Gardening Vegetables

Growing Peanuts in a Cold Climate

Question: I’d like to try growing peanuts in my garden in the spring. What are the requirements for this plant? Where can I get seeds? What are my chances of success?

Madeleine Chabot, zone 4

Question: The peanut (Arachis hypogaea), sometimes called groundnut, is a legume and vaguely resembles a clover in its habit, but with pinnate leaves of 4 to 6 leaflets. It produces yellow pea-shaped flowers. Once the flower is pollinated, it produces a curious tubular extension called a peg that elongates and sinks into the soil where the seeds are produced. So, peanuts grow underground and not up in the air like most other fruits and nuts!

Peanut plant in sandy soil. Photo: http://www.southernexposure.com

Peanuts are not grown commercially in cold climates like yours because they require a long growing season: at least 100 days for the fastest cultivars and up to 150 days for commercially grown varieties. Thus, peanuts are mostly grown in tropical to warm temperate regions. Although it wouldn’t be wise to start a peanut farm in your climate, but you can grow peanuts on a small scale in areas with short summers, much as you can grow tomatoes even though they too are unable to grow to maturity under your climate without a little extra help.

Therefore, you’ll have to start your peanuts indoors.

Doing the Deed

Start seeds indoors in peat pots. Photo: The Rusted Garden, http://www.youtube.com

Start peanut seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date. Sow them in a peat pot: that way there’ll be no shock to the roots when you transplant them to the garden. Sow at about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, cover the pot with a transparent dome or bag to give the seeds greenhouse conditions, then put the pot in a warm spot: 77° F to 85 °F (25 ° C to 30 ° C) if you can. Germination takes about 10 days. After germination, remove the dome or bag and place the plants near a very sunny window or under intense artificial light, watering as needed.

When the soil warms up outdoors and there is no longer any danger of frost, acclimatize the plants to open air conditions, then transplant them into your garden. (You can also grow them in containers) Prefer a very sunny spot protected from cooling winds, ideally in sandy soil. Avoid heavy soils that tend to remain moist for long periods. Add a bit of slow-release fertilizer to the soil, if possible one low in nitrogen, as too much nitrogen may hinder the development of the symbiosis that usually develops between peanuts and beneficial soil bacteria (Bradyrhizobiumspp.)

Summer care is fairly simple. Peanuts are quite drought tolerant, so you’ll only need to water in the case of extreme drought. Do keep the weeds down, though. 

Pull up the plants and harvest the nuts after the first frost. Photo: http://www.timesunion.com

After the first fall frost, pull up the plants and you’ll discover peanuts in the shell. They’re not nearly productive in cool-summer areas as in warmer climates, but still, you ought to be able to grow at least a handful per plant. Dry the peanuts out, then roast them at 300 ° F (150 ° C) for about 20 to 25 minutes before serving.

Growing peanuts is an especially interesting project for children, so don’t hesitate to involve them in your trials.

Sources

If you want to start peanuts from seed, you’ll need viable seeds and those you can buy at the supermarket just won’t cut it. They’ve been roasted (and probably salted too!) and simply won’t germinate. Sometimes you can find seed packs of peanuts in garden centers. Otherwise, simply order them in by mail, as many seed companies offer them. Here are just a few:

‘Garoy’, ‘Valencia’ and ‘Tennessee Red’ are among the ‘short season’ varieties best suited to a short-season climate.


So, growing peanuts is really quite simple, even when your gardening season is only 90 days long. Still, don’t count your peanuts before they ripen!

NEW!

Here’s a great graphic from Insteading on growing peanuts in warmer climates:

There’s a complete article on growing peanuts in warm climates here: Growing Peanuts. Very informative!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

2 comments on “Growing Peanuts in a Cold Climate

  1. Another question: One of the lettuce seeds I was considering for this season is described as non MT0 what does that mean?

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