Back in November, I planted some peanut plants in my garden.
To be honest with you, I mostly forgot about them. It rained all summer so I didn’t even finish the irrigation I had planned for them. Then I got distracted by garlic, potatoes, weeds, and cyclones.
I didn’t really get much of a chance to ‘mound’ them up, though I did make a half-assed attempt at one point.
Even harvest was a bit chaotic. The plants didn’t mature consistently. Some plants started dying back a month or two ago, while others were still going strong when I decided ‘today is the day for all of them’ and went out with my fork to lift them up.
So it’s possible I lifted some too early – but I also found some peanuts that had begun germinating the next generation of plants, so for those I lifted too late!
In terms of yield, we got mixed results. One massive plant (which had been ‘mounded’ at some point along the way) had zero peanuts. Not a single one.
The smaller plants consistently tended to have at least 5 or 6 fully developed peanut shells.
And three of the larger, bushier plants had many peanuts – a dozen or more. I’m planning to save the seed from them to grow from in the future. Hopefully with some selective breeding, one day I’ll get consistently strong plants with plenty of nuts.
When I lifted this plant up, I thought it was a great cross-section of how the peanut flowers ‘peg’ themselves into the ground to develop the peanut below the surface.
The next stage is curing (drying). Seeing as how I’ve never grown peanuts, I had to do some research. Everyone seems to agree that after lifting, I should leave the nuts on the main plant and dry them together.
But some sources say I should hang them in bunches. Others say I should lay them down.
I ended up lying down the peanuts I plan to eat, and hanging the ones I plan to save seed from for next year. I won’t be sure of how many nuts I actually grew until this process is complete in a few weeks.
Plans for next season
I definitely learned some things. I’m not entirely convinced the TradeMe seller I purchased the seed from didn’t just grab 30 raw peanuts from a packet at the supermarket if I’m honest. The plants varied widely in terms of size and yield.
Breeding my own seed is going to be important going forward if I want to make the best use of my space. I expect it’ll take a few years before I’m at something consistent. But by only keeping and growing seed from my best plants over several seasons, I should get there eventually.
My spacing was also ridiculous. Even if they were all ‘big’ plants, I think I could have planted them much closer together.
The plants began flowering almost as soon as they were planted out in the garden. This might have been too soon, and I don’t think they properly established before reaching that stage.
I suspect that might have been a result of germinating the seed early indoors and growing the seedlings on in pots. While I did harden them off before I planted them, perhaps the shift from indoor seedling to outdoor seedling triggered early flowering. I don’t think early flowering did me any favours.
So next time I’ll look at planting my seed directly into the garden. And I’ll try to mound and mulch them much sooner like I do with potatoes. It might produce stronger results (though will require some netting to keep the dogs off the tasty treats they’ll think I’m burying as a fun game).
Like most things in the garden, it’s a long game. This year, I think I’ll have a wee bowl of roasted salted peanuts when all is said and done. But if I can produce quality seed and tweak my technique in the coming seasons, maybe one day I’ll get a jar of peanut butter.