Growing Peanuts: Hydroponics vs Soil

Quick Facts:

  • Peanuts are technically legumes, not nuts
  • One peanut plant yields between 25 and 50 peanuts
  • Peanut plants grow up to 36 inches (91 cm) tall and 18 inches (45 cm) in diameter

Planting requirements:

  • Peanuts are a surprisingly versatile crop. Traditionally they have grown well in the hot and humid American South, but other varieties can be grown as far north as Canada.
  • Getting started with growing peanuts is simple: just plant and water some raw, uncooked peanuts and they should sprout within a few days. They can then be transplanted into a new medium if needed.
  • Most of the time peanuts are grown in loose soil but recent attempts at hydroponic planting have yielded promising results.
  • When growing hydroponically make sure to allow for maximum drainage. The most common growth mediums are:
    • Combination of Coco coir + Perlite
    • Vermiculite
    • Clay pebbles
    • Gravel
  • Ensure peanuts are planted no closer together than 10 inches (25 cm) or they will crowd each other out for sunlight.
  • Avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers as peanuts create their own nitrogen.

Ideal growth medium

Soil-based: Loose soil

Hydroponics: Mixture of Coco coir and Perlite

Ideal temperature

86-93°F (30-34°C)

Ideal pH

5.5-6.5

Ideal sunlight

>10 hours

Type of sunlight required

Direct sun

Watering frequency

Soil-based: 2-4x per week (when soil begins drying out)

Hydroponics: Any frequency

Harvesting requirements

  • The growing season for peanuts is long. Most varieties of peanuts take up to 140 days until they are ready for harvest.
  • The four most common varieties of peanuts are ‘Runner’, ‘Virginia’, ‘Spanish’, and ‘Valencia’. Each has different sizes, colors, and tastes.
  • ‘Early Spanish’ peanuts are a variation that matures early - sometimes in as quickly as 100 days.
  • Peanuts should be harvested when the leaves turn yellow and the inner shells have gold-marked veins.
  • After harvesting, peanuts should be dried out for around a month before they will be ready to consume.

Time to Maturity

130 days

Crop yield (per plant)

.42 cups (25-50 peanuts)

Total caloric yield (per plant)

544 calories

Protein yield (per plant)

24.7g

Healthy fat yield (per plant)

47.2g

People fed (per plant)

2.1 people

Evaluation of Peanuts as a Martian crop

  • Overall a single plant will yield somewhere between 25 and 50 peanuts. There are roughly 90 peanuts in 1 cup.
  • Peanuts are very healthy. They are high in calories and relatively dense in protein. They are also packed with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Peanuts can be consumed in many different ways. Most commonly they are eaten raw, roasted, or ground into peanut butter.
  • Peanuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to a year without spoiling.
  • To harvest enough peanuts to feed a Mars colony, assume 1 plant will be consumed per day per person.
  • For a Mars colony of size n with a peanut plant maturation time of days d, the total number of plants needed is estimated at n*d. This is assuming the colony plants a number of plants equal to n each day. After d days, n plants per day could be harvested and n new plants should be replanted in the existing modules after harvesting.

Suggested ration

¼ cup per day, per person

Caloric breakdown (out of 1500 cal)

324 calories - 21.6%

Protein breakdown (out of 50g protein)

14.7g - 29.4%

Healthy fat breakdown (out of 45g fats)

28.1g - 62.4%

Plants required* (100 person colony)

13,000 (100 people * 130 days)

* This is a conservative estimate. In optimal growing conditions a single plant should feed at least 2.1 colonists per day. These more conservative numbers would allow the colony to store 50% of harvested peanuts to use as a food supply in case of emergency.


Did you know: Mars has 2 moons? Discovered in 1877, they are named Phobos and Deimos. In Latin, Phobos means “Fear” and Deimos means “Panic”.