The Peanut Gallery
By Michelle Mather
Last week I wrote about growing Sweet Potatoes in our garden this year. The other big experiment in the vegetable garden this year was our attempt to grow peanuts. We were curious to try growing peanuts since we are aware of peanuts being grown in southwestern Ontario by Picard’s Peanuts (http://www.picardspeanuts.ca).
Their website says “We have been growing Peanuts in Ontario since 1979. The rich Fox Coarse Sandy Soils of Lasalette, Ontario are well suited to the production of peanuts. On average about 90 to 100 acres are planted in mid-May and harvested in mid-September. We produce more than we know what to do with. At our shelling plant, the first in Canada we grade, shell and sort the crop in the fall.”
So when we put our seed order together in the spring we added “peanuts” and received a small bag of raw peanuts to plant. I planted them in peat pots since we had read that they don’t transplant well. Then Cam tried a few different approaches when he planted them in the vegetable garden in an attempt to determine which approach worked best.
He planted some of the peanut plants just in the soil without any covering. For the others he covered the ground with either black garden fabric, or clear plastic film. He cut holes in the fabric and plastic film to plant the peanut plants.
Then we sat back and let nature take its course. The plants in the black plastic fabric seemed to fare the best and sure enough as we harvested them we discovered that the plants in the black fabric were the most mature with the greatest number of peanuts. (We tried to leave enough uncovered soil around the plants for the flowers to drop and start the peanut below the soil. Perhaps we didn’t leave enough bare soil? See below for an explanation of how this works.)
As you can see, our yield wasn’t great and I can’t imagine how many peanut plants you’d have to grow in order to end up with enough peanuts for a jar of peanut butter!
Here’s the Picard website description of how peanuts grow;
“Peanut seeds are planted in May and by June small yellow flowers can be seen signaling a bountiful crop. The plants may be irrigated to reduce stress and encourage secondary flowering and peg setting. Yes, peanuts start to grow from the pollinated flowers above the ground attached to pegs that penetrate the soil and form the peanut underground. In late September, mature plants are dug up and left in the sun to partially dry.”
This sounds confusing and yet I knew I wasn’t going to be able to describe it any better. Here’s a better description from The Peanut Institute;
“Peanut seeds (kernels) grow into a green oval-leafed plant about 18 inches tall which develop delicate yellow flowers around the lower portion of the plant. The flowers pollinate themselves and then lose their petals as the fertilized ovary begins to enlarge. The budding ovary or ‘peg’ grows down away from the plant, extending to the soil. The peanut embryo turns horizontal to the soil surface and begins to mature, taking the form of the peanut. From planting to harvesting, the growing cycle takes four to five months, depending on the type or variety.”