Beans – Broad Beans (aka Fava Beans)

Fava beans are easy to grow.  Plant directly into their growing position – or start in 3 inch pots (to be planted out as soon as seedlings begin to show).

  • Plant them 6-9 inches (15-23 cm) apart, spacing rows 18 inches (45 cm) apart.
  • The usual spacing is 8 inches (20 cm) apart in double rows 8 inches apart, staggering the plants. T his helps them to support each other.  Stakes and string will ensure they are not blown over.   Space staggered rows 60–75 cm (24–30 inches) apart.
  • If planting directly into the soil, it is a good idea to also start a few 3 inch pots in a cold frame, which can be used to fill in any gaps if some of the soil seeded plants fail to grow.


  • Germination takes about 21 days.
  • They like rich soil with lots of humus and potash; potash helps prevent fungal problems.
  • For crop rotation, plant with peas and beans and other legumes.
  • Sow autumn varieties in October / November for an early crop in June.
  • Sow spring varieties  in February/March – or as late as early May for crops from June-October.  But remember that the later into the spring you sow broad bean, the more prone they will be to blackfly & fungal infection.
  • Tall varieties can be blown over in windy conditions.  Use stakes and horizontal strings on each side of the row of bean plants to provide shelter.
  • Good staking helps ensure it will be easy to add netting when the beans start to mature to protect the pods against the birds.
  • The main pest to broad beans is blackfly on the young growing tips in summer. Remove the top portion where the blackflies gather.  Or wash them off with soapy water.
  • ‘Rust’ is a fungal disease spread by rain and makes plants look ‘rusty’.  It spreads rapidly in warm, wet conditions and can cause leaf drop and reduce the size of the plant’s pods.
  • Adding a potash fertiliser helps protect plants from succumbing to fungal diseases.
  • You can start to harvest tender young beans when you can feel the bean in the pod.
  • Broad beans freeze really well.  Beans can also be dried.
  • Blanch older beans and remove the tough outer skin before eating or freezing.

After harvesting compost the stalks, but leave the roots in the ground to decompose.  As legumes, broad bean plants capture nitrogen in their roots, so leaving the roots to decompose helps enrich the soil. 


There are 3 main types of broad beans:

  • Longpods: Long narrow pods up to 15 inches (38 cm) long with 8–10 beans per pod. There are both green & white varieties.
    • Aquadulce Claudia (white) is a popular choice for autumn sowing. It is hardy, prolific & 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 fungal infection. Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
    • Red Epicure (redish brown) are a distinctive good flavour and turn colour slightly when cooked.
  • Windsor: Shorter & broader than longpods, with 4–7 beans per pod. There are both green & white varieties are said by some to have a finer flavour. They are not generally frost hardy.
    • Green Windsor (green) takes longer to mature that longpods. A flavoursome 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.  
  • Dwarf varieties: The plants freely branching & 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.
    • 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 beans. Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).