Broad beans are incredibly productive for a small area.
Broad beans are another of those love em/hate em vegetables. Some people can’t stand them, but for others, broad beans are the heroes of the plate at a time of year when not many fresh veges are ready to harvest. They are easy to grow and require very little attention so have a go at growing them in a GreenSmartTM Pot. In USA they are known by their Italian name – fava bean. Either way, this bean has a rich history.
Another benefit is that they are nitrogen fixers – or more correctly, bacteria on the roots do the nitrogen fixing. Growing broad beans is a great way to increase the nitrogen levels in the soil for following crops. Here is a YouTube clip about nitrogen fixing fava beans.
Growing Broad beans and their conditions
Broad beans need full sun and protection from strong winds. Plant them from seed. In cooler parts of New Zealand, plant broad beans from February to September. In temperate areas (like Auckland) planting can be done from February to July. Here are some details about Kings Seeds’ choice of broad beans.
You need to allow for the plants to grow up to 1 to 1.7 m tall. So support the plants with twine as they grow taller. The stems are almost square in shape.
When growing broad beans they don’t like water logged feet, self draining GreenSmart pots are perfect for winter conditions. Soak the seeds over night and then discard any seeds that don’t swell up with water.
The pot will be able to grow about 15 plants so sow say 20 seeds at a depth of 5 cm and thin out the smaller plants when they are about 10 cm tall. They will germinate quite quickly.
They will thrive in soil temperatures ranging from 6 to 240 C. Mulch the soil surface in colder areas to keep it warm. Flowers are mostly pollinated by bumble bees. When the first bean pods start appearing it is time to pinch out the growing tips at the top of the plants.
Use well rotted fertiliser. Eg a few handfuls of sheep manure pellets. If you have a wood fire, add a couple of handfuls of ash to provide potash to the plants.
Pests and Diseases
If there signs of aphids give the plants a weekly squirt with a garlic and chilli spray.
If planting in spring time, growing broad beans and corn work well together. The corn supports the beans and the beans provide nitrogen for the corn.
It takes about four months to harvesting. Regular picking encourages more growth. In warmer areas cut back the stalks to encourage a second crop.
In the Kitchen
Fresh new shoots can be used in salads or steamed like spinach. Pick the pods while the pods are about 10 cm long and split them open to get the beans while they are juicy. If they get too big they will be starchy and bitter.