Pinto Peanut Tips

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Arachis pintoi   My pinto peanut plan started from some fruit club raffle table prizes which originally came from plant propagation activities by students of Annette McFarlane. The first couple of places I planted it was in the citrus orchard and around the banana pit. It established itself in the citrus orchard relatively quickly and despite getting very little attention, it has managed to hold its own against invasive grasses and other dominating weeds. Around the banana pit, it has been much slower to get going.

One of the things I have found with pinto peanut is that it needs to have particular soil conditions before it will grow with any vigour. It can take a year or more in poorer soils for it to get established, but once it does, it will power along. My favourite way to propagate it is to wait for a rainy or overcast day to take cuttings. The cuttings are generally about 20 to 30 cm long, this length is so that I get two plantings from a single cutting. To achieve this, I use a spade to slice into the soil, and then I take the centre of the cutting and plunge it into the open ground left by the spade. This results in the two ends sticking slightly out of the ground (the cutting is now in a wide U-shape). From these ends, one will get two growth points and as the centre of the cutting is quite far into the ground, this helps the cutting survive some of the hotter days. That said, if the rainy/overcast period is short lived, I will put small branches or twigs around the cuttings to give them shade.

Pinto peanut is one of the best environments for worms who love the shady conditions. The soil seems to team with life and it is almost always moist, bar some of the more extensive dry spells. While the plant primarily spreads via runners, it also puts out lots of peanut-like seeds which also help the plant to spread. While you can eat the seeds, you would have to be very hungry to go to all the effort for very little reward. Grow real peanuts instead.

Using pinto peanut you can further build up your soil by top dressing established plantings with woody mulches or even manures. I have even smothered it with thickly pile grass clippings and have observed its steady return. When this technique is combined with pinto peanut’s natural ability to mine the depths of the soil with its long tap roots, you know that your soil is being steadily improved with minimal effort. Another observed benefit is the plant’s ability to effectively capture leaf litter. With pinto peanut, this material will be more effectively turned back into valuable nutrients for your trees. As well, being a shade tolerant plant, it will often grow where other plants can struggle.

If you need to keep the plant under control, it handles mowing quite well. It also does well with little tending. From time-to-time it may need to be pulled down from around lower growing plants but that is relatively little effort as compared to weeding the same area (on what would be a much more frequent basis). Once established it will take some effort to remove as its root system does go quite deep but there are ways to accomplish this (such as a couple of months with some black plastic covering the ground. The plant can suffer from powdery mildew during some of the wetter periods of the year as well as minimal damage from leaf eating insects, but other than that it is relatively pest free. It can also be used as a cattle fodder plant and would be welcome in most pastures. Note that it can also attract rodents who like to forage for the seeds but with all its soil improving benefits, this plant is a true winner for your orchard.  Ref:  Jason Spotswood