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Grow at Home: the best way to grow Broad Beans

Written by Sarah Talbot

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Posted on 20 December 2020

Broad beans, or Fava beans as they are called in the USA, are a very popular bean.  Around 10,000 tonnes are grown commercially in the UK every year. They are simple to grow yourself and if you are organised will be one of the first veg of the year to be ready to eat. 

When to Sow

Broad Bean plants in flower

When to sow broad beans is all down to which variety you choose. So choose your seeds carefully.  

Usually, they are sown in the Spring, from February to April. Some varieties have been bred to be more hardy and can be sown in autumn, from October to November to overwinter and provide an early crop.  We have even managed to successfully sow them in December and with the help of a large, bright windowsill.  It was a very early crop that year! 

If you are short of space there are even dwarf varieties that you can grow in pots.

Sowing

Sow seeds on the windowsill or in the greenhouse in Rootrainers or in small pots.

To sow in Rootrainers, add one seed about 2cm (1") deep to each cell and gently cover with soil then water well.  Pop the lid on and place in a greenhouse, cold frame or windowsill.  Check every week to make sure they don't dry out. 

Germination should take around 2 to 3 weeks.    

Planting Out

If you go for an early sowing then our top tip is make sure your soil is reasonably warm before you plant out.  You can do this by covering the bed with a Fleece Blanket or Fleece Easy Tunnel for a few weeks before planting.   

Transplant the seedlings outside when they are large enough to handle.  Plant them 5-7cm  (2-3”) deep in double rows with a distance of 20cm (9”) between plants and 30cm (1 ft) between rows.  Put either canes or maypoles in place to support the plants as they grow.  

Care

Unless there is a severe drought then you only need to water plants when they begin to flower and again two weeks later. Container grown plants may need more watering so remember to check the pot.  

When the plants flower don't forget to smell them as they have a lovely scent! Once they are beginning to show the pods, pinch off a couple of inches from the top of the plant. This will direct the energy towards the pods rather than new growth, and also reduces the risk of aphid invasion.

Harvest

They take between 15 weeks (Spring planted) and 30 weeks (Autumn planted) to be ready to harvest.  So, pick them from April to September depending on when you sowed them.  

The pods are ready when they are about 7.5cm (3") long.  Before harvesting, make sure that the beans within the pods are large enough. They should be about 1/3 of the weight of the pod.

Storage

If you aren't going to eat them straight away then freeze them.  To do this first blanch them, then let them cool before you bag them.  If you don't want to freeze them you can dry them out and keep them in an airtight container.

 

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