Caring for Peanuts
by National Gardening Association Editors
Peanuts need care to grow and produce properly. Follow these guidelines fo the best harvest.
It's a good idea to hill peanut plants when they're about two-thirds their full height of 1-1/2 feet. Hilling makes it easier for the peanut pegs to bury their tips into the ground.
To hill, use a hoe to pull up the loose soil around the stems of the peanut plants. Once you've hilled the plants, don't disturb them with any tools, including hoes. If the plants need weeding, do so by hand, allowing the roots and pegs to remain undisturbed.
Hilling peanut plants buries and kills weeds around the plants and takes care of most walkway weeds as well. It also creates a natural irrigation ditch by pulling soil from between the rows up around the plants and helps heavy soils to shed water. Hilling keeps the soil better drained and more productive because the earth isn't packed around the plants. The biggest advantage is that it allows the pegs to penetrate the loose soil easily.
Mulching peanut plants can be a little tricky. Because the peanut pegs penetrate the soil, they'll first have to penetrate the mulch. Therefore, if you decide to mulch, make sure you put down a very thin layer of a material the pegs can easily penetrate, such as grass clippings or straw, rather than an impermeable one, like plastic or floating row covers. Grass clippings help condition the soil by adding nutrients, but if you use them, first spread out the clippings in the sun and let them dry for a day or two.
Although peanuts are relatively tolerant of dry soils, it's a good idea to check the amount of moisture in the soil before planting. Dig a hole and if the soil feels moist one foot down, you probably won't have to worry about watering until after your plants start to bloom.
Even though the plants don't need a regular supply of water, the critical times for moisture are when the plants bloom and when the pegs enter the soil. A shortage of water at these times will reduce your yield and affect the size of your peanuts.
Be careful not to water the plants when harvesttime draws near. Peanuts may not mature if the soil is too wet, or mature nuts may sprout.
Young peanut seedlings can be injured or killed by tools, so it's better to weed by hand. As the plants grow, continue to control weeds and loosen the soil so that pegs can penetrate the surface easily. When you're weeding, be extremely careful not to cover branches and leaves with soil; this could kill the plants' leaves and interfere with flowering. The best time to get rid of weeds is after a rain once the plants have dried off.
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