Broad beans: growing tips and variety guide
SALLY TAGG / GARDENER NZ / Stuff
Pick the beans when they are young and tender.
Zipped inside their woolly pods, fava beans are the only beans tough enough to grow all winter long. Add them to pastas, salads and stir-fries or prepare mashed beans on toast. They are also great for shelling and freezing, and you can even eat the young shoots and immature pods.
sow and grow
- When to sow: April to July in hot regions; March to April and August to September in cooler regions
- When to transplant: April to August in hot regions; May to September in cooler regions
- Position: Full sun
- Harvest: 11-15 weeks
- Good for beginners
Sow broad beans in mid-autumn to mid-winter in warm areas and early to mid-autumn, then again in late winter and early spring in warmer areas. cold prone to frost. Seedlings can come in between mid-autumn and late winter in warm regions, and late fall and early spring in cooler places.
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Step by step
- Sow the seeds 4 cm deep and 15 cm apart.
- The seeds should germinate in 10 to 14 days.
- Leave 60cm between rows or plant double rows 30cm apart, with a space of 60cm between each subsequent double row.
- If your soil is particularly wet and soggy, first sow the seeds in trays, then transplant them into the garden when they are about 10cm tall.
The beans will germinate well at temperatures ranging from 7 to 10°C. Enrich the soil with compost, aged manure and a little lime before sowing.
Most broad bean varieties reach at least 1m in height, so place a row of strong stakes every meter or so along both sides of the row. Wrap a strong garden twine back and forth across the row from stake to stake, wrapping around the stems.
Water the seeds deeply after planting, then be sure to give them plenty of water throughout the growing season, especially when they flower and produce pods. Plants will also benefit from a fortnightly liquid feed of worm tea or seaweed fertilizer.
The beans must be picked regularly to continue producing. For podded beans, pick the pods when they are about 30cm long and as thick as your thumb. When the plants stop producing, cut off the foliage and side stems, but leave the main stem and roots in the ground so the rhizobia bacteria can release all that stored nitrogen in the soil. (Like all legumes, beans have nitrogen-fixing bacteria inside their root nodules).
Hardy and prolific, ‘Superaguadulce’ has 25cm long pods with seven to eight seeds and matures 75 days after planting.
If you don’t like staking, don’t have much space or want to grow beans in pots, opt for ‘Cole’s Early Dwarf’ or ‘Robin Hood’, an award-winning 45cm dwarf variety with pretty green pods and beans that are particularly resistant to cold.
It’s undeniable that there’s something quite chic about black and white bean flowers, but purple-flowered ‘Hughey’ is particularly striking in the vegetable garden. Although it has pink flowers, it produces bright green beans (unlike traditional red-seeded beans which remain red when cooked but instead produce white flowers).
Wet spring weather can lead to fungal disease Botrytis fabae, commonly called chocolate stain because it looks like the leaves, pods and stems have been dusted with chocolate. Remove infected plant material as soon as you see signs and dispose of it in the trash or burn it to prevent the spread of spores. The fungus will stay in the ground, so don’t plant your next crop in the same spot for at least two years. Growing in neutral to alkaline soil with plant spacing that allows good air circulation around the plants will help.
Black aphids can be a nuisance in early summer, blast off with your hose or smash with your fingers.