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The best way to grow broad beans of fava beans

Written by Nicola Wallis

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Posted on 18 July 2022

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. 

The 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 are many varieties to try including the Red Flowered which has stunning deep red flowers and a beautiful fragrance as well as delicious beans.

When to sow broad beans

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

How to sow broad beans

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.    

Where and how to plant out broad beans

Broad Bean sees can be started off in Rootrainers in the greenhouse early in January or February for planting out in the Spring. 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.   

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.

When to transplant broad beans

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.  

Broad beans and after 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.  

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 reduces the risk of aphid invasion.

Keep weed free throughout the growing season - a Speedhoe will make short work of weeds between the rows.

Provide support for taller varieties with canes or an Ornamental Frame

How to harvest broad beans

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. Pick the pods when they have become swollen and be careful 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.

How to store broad beans

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

 

 

 

 

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