For most people, the colder season is the time of year to relax from outdoor chores, but for gardeners, it's time to start planning out next year's garden. You may be considering planting different crops next season that you haven't tried before, and one fun choice is growing peanuts next year. You may have passed up these healthy legumes in the past thinking that they are too much trouble, but this fun snack can be relatively easy to grow.

Pick Your Peanut

There are several peanut varieties that you can choose to grow, but the main types are runner, Spanish, Virginia, and Valencia. The runner type of peanuts is typically grown in the Southern states of the United States where they can be harvested 130 to 150 days from the time they were planted. Spanish peanuts can be a good variety for areas with a shorter growing season, as it takes about 120 days for them to be ready for harvesting. Virginia peanuts are the largest peanuts with a 130 to 150-day harvest schedule, so they are also typically grown in southern states. Valencia is another type of peanut that works well in areas with shorter growing seasons, as they take about 95 to 100 days from planting to harvest.

Pick the Perfect Planting Spot

There are a few requirements that peanuts need in order to grow well in your garden.

First, peanuts need to be planted in full sunlight. Be sure not to plant any taller plants, like corn, in the general area, which could cause them to grow in their shadows

It is also important to get the soil right. The soil should be a mixture of sandy and loamy. It should have a good amount of organic matter, while also loose and well-drained. The peanuts will grow underground, so compacted soil will prevent it from growing well. You need to aim for soil that has a pH level of about 5.8 to 6.2. Also, you will want to mix sand and aged compost into the soil to get it at the perfect growing condition for peanuts.

Planting Your Peanuts

Planting peanut plants.

You'll need to prep the soil for planting and get ready to sow the peanuts about a month after the last frost date in your area. The soil should be about 65 degrees. If you're looking to get a head start on the lengthy growing time to be sure you'll be able to harvest your crop in September, you can start your peanuts indoors. You can start them indoors about five to eight weeks before transplanting them when the soil is at the necessary temperature.

When planting your peanuts outdoors, you can sow them complete in the shell, or you can just plant them with the papery skin around them intact. They should be planted at least 1.5 inches deep, but no deeper than 3 inches. When planting transplants that you started indoors, you'll want to plant them in little biodegradable pots that you can plant entirely in the ground when the soil has warmed to stop from damaging the roots.

You'll want to put them about 6 - 8 inches apart when planting seeds, but you will need to thin the seedlings to make them about 18 inches apart later on so that they have enough growing space. One space-saving option is to plant them in double rows where you can stagger the seeds at this spacing. After the plants have gotten to be about a foot tall, you'll want to create a mound of soil around the base of it. The faded flowers will then set pegs into this mound.

You can plant your peanuts in containers for container gardening, but you need to be sure that you find pots that are at least 18 inches wide and at least 1 foot deep to allow for the plant to grow well.

Caring for Your Peanuts

Your peanuts will require even watering on a regular basis. The soil should remain moist until flowers begin to set, and then, you can water the peanut plants less. In fact, you should allow drying to occur to the soil. If you find at harvest time that your pods are empty of peanuts, there's a chance there was too much rain or watering that year. You should mulch around the plants as it will help to keep the soil from hardening. Remove weeds as they pop up to keep them from overtaking your peanuts. You may find that squirrels and other digging pests may try to dig up your plants, so it can be beneficial to keep them from getting to your plants.

Harvesting Your Peanuts

Holding peanut plants

Your peanut plants will let you know when it's time to harvest them, as the leaves will start to wither and turn from green to yellow. You can harvest them by pulling up the whole plant being careful when lifting them. A garden fork may be the best tool for this job. You'll want to get rid of the loose soil remaining on the plant by shaking it. You’ll need to find a place to store the peanut plants that is warm and dry where you’ll allow the plant to dry out.

The seeds are ready for you when the hulls of the seed pods are completely dry to the touch. If you keep the dried peanuts in their shells, you can keep them about a year, whereas shelled peanuts that are raw can be good for about three months.

Now, you have the information you need to move forward with growing your very own peanut plants. Good luck with your peanut growing endeavors. You'll find that the peanuts you grow in your backyard garden will taste even better than those you've gotten in the store.