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Broad Beans - Key Growing Information

Broad beans, also known as fava beans, are a hardy, cool-season crop that can add great value to your garden and kitchen. Rich in nutrients, these beans are relatively easy to grow and can thrive in various conditions. This guide covers the best methods to grow broad beans, including tips on planting, spacing, watering, and choosing the right varieties. Whether you have a large garden, a small plot, or even just a balcony, you can successfully grow broad beans.

Scientific Name

Vicia faba

Crop Culture

Broad beans are a hardy, cool-season crop that can be planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. They prefer a sunny location and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Enrich the soil with well-rotted manure or compost before planting, as broad beans are heavy feeders.

  • Planting Time: In milder climates, they can be sown in fall for an early summer harvest. In colder areas, plant as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.
  • Soil Preparation: Work compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting to improve fertility.

Planting Broad Beans

Broad beans should be sown directly into the ground.

  • Depth and Spacing: Plant the seeds 1-2 inches deep and 6-8 inches apart in rows that are 18-24 inches apart. Water thoroughly after planting and keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged throughout the growing season.
  • Support: Provide support for the plants as they grow. Staking or using a trellis can help prevent the plants from falling over, especially in windy areas or when the bean pods begin to mature and become heavy.

Soil and Watering

Broad beans prefer well-drained soil rich in organic matter.

  • Watering: Water regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Insufficient watering can lead to poor pod development, while overwatering can cause root rot.

Recommended Broad Bean Varieties

Choosing the right variety can enhance your growing experience and yield.

Variety Height (cm) Support Needed Sowing Time
Aquadulce Claudia 90-120 Yes Autumn to early spring
Karmazyn 80-100 Yes Spring
The Sutton 30-45 No Spring
Robin Hood 90-120 Yes Spring
Witkiem Manita 80-100 Yes Spring to early summer

Support Systems

Some tall varieties of broad beans require support to prevent them from falling over.

  • Support System: Use stakes or a wire mesh to support taller varieties. Place stakes at both ends of each row and run string or wire between them, securing the plants as they grow.

Growing Broad Beans in Pots

Broad beans can be grown successfully in pots, making them perfect for small spaces such as balconies.

  • Variety Recommendation: 'The Sutton' dwarf variety is ideal for confined spaces.
  • Pot Size: Use a pot that is at least 30 cm in diameter and depth.
  • Soil: Use a high-quality potting mix enriched with compost.
  • Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist and ensure the pot has good drainage.

Growing Broad Beans Undercover

Broad beans can be grown in a greenhouse or poly tunnel, but there are a few considerations:

  • Temperature Control: Growing undercover can extend the growing season but may increase the risk of bolting (premature flowering). Ensure good ventilation to manage temperatures.
  • Pest Control: Keep an eye out for pests that might thrive in the warmer, sheltered environment of a greenhouse.

Harvesting Broad Beans

Knowing when and how to harvest broad beans is crucial for the best flavor and yield.

  • Harvest Time: Broad beans are ready to harvest when the pods are well-filled but still tender. This is usually about 12-14 weeks after sowing.
  • Harvesting Method: Pick pods regularly to encourage continuous production. Hold the stem with one hand and pull the pod with the other to avoid damaging the plant.
  • Signs of Readiness: The pods should feel full and firm to the touch. If left too long, the beans inside can become tough and less flavorful.

Pest and Disease Management

  • Common Pests: Watch out for aphids, blackfly, and weevils. Regular inspections and organic insecticides can help manage these pests.
  • Diseases: Ensure good air circulation and avoid overwatering to prevent diseases such as chocolate spot and root rot.

Growing Broad Beans in Trays or Modules

Starting broad beans in trays or modules is a good practice, especially in cooler months.

  • Tray Planting: Plant seeds in trays filled with seed compost, keeping them indoors until they are strong enough to be transplanted outside.
  • Transplanting: When the seedlings are 10-15 cm tall and have a strong root system, transplant them into the garden, spacing them as recommended.

Packet Sizes for Broad Bean Varieties

Variety Packet Size Description Price
Karmazyn 50 Seeds per packet Red Broad Beans £1.25
Robin Hood 50 Seeds per packet Winter & Spring sowings £1.25
The Sutton Dwarf 50 Seeds per packet Does very well in pots £0.99
Aquadulce Claudia 50 Seeds per packet The best over winter bean £0.99
Witkiem Manita 50 Seeds per packet Very quick growing. Sow in the spring £0.99

Storage and Preservation

  • Fresh Storage: Fresh broad beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Blanching and Freezing: For longer storage, blanch the shelled beans for 1-2 minutes, then cool in ice water, drain, and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.
  • Dry Storage: Dried broad beans can be stored in a cool, dry place for several months.

By following these guidelines and choosing the right varieties, you can enjoy a plentiful harvest of broad beans. Whether you have a large garden or just a small balcony, broad beans are a rewarding and delicious crop to grow.