Planting Peanuts for Deer, Dove, and Us
I grew up listening to my father’s hunting stories containing episodes of hunting deer around peanut fields in Pike County, Alabama. That area’s soil grew peanuts well and consequently many farmers cultivated them. These farmers hopelessly looked upon the deer tearing into the planted peanuts, destroying acres of the mature crop. Some turned to my father who in turn, “helped” them out every season by hunting the deer to assist in saving a harvest of peanuts.
We have peanuts planted at our south Montgomery hunting land. The similar loamy/sandy soil of Pike County down there grows peanuts nicely. We hope to attract the deer to the same degree the peanuts my father hunted over did for this upcoming bow season. Dove also love peanut fields after harvest. A good dove shoot always makes my day after a long summer of “fasting” from hunting. However, the deer and dove will not be the only ones to enjoy the peanuts; we intend to harvest this delicious Southern staple for our diet also.
The versatility of peanuts seems endless. Look over George Washington Carver’s list of 300 uses for peanuts; salted peanuts, peanut brittle, peanut butter, peanut sprouts, and even mock meat made of peanuts. With the potential of 1,000lbs of peanuts this fall, we plan to take advantage of the peanuts versatility and refer to Carver’s uses often.
Preparation of the soil for peanuts, as with most plants, greatly affects the health of the plant. Fertilizers can easily damage peanuts, therefore for best results, fertilize in the fall to aid in avoiding this danger. Periodically poisoning then tilling the fields early in the spring results in clean, loose soil. Be careful, however, working the ground when too wet will destroy the structure of the soil.
Plant a variety that best suits your purpose. Most small-scale farmers or gardeners prefer Valencia peanuts for their medium kernels, full of flavor and good in texture. Spanish varieties produce fine peanuts to candy or salt. They also contain the highest oil content. Spanish peanuts once consisted of the majority of what farmers grew in the south. Around 40 years ago, running varieties took its place. These peanuts have the habit of shooting “runners” away from the plant with peanuts as apposed to peanuts directly under the plant. Most peanut butters consist of runner peanuts. Also, runners are very vigorous, making them great for planting for wildlife. Jumbo and Virginia peanuts do not grow well in the south but are a great option for farmers living further north along the coast who prefer “ballpark peanuts.” We chose Valencia peanuts to plant this year.
Planting around the beginning of May optimizes a peanut’s chance to grow while avoiding pest. Plant peanuts around 2 inches deep spaced 4 inches apart in rows of 2 or 3 feet. This allows the peanuts to fill the area as quickly as possible yet allow for cultivation and harvesting.
Planting a large quantity of row crops necessitate a machine. I sure didn’t want to be punching pounds of peanuts into the ground manually. My rows would never be strait or consistent. We kept our eyes peeled on Craig’s list for a decent planter. The machines come on and off the market faster than AR 15’s on wholesale! Finally, though, a fine Covington single row planter became available a few hours away near Fort Payne, Alabama. The whole family loaded up, and with the trailer behind us, we soon had the contraption on our possession. Planting peanuts with a planter can be quite fun and accomplishing. Watching the machine work like a clock gives you a sense that you officially have the “farmer” status and have an edge on the elements. With the help of a planter, we finished the field in no time.
We received rain last week, giving the peanuts the first push to start them off. The young shoots look like small ferns. I hope the deer can stay of them until they get established and the bow season nears. My mouth waters for (peanut recipe) and other recipes starring deer and dove, and of course, peanuts.