Welcome to my little farm. One of my alltime favorite things to do is plant stuff. There’s just something about putting a tiny seed in the earth and watching new life pop out of the ground that I cannot help but marvel at. It gets me every time.
I like to call my particular gardening style...experimentally eclectic. That loosely translates into ‘throw it all in the ground and see what happens!’ From seeds zoned for far cooler climates to last night’s kitchen scraps, I’ve tried to grow it. Hey! Don’t judge. It works for me. In my way of thinking, there’s no such thing as a gardening failure; just a [usually quite expensive] gardening lesson! If you’ve ever dropped $100 bucks on the summer garden only to reap one teeny-tiny (albeit inarguably beautiful!) organic cherry tomato, you might be experimentally eclectic too. Welcome to my world.
So this year, I had this completely brilliant idea of growing...peanuts! Basically, I saw them listed in some random seed catalog and was immediately wooed by the idea. I mean they’re basically Reece’s peanut butter cup seeds, people! I’ve never actually grown them before, and I was beyond excited to take a shot and see what happened. Like any good experimentally eclectic gardener, I skipped the boring ol’ research the plants part in lieu of bailing off the cliff at top speed without a parachute. That’s the way I like to roll (err..or should we say grow?)
This would probably be a reeeeeeally good time to point out the fact that anyone with peanut or other nut allergies, personally or in their immediate family, most definitely should not try this at home! While that should probably go without saying, nothing in today’s world goes without saying. So there is it, a life-saving statement of the irrevocably obvious.
Here at the farm we have some very, very sandy soil (think Panama Beach sandy). First I amended it with a little fertilizer from the chickens’ nether ends, mounded up a row to encourage drainage, and popped 10 happy little peanut seeds into the earth about two feet apart. And then I let God take over and do the rest. I mean, after all, we have to give credit where credit is due! I can do a lot, but turning a seed into an actual plant is slightly out of my pay scale.
Does anyone else out there like getting something for nothing? Boy howdy! I know I do. I have to admit that I did little else for those sweet little seeds except perhaps offering up some daily H2O...and a lot of gawking (if only staring hopefully at the soil actually made things grow). VOILA! It was really that easy.
Peanuts are pretty darned cool! They are in a family of plants called legumes and are sometimes referred to as ‘ground nuts’ or ‘goobers’. They do not produce like any of our other traditional garden plants (at least the ones in my garden). Once the plant gets big enough, it shoots out flowers on long, thin stems. The flowers are quite tiny and also short-lived, and you might miss them completely if you don’t check on your plants every six minutes or so like me. Next, a helpful little critter pollinates said flowers. Thank you bees, for your fine contribution to our story!
Now this is where it gets kind of weird! Those loooooooong flower stems bend over and over and over until the pollinated flowers make contact with the ground...where they proceed to bury themselves alive! I mean, seriously! Each of those flowers will then become... You guessed it, a zucchini!
Okay, okay, I’m just kidding! Each of them becomes a brand new, underground peanut, of course. How stinking fantastic is that!? So for the record, the next time someone calls you a goober, look them proudly in the eye and say THANK YOU! Because goobers are downright cool. Cooler than most humans, anyway!
Now, I’ve got to be honest with you. I wasn’t too hopeful about the prospective harvest. I actually only saw a smattering of those flowers along the way and was therefore kind of skeptical about the possibility of a turnout. But it’s a learning experience, right? Right.
Now bears an important question: How do you know when the peanuts are ready for harvest? Well, much less awesome gardeners than myself would tell you to count the days from germination and then dig around the plant gently to see if you find fully developed peanuts at the end of these buried stems. Since that is far too conventional for someone as eclectic as myself, I simply waited until I caught the neighborhood squirrels and bunnies throwing a massive shindig in the garden and digging like there was no tomorrow in the vicinity of my peanut plants! Mother Nature always knows before we do, mark my words.
Noting their inexhaustible and sudden obsession with my peanut plants, I suspected something was up and opted to check it out. Sure enough, there they were hidden underneath the plants’ skirts. It was a little bit like magic! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t forcibly invite both of my kids out to show them my pure gardener awesomeness. After all, I gave them life; the least they can do is stroke my ego every now and again!
As I pulled each of those plants gently from the ground, peanut after beautiful peanut popped out of the soil. I thought it was pretty amazing, and the kids even accidentally looked impressed too! Don’t tell them I said so though. Once all of the plants were completely removed and de-nutted, I continued to dig around the row for those nuts that were still hidden in the earth. There were lots! When I say my bucket runnethed over (yes, I made that up and no, I am not ashamed), I’m not kidding. From those 10 initial seeds that I popped unceremoniously into the ground in spring, I harvested over six pounds of fall peanuts. That’s some serious return on investment! If only my money multiplied with such tenacity.
Now, I had better share a couple of important notes on growing peanuts that I learned along the way: 1) Dig wide and deep. You will be surprised at how deep and how far away from the plant’s core some of those flowers buried themselves! In fact, I didn’t even get them all despite my best efforts and now have baby peanut plants popping up all over the garden. I’m not complaining though. 2) Wear gloves - long ones. This is especially true if you live in the South (which you probably do if you are growing peanuts in the first place). Fire ants apparently have an affinity for peanuts too and do not take very kindly to people stealing them. I can attest to this fact first hand. 3) Grow extra. I was so excited when I saw how many peanuts I harvested! “Surely,” I said to myself, “these will last until next year’s harvest.” I obviously did not take into account my teenaged daughter. They lasted about a week, give or take six days. Lesson learned.
Here is the final disposition of my first peanut growing experience: It was completely and utterly awesome and a huge success. I am smitten! In fact, they now rank up there as one of the favorite things I have grown in my garden (and as you can imagine, I grow a lot of different things). Next season, not only will I be planting peanuts in my garden again, but I will be doubling up! You, know...so we have TWO whole weeks worth.
And now I’m off to see what else I can ‘toss in the ground’ and grow. The possibilities are virtually endless (kind of like the weeds).
Grow what you love and love what you grow,