broad beans

  • Grow at Home - Broad Bean

    Broad_bean_plant_in_flowerThe Broad Bean is the hardiest and earliest of all the beans to grow yourself.  Like many vegetables, shop bought versions don't do the tasty flavour justice.  They are well worth growing to enjoy fresh from the furry pod.  There many varieties to try including the Red Flowered which has stunning deep red flowers and a beautiful fragrance as well as delicious beans.

    Soil and Aspect

    Grow Broad Beans in heavy soils that are well manured and have good drainage - Manure should be incorporated and dug in during the Autumn.

    Choose an open sunny site, protected from strong winds, especially if growing over the winter.

    Broad Bean Sowing

    Overwintering varieties are sown in late Autumn.  Other varieties can be started off from late winter through to the end of the Spring.

    Sow in double rows in a shallow trench 20 cm wide and 4 cm deep with 20 cm between the seeds.  Alternatively Broad Beans can be started off in Rootrainers in the greenhouse early in the year for planting out in the Spring.

    Aftercare

    Broad_bean_pods_on_bushKeep weed free throughout the growing season - a Speedhoe will make short work of weeds between the rows.  If there is a dry spell, give plenty of water throughout the period until the pods start to swell.  Provide support for taller varieties with canes or an Ornamental Frame. When the first pods start to form, pinch out the top 8cm of growth - This will reduce the danger of black fly attack and aid pod formation.

    Harvesting and storage

    Pick the pods when they have become swollen. Do not allow the pods to become too mature because they will become leathery and tough.  Continuous harvesting extends the cropping season.  Broad Beans are best picked and used fresh.  Any surplus beans can be frozen or dried.

    Pest and Diseases

    The most serious problem for the broad bean is black fly - Removing the growing tips when the pods are starting to mature will help to deter this problem.

     

  • Grow at Home: Green beans

    Green beans come in bush or pole varieties and within these there are many, varied cultivars from runner beans to dwarf beans.  Traditionally called "green" beans the cultivars come in a whole range of shapes, sizes and colours including purple, orange, yellow and mottled.  So plenty to brighten up the veg garden and put on a show.

    What to plantBeans_on_plant

    What to plant depends a lot on what you like to eat, when you want to eat it and a little on the space you have.

    Bush green bean varieties grow to about 2 feet (60 cm) tall. They come in a week or two earlier than pole beans, but produce fewer beans

    Pole bean varieties can grow 8-10 feet (2.5-3 m), and need a trellis or something to climb on for support. They’re called “pole beans” because one popular way to grow them is in “teepees” made of bamboo poles or branches.  Pole beans take longer to start producing than bush beans, but they produce for a longer period and seem to have a bit more flavour.

    Runner beans are the ancestors of the modern green bean varieties and grow to 10-12 feet (3-4 m),  Many are put off by the stringiness of the shop bought ones but picking them fresh from your own garden is a different matter so these should still be on your list of potentials.

    If you really like green beans and have the space, then plant both bush and pole beans.  The bush beans will come in early in the summer, followed by the pole beans which will keep producing after the bush beans are done.

    Sowing

     

    If you have space, start the beans off indoors on a windowsill or in a propagator, in late April or May. Sow a single seed 1" (2.5cm) deep in Rootrainers or small pots.  Put them outside when the weather is good to harden them off.  They are a tender plant though that doesn’t tolerate frost so wait to plant them out until the risk of frost has passed.  Usually in late May/early June in the UK.  If in doubt (and to give them an extra boost) then once outside, cover them with a cloche or a tunnel to get them off to a great start.

    You can sow them directly outside from May to July but virtually no one does! Some types such as Climbing French beans will crop continually into September. But dwarf French beans crop only over a few weeks, so you may want to make an additional later sowing.

    Beans need a warm, sunny spot in well-drained soil.  Fork in some well-rotted manure before you plant yours out.

    Container Growing

    bean_planterIt is perfectly possible to grow beans in containers.  The Pea and Bean Planter holds 6 bean plants in the space of little bigger than a tea tray.  It has pockets to slot your canes into so makes it easy to support them.  This planter allows those with just a balcony or very little outside space to enjoy a summer's worth of home grown beans.

    You can also grow beans in Vegetable Planters or even a 5L Vigoroot Pot with a Water Saucer so the plant can take water as and when it needs it.  Beans will usually need a much larger volume of compost than this to grow successfully.  But, because Vigoroot air-prunes the roots then a compact 5L pot is all you need.

