthnut or groundnut, is a member of the Fabaceae family. This tropic loving plant is native to Brazil and can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 – 11. Peanuts are true perennials but are grown as annuals. Plants typically grow from 18 to 24 inches in height and 12 to 18 spacing.  Peanuts grow best in areas where the summers are consistently long and warm and is widely grown as an agricultural crop throughout the southeastern states.

Of note, peanuts are not actually true nuts. They are considered legumes and like all legume’s plants produce pods which provide edible seeds (like soybeans and lentils). True nuts, also called tree nuts for example, offer varieties such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. Worldwide, peanuts are widely consumed and valued for its edible and pharmaceutical qualities by producing oil, peanut butter and included in a myriad of meals and snacks. Peanuts are also used in cosmetics, dyes, plastics, textiles and paints

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Historically, the peanut was used as animal fodder until the mid-1900s when a professor of the prestigious Tuskegee Institute named George Washington Carver, encouraged farmers to grow crops to offset the devastating damage from cotton crops. Legumes adds much needed nitrogen into soils and this in turn can repair its fertility. During his time as a professor, he wrote numerous periodicals about the many uses for peanuts and was known to even visit local farmers to encourage the inclusion of peanuts as a necessary crop.

Peanut plants prefer full sun and light sandy, loamy, well-draining soil. However, they can also grow in most heavier soils provided it is, of course, well-draining. A light top dressing of calcium is recommended before planting in garden beds outdoors. Peanut plants can be started indoors and placed outside in spring after danger of frost has passed and the ground has warmed to a consistent temperature of at least 60 degrees. If peanuts seeds are planted directly outdoors, plant at a depth of 2-3 inches (five seeds per foot in row). The rows should be spaced at least 20 inches apart. You should then build up the soil around the seedlings. A thick application of mulch or straw is recommended to keep the soil moist and to prevent crusting.

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Peanut plants typically begin to bloom between mid-July to September. The gorgeous flowers are yellow with an orange tint. Unfortunately, most beneficial insects are not attracted to the vibrant flowers which are somewhat similar to a garden favorite, Sweet Pea. Peanuts typically mature between 110 to 150 days and the plants are dug up and allowed to cure before the pods are removed from the plants.

Peanut plants suffer from pests such as grubs, aphids, thrips, wireworms, leafhoppers, nematodes (harmful) and root worms. General care should be taken when growing, curing and storing peanuts as they can incur a devastating mold fungus called “Aspergillus flavus” and another fungal disease called verticillium wilt. Your plants should be monitored carefully throughout the growing season for signs to prevent devastation of your plants.

Depending on the variety, peanuts can be grown in containers. They are listed a as soil builder in permaculture landscapes (with potatoes, peas and carrots) and forest gardens.

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