As you can see in the photo, our broad beans have started cropping (there are some “Easy Peasy” peas from Egmont Seeds in the bowl as well). We had our first broad beans this season for dinner yesterday and are having more tonight. I thought I would talk about my tips for growing great broad beans. They are very easy to grow. You can’t buy them fresh so broad beans are a must-have in the spring garden. We grow them every year. They are delicious lightly boiled with a bit of butter and salt and pepper. We have a recipe in our collection for a delicious broad bean dip and have also made falafels.
The main differences between broad beans and green beans is that (i) broad beans grow in winter and produce in spring; and (ii) you need to shell broad beans because the edible part is contained inside the pods, unless you pick them when they’re very young. Broad beans also don’t climb, but may need some support which I will discuss later on. They are sometimes grown as a cover crop as broad beans add nitrogen to the soil.
Broad beans are very easy to grow from seed. I normally start them from seed in late summer or early autumn, when I sow my other winter veggies. I highly recommend the varieties “Evergreen” and “Exhibition Long Pod” from Yates Seeds, which I grow every season. It is also possible to find dwarf varieties and ones with red flowers, such as “Hughey” from Yates Seeds, which I must try in the future. As broad bean seeds are very large, it is possible to sow them directly where you want them to grow. I personally prefer to raise mine in trays filled with potting mix and transplant them into the garden when they’re large enough, so I have more control of where I grow them and how far apart to space the plants. If you’ve forgotten to sow broad beans and the soil becomes too cold, you can always purchase seedlings in punnets from the garden centre. This is what I had to do one year when I was sick in February and March and unable to raise seedlings for the autumn and winter garden.
I like to add a little granular fertiliser to the ground at the time of planting. I used Yates Thrive Natural Blood and Bone when I put in my plants in autumn. It's a good idea to stake broad beans at the time they’re planted, as they can get quite tall and doing so then avoids damage to the roots. Tie them to the stakes with string as they grow. I liquid feed my plants every fortnight with Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed fertiliser to keep them healthy.
Broad bean flowers need to be pollinated by bees. Make sure you have lots of spring flowers such as lavender, borage, calendula, cosmos and wildflowers to attract bees. My plants started developing broad beans in early October. Check daily for new broad beans and harvest them regularly to encourage further production. If you have a glut, it is possible to freeze broad beans but we normally eat them fresh every day while they are cropping. Don’t leave broad beans on the plant too long once they have developed or they will become quite tough to eat. Broad beans normally finish by mid to late November. I follow them with pumpkin seedlings in their place to rotate crops. When your plants have finished cropping, you can remove the stems and leaves, leaving the roots of the plants in the ground. This adds nitrogen to the soil.
Is anyone else growing broad beans this spring? Have your plants started cropping? I hope you enjoy them!