Grow Your Own Broad Beans
Nowadays it is rare to find fresh Broad Beans for sale in the shops. Frozen they are readily available and along with peas and sweetcorn probably number among the few vegetables that retain their taste and texture when preserved in this way. Tinned broad beans are also quite acceptable but neither frozen nor tinned can compare with broad beans picked fresh from the vegetable garden.
How to Grow Broad BeansBroad beans are not too fussy about soil type but avoid very acid soil and a waterlogged site.
Choose a fairly sunny position for the beans and for Spring sowing dig over in the Autumn. Dig in well rotted manure or compost if necessary. Do not grow broad beans in the same place two years running.
For an early summer crop sow varieties of bean in November in a sheltered, well-draining position. If the winter is severe some plants are likely to die but sometimes overwintering seems to prevent blackfly.
An early crop can also be obtained by sowing under cloches in February.
Sow a maincrop variety in the open in March, April and May at monthly intervals for picking from late June to early September.
Sow broad beans in blocks of 2 rows 12 inches apart. If you have enough room for more than one 2 rows block leave 3 feet between blocks. Each bean should be planted 2 inches deep and 4 inches away from the next bean.
Keep the beans well weeded and water as necessary especially if the weather is dry when the pods begin to form. Mulching into compost between rows helps to retain moisture.
To protect broad beans from high wind put a stake at each corner of a double row and run two rows of string from one stake to the next forming a 'fence' around the plants.
When the first four trusses of beans have formed some gardeners pinch out the top 3 inches of stem. This is said to offer some protection from blackfly and also to give an earlier crop.
Do not allow the beans to get too big and tough. Harvest when medium sized but still tender. Pick with a downward movement as it is quite easy to pull the plant out if the beans are yanked upwards.
Problems with Broad BeansFrom time to tme, your broad beans will suffer from pests and diseases. Here are a few to watch out for:
Symptoms: Black aphids appear on the plants in Spring. They can damage the flowers and thus the beans.
Solution: Try growing an overwintering Broad Bean and pinch out the tops of the plants when the first four trusses of beans have formed.
Symptoms: Flowers fail to appear on the broad bean plants.
Cause: Too much nitrogen in the soil.
Solution: If using a fertilizer use a well-balanced one for peas and beans containing phosphates and potash.
Symptoms: Minuscule black or yellow insects can be seen on the beans and the pods and leaves develop silvery patches.
Solution: Remove and destroy spoiled crop. Dig soil over immediately.
Symptoms: Small brown spots appear on the leaves and streaks of brown appear along the stems. Pods and beans can be affected. If the whole plant goes brown it will die.
Solution: Do not sow broad beans too close to each other.