Best Way to Grow Broad Beans
This is an excellent crop for patio growing, providing succulent pods in the young stage and large, tasty beans when developed. Broadbeans, also called fava beans, provide a generous summer harvest.
Broad beans, or fava beans, can be eaten in two ways, both delicious. If the pods are harvested very young, they can be sliced and cooked like runner beans. In the later stages, the beans are extracted from the pods, which are discarded, and cooked separately. Either way they are particularly good served tossed in butter or with a white sauce.
This is one crop for which you do need outdoor growing space — I have had excellent results when the beans have been started outdoors and allowed to develop in the open, but you can germinate the seed in indoor conditions and put the young plants outdoors after potting on. They adapt well to container growing, though perhaps yielding a smaller crop than would be the case in open ground.
Selectingfor indoor growing
Aquadulce is an early-cropping longpod variety which can be started in late autumn or late winter to produce the first harvest of the following growing season. The bean pods can grow to 15in (38cm) long. A good choice for spring sowing is Bunyard’s Exhibition, with pods growing 12-14in (30-35cm) in length. Imperial Green Longpod is the giant, with pods up to 20in (50cm), but take into account that the longpod varieties are large plants needing wide, deep containers.
Windsor cultivars are smaller plants very well suited to container growing. Bonnie Lad forms compact, erect plants about 12in (30cm) high providing pods 5-6in (13-15cm). The beanpods are generously clustered and extremely tasty when sliced and cooked. Another useful small plant is The Sutton, which is the same height as Bonnie Lad, but the pods are slightly smaller at 4-5in (10-13cm).
Sowing and germination
Broad beans like a rich, well-compostedwhich holds moisture; they do not produce a good crop in poor soil mixtures. It is best to make up a suitable growing mixture from three parts soil-based potting mixture, one part silver sand and one part humus. If you have garden soil available, use this as one part of the growing medium and reduce the amount of potting mixture. The humus you can obtain bagged from a garden supplier, or you can crumble in dried leaves.
The beans should be sown singly with 3in (8cm) of growing space if you intend to pot them on, 6in (15m) for dwarf varieties or 8in (20cm) for the larger kinds if you are sowing direct into the containers in which they will grow and crop. Insert the seed 2in (5cm) deep in the soil, fill the planting hole and firm the soil surface. It is best to sow into moist soil and you can spray lightly after sowing if it seems insufficiently moist.
Broad beans are resilient and can be placed outside on a windowsill, patio or balcony to germinate. Alternatively, keep them in a fairly cool place indoors. Growth should appear above the soil between seven and fourteen days after sowing.
This is one of the easiest of crops for cultivation. Broad beans need very little attention except to be kept well watered. If the growing medium is nutritious, no feeding is required. Early sowings should produce plants in flower by late spring to early summer. You can harvest the beans between three and four months after sowing in spring. Autumn-sown crops can be expected to be ready at about the same time, as the growing cycle is longer because of the slow period of winter growth.