     

     

    SupportCane_bean_climbing

    When properly spaced, bush varieties grow together into small bushes and support each other, and need no trellising.

    All the climbing varieties need support though.  From the traditional A Frame or tippee arrangements of 6' to 8' bamboo canes held with ties to the sturdier no nonsense Steel Pea & Bean Frame.  This frame is great for beans, peas and even sweet peas.  It is a perfect option if you find tying canes together to be a bit too fiddly.  But your veg garden doesn't have to be boring, there are also more ornamental frames such as the Square Ornamental Frame or even a statement piece like the Eiffel Tower which could make your garden stand out from the crowd. 

    Whatever method you choose, loosely tie the plants to your support an they will naturally start to climb. Once the plant reaches the top of the support, remove the growing point. This will encourage side stems.

    Flower setbean_flowers

    Runner beans sometimes fail to set (there are flowers but no beans)  This was a particular problem in 2018 when there was actually a summer in the UK (!) The prolonged spell of really hot weather meant that there was insufficient moisture and flowers did not set.  To avoid this ensure the soil is constantly moist and doesn't dry out and mulch in June to retain moisture.  Watering the plants in the evening will also help and gently spraying the whole plant including near the flowers to increase the humidity encourages flowers to set.

    Flower set is better in alkaline, chalky soils. If your soil is neutral or acidic adding lime will help.

    French beans set flowers more easily than other varieties so if this is a persistent problem then it might pay to choose a different variety the following year..

    Harvesting

    Bush beans will take about 50 to 60 days to be ready to harvest.  Pole varieties will be a little longer at 70 to 80 days.

    Harvest the beans regularly as this will stimulate the plant to produce more beans.  Picking regularly will also prevent any pods reaching maturity.  Once a pod reaches maturity the plant will stop flowering and no more pods will be set. and the bean season will be over too soon.

     

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  • Broad bean experiment: did it work?

    How to Grow early Broad Beans with Vigoroot Pots, Growlite Coir and Water Saucers

    I have an update for those of you following my early broad bean experiment (Original blog post).  Firstly to recap, this is a new and rather different method of growing broad beans in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers.

    Broad beans in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots Beans have started to grow

    You will recall I sowed the beans in December.  Possibly much too early for broad beans but I like to experiment.  Then I kept them permanently indoors on large, bright windowsills. They must have liked the conditions as they soon began to grow.

    The Haxnicks Water Saucers meant watering was a fortnightly task so very low maintenance.  I just checked the water reservoir and topped up as needed.  The integrated wicks did their job taking the water and food directly to the plant on demand.

    Pollination

    The next challenge was the lack of pollinators in the house, and generally around this early in the year.  So I stepped in with my soft paint brush and gently dusted the flowers to transfer the pollen.  Then it was a waiting game to see if the pollination had worked.

    Paint brush being used to pollinate broad beans Delicate touch to pollinate the flowers

    Pretty soon the flowers fell away and the swelling of the bean pods could be seen.  As often happens with these experiments we didn't quite get it right.  We didn't pollinate quite as many flowers as we should have done meaning that the crop is a little smaller than expected. Still enough to make a great meal, with more to follow, and we now know that we just need to do a bit more brush work next time.

     

    Young broad beans pods growing on a plant The broad beans starting to grow
    Young broad beans pods on a broad bean plant More broad beans growing

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Broad bean pods on bean plants Broad bean pods almost ready for picking

    In conclusion the experiment was a success and it is possible to have home grown broad beans on your table by May 1st.

    The only thing left now is to make the huge decision between simply drenching them in luscious melted butter or trying something  new like Olive Magazine's Broad Bean and Mint Panzanella with burrata  

    Decisions, decisions!

     

  • Growing early broad beans, from leggy to luscious

    How to Grow Broad Beans with Vigoroot Pots, Growlite Coir and Water Saucers

    Now I would like to share with you a new and rather different method of growing vegetables and in this case broad beans. I have been experimenting with air-pruning pots, coir growing mediums and self-watering systems for many years, and it gives me great pleasure to see our Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers now on the market and available for anyone to use.

    This very simple demonstration shows how to use these three products to grow some broad beans (an old favourite of mine best eaten smothered in melted butter).

