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 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. This 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; being 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).