According to the Peanut Institute, Americans eat 2.4 billion lbs. of peanuts each year, with half of them being consumed in peanut butter. Peanuts can be grown in the home garden provided they receive 100 to 120 days of frost-free growing. These unusual plants are actually legumes, like peas and beans, and produce clover-like foliage and small pea-like blooms. Blossoms self-pollinate and a peg (aerial shoot) grows from the bottom of the bloom downward and buries itself into the soil. Peanuts form at the base of the peg and mature 8 to 10 weeks later.
Prepare the soil by tilling to a depth of 8 to 12 inches and removing rocks, roots and other debris. Peanuts require loose soil free of clumps or stones.
Add 2 to 3 inches of well-rotted manure or compost to promote good drainage and to provide nutrients. Clay soil may benefit from an addition of builder's sand.
Apply a balanced fertilizer like 8-8-8 following the application rate on the container, generally 1/2 cup to a 10-foot row. Work it in well with the existing soil.
Plant peanut seeds to a depth of 2 inches, spaced 3 to 4 inches apart, when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees and all danger of frost has passed in your area. Space rows 18 to 20 inches apart. Firm down the soil with your hands, or the back of the hoe, and water to moisten the soil.
Water deeply once a week (particularly during blooming) to moisten the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Keep the soil moist, but avoid soggy soil.
Cultivate lightly around the base of the plant as peanuts grow close to the surface and cultivation may damage young peanuts as they form. Hand pick weeds that grow close to the plants.
Harvest when leaves begin to yellow and shells are filled by the peanut kernel. Dig under the plants and remove a peanut shell to check for maturity. Pull the plants and dry them upside down in well ventilated area for a few days before removing the pods.