How to Grow Winter Broad beans

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 PotsGrowlite and Water Saucers.

Broad beans in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

Beans have started to grow

You will recall I sowed the broad 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.

How to pollinate early Broad Beans by hand

The next challenge was the lack of pollinators in the house, and generally around this early in the year. The solution was to use a soft paint brush and gently dust the flowers to transfer the pollen. 

Paint brush being used to pollinate broad beans

Look for the pollen on the flower and with a delicate touch simply brush the centre of the flower until you can see some of the pollen on the brush.  Then move to the next flower and repet the process, depositing the pollen off the brush.  

Then you have to play a waiting game to see if the pollination has worked.

It worked for my plants and 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

These pictures show the broad beans starting to grow.  More beans come along and finally they are ready for picking.  

Young broad beans pods on a broad bean plant Broad bean pods on bean plants
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 to do was 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!
Sarah Talbot