Step-by-step Guide to Growing Broad beans
Vicia faba (fam. Legumuwsae)
Sowing to harvesting time: 3-4 months for spring sowings; 6-7 months for autumn sowings
Size: standard varieties 60-90 cm (2- 3’) tall, dwarf varieties 30 cm (1’) tall
Yield: 5 kg (11 lb) per 3 m (10’) double row
Once an extremely common vegetable, and the only beans grown in Britain—no ‘beano’ was the same without them— the broad bean is now less widely grown. Nevertheless, the ancient broad bean is an undemanding and rewarding early summer vegetable and is eminently suitable for the amateur gardener. It is the first legume to produce a crop in the early summer, and fresh youngare a welcome change from the winter greens which are the most readily available alternative at that time of the year.
The broad bean is a distinctive plant with a square, erect stem, which can be up to 1 m (3’) tall in most varieties, and is occasionally branched. It is pollinated by insects and bears clusters of white, black-blotched flowers in the axils of the leaves. The fertilized flowers develop into pods which hang down from the leaf axils and, depending on the length of these pods and the number of beans in them, broad beans can be divided into two types. Longpod varieties have the longer pods containing about 8 rather oblong beans; Windsor varieties have shorter pods containing fewer large, circular beans. Longpods are extremely hardy and in most areas can be sown in the late autumn to produce an early crop. Windsor varieties are later, producing a heavy crop of flavoursome beans in summer from a spring sowing.
If you buy broad beans from a shop they are invariably too old and have become hard and unappetizing. Home-grown broad beans, however, can be picked when they are still young and tender—a totally different proposition.
Choosing a site
Broad beans do best on an open site but they are not fussy and will grow quite happily anywhere in most gardens and allotments. You should select your site rather with the interest of other crops in mind. When fully grown the bean will form a hedge up to 1 m (3’) tall which will shade any rows of plants to the south of it. You should make sure that plants on either side get sunshine during at least part of the day by planting the beans so that the rows run north/south. It makes sense, too, to plant the beans alongside a crop, such as, that will appreciate the the beans provide in early summer; is another crop which benefits from shade in hot weather.
The best soil for broad beans is a rich heavy loam, well-manured from previous years and deep enough for the plants not to become short of water in the summer. Although broad beans are leguminous plants which obtain nitrogen from the bacteria in their root nodules (and leave the ground richer than they found it) they appreciate additional nitrogen in their early stages.also helps by keeping the ground moist during the summer. If the beans can follow on land well-manured from a previous crop, for example summer , this is ideal.
Do not worry, however, if your conditions are not perfect. Broad beans will do well on most soils provided that they are not waterlogged. If the beans are to follow another crop directly, just dig the soil well before sowing. If not, the land should be prepared in the autumn. Dig the soil deeply, adding gardenor well-rotted manure if the soil lacks it—a good general rate is about 4.5 kg per sq m (10 lb per sq yd). For spring sowings leave the ground rough so that it can be better broken up by the frost and add a further light dressing of compost two weeks before sowing.
Broad beans dislike an acid soil so test your soil and, if acid, add lime as indicated by a soil test kit, about six to eight weeks after digging.
A few days before sowing, add superphosphate, at the rate of 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd). Rake in carefully, so as to produce a level seed bed.