One of the fun ways to get kids engaged in gardening is to amaze them. I remember the first time my daughter harvested potatoes with me and realized they grew underground. It was eye opening. The same is true with peanuts. Most kids know peanuts only from cans of roasted nuts or maybe bags of peanuts in the shell in the grocery store. But in the right climate you can grow peanuts easily and teach kids about their interesting fruiting habit. Here are some tips on growing peanuts with kids:
Peanuts are a long-season crop and can be harvested in fall once the vines die back. This makes them great school-garden plants since kids will be there to harvest. Bring some peanuts in the shell into the classroom and ask kids what part they would plant. Ask them what other vegetables look like peanuts and how peanuts are like peas and beans.
On well-drained, preferably sandy soil, plant peanuts in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Peanuts need four months of warm growing conditions, so they grow best in the South and West. Northern gardeners can try them, too, if they grow faster-maturing varieties such as ‘Early Spanish’, start seeds indoors under grow lights four weeks before planting outside, and protect plants from frost.
When peanut plants are 1 foot tall, hill up soil around the plants. Explain to your kids that this creates more space for the peanuts to form. Ask the kids what other vegetables get hilled (potatoes and corn). Keep plants well watered and weeded.
Have kids observe the peanut flowers and tillers that form. Ask them what they think is happening. The tillers are stems that start where the flowers are, then tunnel down into the soil around the plant. At the end of the tillers, the peanuts form.
When the plants yellow and die back, have kids pull them up and be amazed at all the peanuts attached to the tillers. Shake off the soil, let the peanuts dry in a warm, airy location out of direct sun, and then have a peanut-roasting party to enjoy the harvest.