Broad beans have a long history of being a very easy to grow plant. Enjoyed as part of a stable diet, broad beans can be grown as a cover crop to prevent erosion because of the hardiness of the plant to over winter as well as fixing nitrogen issues in the soil.
Types of Broad Bean
Depending on what you like to grow and the space available there are a range of broad beans seed suitable for any garden or allotments space:
Small space Try the Sutton Dwarf is space is limited is a short plant, requires little protection from the wind and tastes great!
Over winter The most popular over wintering variety has to be Aquadulce Claudia although Karmazyn is becoming a popular choice with gardeners.
Quick Growing Witkiem Manita will grow the quickest out of all broad bean varsities we have on offer, makes it a perfect choice if you are getting a late start to the season.
Colour Karmazyn offers a deep red bean while Robin hood has big dark green beans both look fantastic on the plate.
How to Grow Broad Beans
Sow: September-November; January-March Harvest: May-July
Germination: 10-14 days, Full sun
Broad beans love cool weather. This makes them the perfect bean for our British climate. If you live in a part of Britain where the ground doesn’t freeze during winter (or you have a greenhouse/cloche that prevents the ground from freezing), plant in autumn (Sept. to Nov.) so that the plants can establish good root systems and produce the next spring.
In colder areas, plant in early spring (February is not too early). Believe it or not, broad beans such as Aquadulce Clauida can actually tolerate a light frost. Make sure to plant them in full sun in well-worked soil.
Direct Seed: Sowings should be 2” deep and 10cm (4") apart. Rows should be 20cm (8") apart. When thinning, feel free to transplant uprooted plants to another row--they should do fine.
Broad beans prefer well-worked, well-drained soil.
If growing outside, water only when needed--at the start of the seedling growth and once flowers have formed. They should be fine from there on out unless there is a drought (unlikely in our British winter weather).
As with other broad beans, you can pinch out the growing tip once lower pods have formed to deter blackfly. (Some of wait until we see the blackfly first, but if you want to be preemptive, do it sooner.)
Once plants reach 15cm tall support them loosely with canes and string.
If growing over winter, cover plants with a cloche during hard freezes to prevent damage.
Broad beans are best picked young, when they have a sweeter taste. This can be as early as when the pods are tiny and pointing upwards on the stems or once the pods start to swell and the seeds become visible as bumps (when they start pointing downwards). Waiting longer to harvest will produce tougher skins and a wooly texture in the mouth. (If you end up with older beans and aren’t looking for dried broad beans, try blanching them for a minute or two in boiling water and then squeezing the seeds out of their bitter coats.)
Germination time? Broad beans take 7 – 14 days to germinate depending on the time of year.
Which way do you plant broad bean seed? Does not really matter, some gardener’s will claim success side or face down, however the bean will germinate and grow fine either way. We recommend holding the bean and inserting into the soil as shown below.
Soak broad beans before planting? If you struggle with a poor germination rate or just have problems growing the seed it’s worth soaking them in a cup of water for 72hours this will cause the bean to swell within the water and sprout. Simply remove the sprouted seed and plant.
Do beans keep producing? As long as you keep picking them they will growing .
How tall do broad beans grow? Dwarf variates of broad beans will grow to an average height of 35cm while non dwarf varieties can reach heights of 120cm / 1.2m
Common problems growing Broad Beans
There are a range of problems and questions that get asked on a frequent basis, although broad beans are very easy to grow they do require some help now and again.
Poor Gemination or No Growth If sowing over winter it’s worth removing the soil and checking the bean is still in place. Colder times of the year beans are prone to being dug up and removed by small mice and rats! We always recommend starting seeds in modules over winter and transplant when ready.
Rotting Over watering or heavy wet weather can lead to the bean rotting.
Frost Despite being a hardy plant, younger plants can suffer from frost damage it’s worth protecting with a fleece when heavy frost is forecast.
Fungal diseases Chocolate spot is one of the most common fungal diseases of broad beans. The fungus causes dark, chocolate-coloured spots on all parts of the plant. Try to provide more air flow and ease up on the watering, removed any heavily infected plants.
Broad bean rust is one of the most common fungal diseases of broad bean leaves. The fungus causes small, dusty, dark brown spots surrounded by a pale yellow halo on leaves and stems. Provide as much air flow as possible and avoid planting close to sweet pea to help control the issues
Harvesting Broad Beans
Final harvesting time will depend on the climate and when you started your beans. A general rule of thumb once broad bean pods have reached 7.5cm or 3inches in length they are ready to be picked you can cook them whole.
Should you wish to shell your beans wait until the bean is visible through the pod and it should still be a white or pale green in colour this is the perfect time to enjoy shelled broad beans.
Can you eat broad beans raw? Yes you can eat harvested broad beans raw either with or without the pot for the best tasting beans pick when young and are a little flexible. Shop bought broad beans are best enjoyed cooked. We do not recommend consuming seed bought for planting.
Should you skin or deshell broad beans. Yes best enjoyed when young and tender remove the outer pod using your finger nail to break open and remove the beans inside.
Can you compost broad bean plants? Yes once you have finished harvesting simply add any unused pods, shells and plants directly to your compost pile. Note if your crop has suffered any fungal issues during growth we do not recommend composting.
Storing Broad Beans
From saving the seed to keeping your harvest fresh and ready to consume there are a range options depending on your requirements.
Can you freeze broad beans? Yes! Blanch in hot water for 4 minutes and remove to cool then proceed with freezing by storing them in freezer bags or in plastic containers. Freshly picked and frozen broad beans will store for 6 – 9 months in the freezer.
Blanching is recommended to prevent the beans from freezing, without blanching the beans first they will last 2 – 3 months at most.
Saving seed Always keep seed of strong, healthy plants and get rid of any that are not typical of the variety ideally before they flower.
Let your seed beans mature and dry on the bush. The pods will turn dark drown, dry & wrinkled. Then pick and shell them out.
Check that they are really dry by biting on them. If your teeth leave a dent, dry them further in a warm (not hot) place with a good flow of air. Broad bean seeds should keep for several years, so there is no need to grow plants for seed every year
Buying Broad Bean Seeds
Here at Growseed all of our broad bean seeds come in packets of 50, seed is stored in a controlled environment. We offer the following broad bean seed.
- Non organic broad bean seed
Our standard selling seed and our most popular.
- Organic broad bean seed
Should you wish to grow certified organic stock this is the seed for you.
- Treated Broad Bean Seed
On accusation we may replace non organic seed with a treated version however treated seed can be ordered on request. Our seeds are normally treated to prevent rot and disease spread on germination. Unfortunately treated seed does not prevent mice or other rodents from eating the seed!