How to Grow Broad Beans (Fava Beans) – A Guide to Growing Broad Beans
Broad (Fava) Beans
- For Crop Rotation plant them with peas and beans (legumes)
- Easy to grow.
- Sow direct in their final growing position as described below or start them in 3″ pots. Plant these out when the seedlings begin to show.
- Broad Beans in the UK called Fava Beans in the USA
- Autumn varieties are sown in October / November
- Spring varieties are sown in February / March or as late as early May
- Germination takes about 21 days
- They like a good level of humus and a lot of potash. Potash helps to prevent the fungal infection , chocolate spot.
- After harvesting put the stalks on the compost heap and leave the roots in the ground to decompose . They are legumes, and capture their own nitrogen in their root nodules .
Varieties of Broad Beans
There are three main types of broad (fava) beans:
- Longpods – Long narrow pods up to 15 inches ( about 38 cm) long with 8–10 beans per pod. There are both green and white varieties
- Windsor– shorter and broader than longpods, with 4–7 beans per pod. There are both green and white varieties are said by some to have a finer flavour. They are not generally frost hardy.
- Dwarf varieties – the plants freely branching and grow to only about 12-18 inches ( 30–45 cm) high. About half the height of longpods and windsors . They are good to grow under cloches.
- Aquadulce Claudia (white) is a popular choice for autumn sowing. It is hardy and prolific and good for freezing. Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
- Masterpiece Longpod (green) has a fine flavour and crops early – which can be good if you suffer with chocolate spot or rust. Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
- Red Epicure (redish brown) are a distinctive good flavour and turn colour slightly when cooked.
- Green Windsor (green) takes longer to mature that longpods. A flavoursome broad bean which is superb for soup or as a cooked vegetable .
- Windsor White (white) is a traditional variety first introduced in 1895, it is a prolific cropper of large beans with an outstanding flavour.
- The Sutton (white) is an excellent dwarf variety. It only grows to a height of 45cm (18 inches) and is suitable for windy sites and for growing in pots or containers. Each pod produces 5-6 nutty flavoured broad beans.Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
Pests and Problems with Broad Beans
Tall broad bean plants can be blown over in windy conditions , so support should be provided. The easiest way is to use stakes or strong canes and horizontal strings on each side of the row of bean plants.
The main pest on broad beans is blackfly on the young growing tips in summer. Remove the top portion where the blackflies gather. Or you can wash them off with soapy water or a hosepipe
Rust can be a problem on broad beans later in the growing season. It is a fungal disease spread by the rain and makes the plants look as if they are going rusty. It grows rapidly in warm wet conditions causing leaf drop and possibly reduce the size of the pods .
Chocolate spot is another fungal disease. It causes dark, chocolate-coloured spots on all parts of the plant. It can cause the plant to collapse and is worse in overcrowded , cool, moist, conditions. A lack of potash may weaken plants so add extra potash to the soil.
Sowing and Growing Broad Beans
Sow winter varieties in late October–November for an early crop in June, In a bad wet winter plant losses can be high so consider your local climate. Sowings under cloches from late February through to early May can give a crop from June–October, but the later you sow them the more prone they are to blackfly and fungal diseases.
For best results, sow into 8 cm (3 inch) pots under glass or in a cool greenhouse. These can be planted out about three weeks later. Or sow directly into their growing position. If you do it is a good idea to sowing a few seeds into pots to fill any gaps where they have not germinated . The usual spacing is 20 cm (8 inches) apart in double rows 20 cm (8 inches) apart, staggering the plants. This helps them to support each and some sticks and string will ensure they are not blown over. Space these staggered rows 60–75 cm (24–30 inches) apart.
If you are growing a few in containers, use larger pots, planting 15 cm (6 inches) apart, with at least six plants per pot to support each other.
Harvesting Broad Beans
- Pick young tender sweet broad beans when you can feel the bean inside the pod .
- Broad beans freeze really well although they can be dried.
Blanch older beans and remove the tough outer skin before eating or freezing.