How to grow your own broad beans
Broad beans are easy to grow and an incredibly versatile addition to your kitchen. Choose a sheltered spot and ideally, soil which has had manure or compost added in winter. Broad beans are not as fussy as Runner beans and can be grown in any soil that is in good condition.
When and where to grow Broad beans
- When to plant: End of February, as soon as the soil is suitable
- When to harvest: From May, throughout the summer months
- Ready in: Approx. 3 months
- Challenge level: A doddle
Prepare the seed bed so that it is firm and rake in some fish, blood and bone fertiliser before sowing or planting. Broad beans will thrive in a well-drained site that has been thoroughly dug.
How to plant Broad beans
Sow in a prepared seed bed in a ‘double row’ as soon as the soil is suitable from the end of February. Sow the seeds 5cm deep and 10cm apart in the row. The double rows should be staggered and 25cm apart. Allow 60cm between each double row. Alternatively, plants can be raised in individual 9cm pots and transplanted once they are established. It’s also worth sowing a few extra seeds at the end of each row – these can then be moved to fill in any gaps where seeds don’t germinate properly.
How to grow Broad beans
Smaller plants usually support each other, especially when they are planted in double rows but tall plants may need staking. Strings attached to sturdy stakes inserted at 1.2m intervals will work well.
Caring for Broad beans
Be sure to hoe your Broad beans regularly as it’s important to remove weeds as soon as they appear. Unless the weather has been particularly wet, soak the plants as soon as they begin to flower, and then again two weeks later. Soils that drain quickly might need more irrigation, so keep an eye on the area you’ve planted your Broad beans in.
In cold areas, or when winters are severe, plants will need fleece or cloche protection.
Harvesting Broad beans
Begin to pick the pods as soon as they have started to swell in size. It’s worth harvesting the lower pods first as small beans tend to be sweeter and more tender than the larger ones in your crop. Immature pods can be picked, steamed or boiled and eaten as ‘Mange Tout’.
Mice can dig into the ground and eat the seeds. Chocolate Spot can cause brown blotches on the leaves but does not generally affect the crop.
Bean Aphid (Blackfly) is common but can be controlled by pinching out the tips of the plants once they are in full flower. An insecticide can also be used at the first signs of attack.
In periods of overly wet weather, beans and seedlings can rot.
During the winter, frost and snow damage can cause the plant tissues of young, autumn sown plants to become transparent. When this happens, plants can topple over and not recover, so it’s important to protect them with fleece in cold spells.