Spring-sown beans

The commonest time to sow beans outdoors is from late winter to early spring depending on local weather conditions. You can plant in the late winter if you have a sheltered garden with a mild climate but should wait until the middle of early spring in colder and more exposed places. The beans from these sowings will be ready for picking from the beginning of early summer. If you want an earlier crop you can sow under cloches, up to a month sooner. Remove the cloches when the plants start to touch the roof.

Broad beans are a cold weather crop and do not do really well during the heat of the summer. Nevertheless, staggered sowings will give you crops throughout the summer. You can sow in mid-spring to pick in late summer and again in early summer for an early autumn crop.

Autumn-sown beans The hardy broad bean can withstand severe frosts as low as minus 7-9°C (15-20° F) and is thus suitable for autumn sowing in all but the coldest areas. Pick a hardy longpod variety, like Aquadulce, and sow in the usual way in late autumn.

There is often little advantage in autumn sowing, however, unless you plan to use the broad beans as wind protection for another crop. Autumn-sown broad beans will crop 2-3 weeks earlier than spring-sown beans and are also less likely to be attacked by bean aphis, but against these advantages there is always the possibility that a cold, wet winter will destroy the crop entirely.

Some gardeners protect autumn-sown beans with cloches but, even if these are available, risks are involved. If the winter is mild the beans will grow so strongly that they will have to be uncovered in the early spring. A sudden cold spell, once the cloches have been removed, could then kill off all the early growth.

Dwarf beans

If you do have cloches available for broad beans you are better advised to grow a dwarf variety. These plants grow to about 30-45 cm (1- 1-1/2’) tall, so they are unlikely to become too big too early in the season. They are also useful in a small garden or allotment where there is not room to grow taller varieties. Do not expect such a heavy crop as you would get with taller varieties, however.

Sow a dwarf variety in single rows with 25-30 cm (9-12”) between plants and 30-60 cm (1-2’) between the rows, depending on the variety. The plants will grow to produce a bush with three to five stems about 45 cm (1-1/2’) wide.

Care and cultivation

Broad beans grow at a time when weed growth is particularly strong, so regular hoeing around the plants is necessary, especially when they are small. Additionally some weeds, such as thistles, occasionally grow up within the rows very close to the beans. Do not risk trying to remove these with a hoe. Pull them up by hand.

In a wettish year, broad beans will not need watering, as the early summer soil should still be fairly moist. They cannot withstand drought, however. If the soil does begin to dry out, as it may well do for late crops, water generously.

Although they are not true climbers like runner beans, broad- beans are, nevertheless, tallish plants with a good deal of bushy foliage, which is supported by quite shallow root systems, so you will need to give all but dwarf varieties some help against the wind to prevent them being blown down. Small plants can be supported by earthing up for about 7-15 cm (3-6”) around the stems (this also gives some protection against very cold or very wet weather for beans sown in late autumn, and over-wintered) and by placing twigs in the ground alongside the plants in the same way that you would for peas.

Twigs are not sufficient, however, for tall varieties in windy areas, particularly on sandy soils. In such areas, tie the plants in with string. Place thin stakes or canes at 1 m (3’) intervals down both sides of the double rows close to the beans. Then tie round the stakes with twine 30 cm (1’) and 60 cm (2’) above the ground. The beans can then lean against this ‘pen’ in windy weather. As the plants grow, remove the sideshoots from the base of the stems, while they are still small, so that each plant has only one main stem. As soon as each plant has set about four or five flowers, pinch out the growing points at the top of the stems. This has two uses. It encourages the formation of pods and also discourages aphids (blackfly) which like to feed on the growing point and youngest leaves.

If the growing points are clean they can be either cooked and eaten like spinach or added to your compost heap. If they are infected with aphids, however, burn them to destroy the pests.

As broad beans are leguminous plants, obtaining nitrogen indirectly from the soil atmosphere through their root nodules, they do not need any feeding once they are growing.

31. August 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Spring-sown beans

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