Broad beans are one of the easiest vegetable crops to grow, and also produce well for little trouble. They have a bad name because they attract blackfly aphids, but these are very easy to prevent on this crop.
One of the good things about growing broad beans, is the fact they can be sown in the autumn, supported when they start growing, then forgotten about until the spring. An October sowing of the right variety and you will be harvesting the nutritious beans the following June.
Broad Beans are members of the Legume family, so they leave a supply of Nitrogen in the soil after harvest. A good spot for some leafy salad crops, or you can even plant some lettuce either side of the beans.
As with most vegetables, broad beans are best grown in an open position. Full light is best, though a little dappled shade seems not to bother them. Most soils are suitable for growing them, but add rotted manure or compost for bumper crops.
Broad beans are also suitable for growing in containers on the patio, and will at least give a good display of light green foliage through the winter months. 45cm pot, with 3 or 4 canes around the perimeter will give support through the winter.
If sowing in the autumn it is always a good idea to sow a few in single pot units - just in case any fail through the winter. If they all survive, then don't discard the spares in the spring. Pop them into a container to give some interest before you plant up your ornamentals.
Forget about making drills or trenches. Simply push the beans into the soil in a double row. The rows can be around 30cm apart, and the seeds sown at 12cm spacing - about the width of a fist.
If you live in severe winter areas or have a naturally wet soil, then plant the autumn ones individually in pots and overwinter in a cold greenhouse or sheltered place.
If you don’t get round to sowing in the autumn, then February is your next option. This later sowing will start to crop in July through August.
They grow into fairly dense bushy plants, so will need some protection in windy areas. A few stakes with strings stretched between them normally suffices.
Mice are one of the problems - and reason for sowing a few spares. They like to dig them up and eat (part of their five a day no doubt). Wire mesh across the rows before the seedlings emerge is a good idea.
Young broad bean plant that had been pot-sown and is now ready to
plant in the vegetable plot.
Young broad bean plant that had been pot-sown and is now ready to plant in the vegetable plot.
Blackfly of course needs to be mentioned. No real problem. Simply pinch out the growing tips after the beans have finished flowering.
Rust on the leaves sometimes happens. It is a little unsightly, but not to be worried about. Clean up all the old debris after harvesting, and burn.
Autumn sowing and you cannot beat Aquadulce, or you can try to obtain Aquadulce Super.
Spring sowing can be carried out with a few old favourites – Green Windsor, or Giant Exhibition if you want to show off. It tastes good as well.
If you cannot be bothered with the staking and protection, then the variety The Sutton is your choice – a good short variety.
If you live in colder areas - like the North of UK for instance, then winter sowing should be done under the protection of cloches. Better still, sow the seeds individually into pots so that they can be moved to a sheltered position whilst growing, if required. A cold greenhouse or garden frame is ideal for this. So too is a low polythene tunnel or cloche.