    I sowed the beans in December, which is really much too early for broad beans.  I wanted to see just how early the beans would grow if kept permanently indoors on large, bright windowsills (a bit of an experiment in itself).

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

    The beans were germinated in Haxnicks Growlite. They were then potted on in Growlite which is a coir based growing medium that I have experimented with, developed and perfected over roughly the past 8 years. It has excellent water retention as well as good drainage and although it naturally contains only low levels of nutrients it can hold other added nutrients well and allows easy absorption by plant roots. Growlite includes various organic nutrients including seaweed and will feed a wide variety of plants during the first 8-10 weeks of their life. After this I simply add a little organic plant food on a regular basis to the water I give them.

    Haxnicks Water Saucers making watering a doddle

    We make the Vigoroot pots from recycled polypropylene. The density of the fabric is designed to air-prune the roots of the plants. As the tips of the roots grow into the fabric, their tips die off (air-pruning), which stimulates the plant to grow more roots from its core, and these roots become more fibrous and are able to absorb more nutrients. The result is that the plants don’t get ‘root-bound’ and don’t need to be potted-on into larger pots, but grow larger, faster and healthier, producing more abundant crops. Vigoroot Pots work especially well for fruit trees and fruit bushes as well as flowers, herbs and vegetables.

    Haxnicks Water Saucers showing their wicks

    The kit

    I used the new Haxnicks Water Saucers as a permanent watering and feeding system for the bean plants. Each Water Saucer comes with a capillary wick that is pushed up into the middle of the Vigoroot pot (cut a small hole first), and the plant then draws up the water through the Growlite and capillary wick from the water saucer, which needs topping up every few weeks. After the first two months I started adding a little Maxicrop plant food to the water. Obviously you can choose your plant food to suit the type of plants you are growing.

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

    As I had started growing the plants too early in the season, they didn’t get enough hours of sunlight during the first few months . Subsequently they grew a little too tall and ‘leggy’ as they searched for more light. I decided to cut them back to about half their height.  Within a few days their energy was diverted to producing an abundance of flowers, which hopefully will start to turn into beans before too long.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    This whole system of growing plants using the Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers is remarkably simple to set up and incredibly ‘low-maintenance’. The plants require almost no attention other than a few kind words of encouragement every now and then, and their use of water and plant food is almost 100% efficient - very similar in fact, to a hydroponics set up. So far, the beans are growing beautifully, and look set to produce a great crop later in the season.

    Must put butter on the shopping list...

  • Runners around the Maypole

    garden_maypole_with_runner_beansThe Haxnicks Garden Maypole

    First of all, just because something is practical doesn’t mean it has to be boring. The new Haxnicks Garden Maypole Plant Support is an attractive frame for climbing plants. Suitable for flowers such as sweet peas or vegetables such as runner beans.  It bridges the gap between functionality and ornamental interest.

    Though Instagram would have you believe it, decorative vegetable gardening is not a new idea. For many years vegetables and herbs have been a feature in ornamental gardens. Many have interesting textures or colourful foliage and flowers.  Many also smell great.
    As a result, when grown alongside traditional ornamental plants, they really add interest.  Their shapes can create wonderful contrasts and harmonies. Simply designing your vegetable garden in a different way can make a big difference and make it visually more appealing.  Introducing trellises, archways and other architectural features is quite simple and can be stunning.

    Haxnicks Garden Maypole stands over six feet tall.  It creates an elegant frame for climbing vegetables.  Runner beans, French beans, mange tout and peas are all ideal. The Maypole is tough and durable year on year. It is strong: the material selected for the centre pole and decorative finial is black powder-coated steel. From this eight rot-proof, polypropylene strings radiate out.  Finally strong galvanised-steel anchor pegs complete the package.  Like most Haxnicks products it is easily packed away and stored once the season has ended.  And can be used again the following year.

    Vegetable Garden

    Runner beans are one of Britain’s most popular home-grown vegetables.   From sales of the Garden Maypole it seems that Britain’s gardeners are getting more adventurous about where and how they grow them too.

    As long as gardeners are having fun with their plot and creating something they love then we are happy.  However, if you always grow your beans up canes.  And if the beans are always right next to the strawberries. Just behind the lettuces. Next to the onions.  And if it just might be time for a change to happen.  Garden Maypole might be the answer.

    If you decide to go for a redesign then please tag us in your Social Media posts.  We would love to see your new improved garden.

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