How to Grow Broad Beans in the Vegetable Garden
Growing Broad Beans
Once you know how to grow broad beans, you will realise that they are easily grown and most useful because of their earliness.
The broad bean is available in two main types, long-pods and Windsors. The longpods, as the name implies, have longer pods, usually with more beans, which are of spherical shape; the Windsors have flatter beans, which are generally considered to be of better flavour. The types are further classified according to the colour of the bean skins, which may be white or green; the latter are better for freezing. Other variations of broad beans are the early cultivars, such as ‘Aquadulce’, and the reddish-seeded ‘Red Epicure’, which is much liked by some for its taste. A number of dwarf varieties are also available.
Although, when growing broad beans, they are often sown in a double row, maximum cropping may be achieved by sowing the beans at intervals of 115 mm (4-1/2 in) in single rows 450 mm (18 in) apart for taller varieties, and at intervals of 230 mm (9 in) in single rows 230 mm (9 in) apart for the dwarf varieties.
The early ‘Aquadulce’ types are sown in October to November in the south and in January in the north; most other varieties are sown from February to April. If the weather is extremely cold it may be wise to delay sowing or alternatively to sow the broad beans in a garden frame and transplant them, after hardening off, when conditions improve. The dwarf variety ‘The Sutton’, may be sown under cloches in February; allow access for pollination by insects, and remove the cloches in late spring.
Growing broad beans, will require well-dugenriched with plenty of compost; however, on sites which were well prepared and manured for a previous crop, the addition of a general fertiliser may be sufficient. Do not apply fertilisers that are over-rich in nitrogen to the autumn-sown varieties as these will encourage too vigorous a growth in the young plants. Broad beans grow best in sunny locations, but they will tolerate some shade.
To ensure a tender crop, harvest the beans before the pods have fully developed — they should be 75-100 mm (3-4 in) long. If the crop is especially heavy, the young pods may be picked and cooked whole. After harvesting, cut down the stems and leaves but leave the roots in the soil: their concentration of nitrogen will benefit other crops.
A variety of diseases may affect growing broad beans. Slugs and snails may be dealt with by sprinkling Draza pellets. Blackfly may be discouraged by nipping out the growing point of the plants when plenty ofhave developed and have started to set pods (these tops may be boiled and eaten too). You can control blackfly with insecticides such as dimethoate, but if you use them remember not to harvest and eat the beans until the chemicals have lost their toxicity. Chocolate spot, a disease that causes dark-brown spots on the plants, may occur especially on autumn-sown beans; well-drained soil helps to prevent it occurring, while spraying with Bordeaux mixture (a copper-based fungicide) may cure it.
EARLY: ‘Aquadulce Claudia’.
GENERAL: ‘Imperial Green Longpod’; ‘Masterpiece Green Longpod’; ‘Green Windsor’ varieties.
RED: ‘Red Epicure’, a longpod variety.
DWARF: ‘The Sutton’; ‘Bonny Lad’.
Dwarf Broad Beans
Sutton, grows only 10 in. high, and branches freely.
Dwarf White Fan, green seeded with small pods. Grows 1 ft. high. Early.
Aquadulce Claudia, the earliest; produces very long pods of good flavour. Recommended for autumn sowing.
Green Long-pod, green-seeded; early and prolific. Long pods; good for cooking.
Johnson’s Wonderful, medium-sized pods; often used when half-grown and cooked whole.
Masterpiece, superior green-seeded variety with long pods.
Sussex Wonder White Long-pod, very broad pods; most prolific and earlier than Johnson’s Wonderful.
Green Windsor, a heavy cropper of good flavour.
White Windsor, not such a heavy cropper, but has better flavour and cooking qualities.
Site: Most places, not too shaded
Soil: Enriched with compost, free-draining
Sow: Earlies, October—January; others, February—April
Harvest: Before beans are fully grown