Peanuts

Peanuts are legumes, not nuts. So they fix nitrogen on their roots similar to beans and peas. The peanut plant is unusual because it flowers above ground but the peanut grows below ground. They are a novelty plant in the North but are a main  crop in many southern areas. Jumbo Virginia is the most popular large-podded variety, while the Spanish variety is famous for it’s small, sweet nuts. Peanut varieties can be classified by growth habit (bunch or runner) and nut type (Virginia or Spanish). Virginia types are large podded and usually contain 1 or 2 large kernels per pod. Spanish types are smaller podded and contain 2 or 3 small kernels per pod. The larger varieties will require a growing season of at least 120 days. Peanuts grow best in loose, well-drained soils. Avoid poorly drained, clay type soils. Before planting, be sure your ground is well worked and free of stones. Peanuts require a slightly alkaline soil, so work in some limestone if your soil is on the acid side. They are also heavy feeders, so add a layer of well rotted manure or compost the soil before you till. Plant peanuts after the danger of frost is past. Southern gardeners have the luxury of waiting up to two weeks after their last frost date to let the soil warm up. But us northern types may want to warm the soil with black plastic. Just be sure to remove the plastic when the plants start to flower. If you want to inoculate your peanuts with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria, you’ll need to buy a special peanut inoculant. Peanuts require a soil  temperature of 65°F (18°C) for germination. Sow peanut seeds 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Row spacing for bunch types should be 24 inches and 36 inches for runner types. If you like you can start seeds in pots four to six weeks before your last frost date. However they do not transplant well, so slip the plant very carefully from the pot without disturbing the roots. The flowering and fruiting of peanut plants are very interesting. After pollination a small shoot forms at the base of each flower and pushes into the soil. (See why there can be no barriers between the plant and the soil) The process is called "pegging". The "peg" develops into a mature peanut pod by season's end. The fruit mature in 9 to 10 weeks with favorable temperatures and moisture conditions. Since the peanut plant flowers over several weeks, all the pods do not mature at the same time. Cultivate the soil around peanut plants to control weeds and to keep the soil loose so the pegs can easily penetrate the soil surface. Cultivate shallowly to prevent damage to the peanut roots. Stop cultivation in the immediate vicinity of the plants when the pegs begin to penetrate into the soil. A two inch layer of mulch should be placed around plants in early June to control weeds. Any weeds that do appear can be hand pulled.

Keep plants moist at all times. Mound the soil around the plants after flowering. This loose soil mounded around the peanut plants will aid the pollinated flowers in pegging into the soil, to develop into peanuts. Peanuts should be fertilized about two times per crop with a good organic fertilizer Apply at planting time and 3-4 weeks later. Also peanuts need extra calcium at flowering time so you might try spreading a little gypsum around the plants. Harvest the peanuts when the foliage begins to yellow in late summer or early fall. Dig up the plants with a spading fork and carefully shake off the loose soil. Cure the peanuts by hanging the plants in a warm, dry shed or garage. Beware of mice. After the plants have dried for 1 or 2 weeks, shake off any remaining soil and pull the peanut pods from the plants. Continue to air dry the peanuts for an additional 1 or 2 weeks. Once dried, place the peanuts in mesh bags and store them in cool, well-ventilated place until roasted or boiled. You can boil and freeze them as well. Prepare a brine solution of 1 cup salt per gallon of water. Bring this solution to a boil. Add the peanuts, cover the vessel and boil for 45 minutes or until kernels are tender. Drain and cool. Package in freezer containers. Seal and freeze. To serve, simply thaw the peanuts. Make peanut butter, peanut butter can be safely processed in a water bath canner for 60 minutes in pint or half-pint jars.  However, it is not very practical. It would be easier to simply grind peanuts into peanut butter as needed and store the product in the refrigerator. Peanuts can be dried shelled or unshelled. Spread in single layer and dry at 130ºF. Peanuts are dry when their shells have hardened to a brittle state. Crack one. The nut meat should be tender, but not shriveled. To roast peanuts in the shell, place them in a shallow pan at 300ºF for 30 to 40 minutes. If they are shelled, roast them for 20 to 25 minutes and stir frequently to prevent scorching. If you are going to save some peanut seeds to plant next year, you can store the thoroughly dry pods in an airtight jar. Then next season remove the shell, but be careful to leave the papery skin and to keep the nut whole. Split nuts won’t sprout. You can also get raw peanuts from the grocery store and plant them the same way.

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It’s faster and easier to pick berries with two hands. You can make a simple hands free picking container from an empty #10 can or small plastic bucket. Use a bottle opener to make two triangular openings just under the rim of the can. Tie a length of string or ribbon through the holes. If you use a bucket, take the handle off and thread your ribbon through the handle holes. Tie the strips around your waist like apron strings or hang the loop around your neck.

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Tie a bar of soap in the leg of an old pair of pantyhose, then tie to your outside water spigot. Clean hands in a snap!

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Lady Bugs

Lady bugs are small oval beetles, red or orange with small black markings. The length depends on the species 4-6mm. They are a beneficial insect for every garden. There are more than 400 different species found worldwide. They have wings and can fly great distances. The larvae are elongated and are very small. They resemble small black alligators. they have red or orange markings on their bodies. Lady bugs overwinter as adults in protected areas around the home and garden. In the spring they fly looking for plants to deposit their eggs on. The eggs hatch and go through several larval stages. While in this stage they feed on aphids. They will pupate in late summer on the leaves or stems of host plants. They are primary aphid eaters but they also eat mites, eggs and other small plant sucking insects. If aphids are not in your garden lady bugs will also eat eggs of many moths and other harmful insects. Lady bugs travel wide areas so they also help in the pollination process. You can buy these insects at many garden shops. Before you do this however, I would recommend you make sure they are NATIVE to your area. Sometimes unnative insects will attack native species. Plenty of aphids is the key to keeping lady bugs in your garden. They can eat as many as 50 per day and have a tendency to leave gardens if they run out of this main food source. They are definitely an asset in your greenhouse where they will stay and keep down whitefly populations as well.

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Herbs

Hyssop

grow in full sun in well-drained, light soil. Sow in spring under plastic, take cuttings in early summer or divide in spring or autumn. Plant 8 inches apart for hedging and clip to shape in spring,

Woad

grow in full sun in well-drained, rich, chalky soil. Sow in the garden in late summer and thin seedlings to 12 inches apart. Removing stems before they can flower extends the life of the plants, which will otherwise seed themselves freely as biennials. Also called dyer’s weed.

Juniper

plant in autumn or spring in good well drained soil in an open position. Propagate from seeds sown in a gold frame in spring , or from cuttings in autumn.

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Brandie

“He who plants a garden plants happiness. If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden”

   

 
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