How Peanuts Grow
by National Gardening Association Editors
No other vegetable grows like a peanut.
A Peanut's Life
The peanut seed germinates about two days after planting, when the soil temperature is between 65° and 75° F. A few days later, roots begin to appear and approximately eight days after planting, you'll see shoots poking through the soil's surface.
Within 14 days of planting, small leaves unfold, with each leaf consisting of a slender stem and four leaflets. From these four leaflets new shoots begin to emerge.
The lateral branches that develop are the origin of the flowering branches. Be extremely careful not to injure or bury these branches when cultivating.
Forming the Nut
Attractive yellow flowers appear approximately six weeks after planting, and the peanut plant starts to resemble a yellow-flowering sweet pea bush. As the small flowers wither, stalklike pegs appear at their bases. Pulled by gravity the pegs curve downward and penetrate the soil to a depth of one to three inches. As the pods begin to form, they shift to a horizontal position. The pods grow and form the tan fruit that we know as unshelled peanuts.
The plants signal that the pods are maturing by starting to turn yellow. This happens when the food supply is consumed by the peanut kernels instead of by the plant. The plants continue to grow and flower for several weeks, however, until they reach one to 1-1/2 feet tall, and each produces at least 40 mature pods. When the plants turn almost completely yellow, it's harvesttime. Don't wait long to harvest because the pods are apt to break off and become lost underground.
Types of Peanuts
Peanuts fall into four basic types: Virginia, Runner, Spanish and Valencia.
The low-growing Virginia and Runner plants, which contain two seeds per pod, tend to spread and produce larger nuts than the Spanish type.
Spanish and Valencia, both bunching plants, are small seeded, with the Spanish having two to three seeds per pod and the Valencia having three to six seeds per pod.
Because northern summers are short and peanuts can't tolerate frosty nights, northern gardeners should plant the fastest-growing variety, 'Early Spanish', to make sure that the peanuts can be harvested before there's any sign of frost.
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