3kg per 3m row
20cm between rows
Home-grown broad beans are delicious and wonderfully tender. They’re easy to grow, yielding green pods of green or white beans that can be used in salads, stews an soups.
How to grow broad beans
Sow broad beans in spring or autumn, in rows 20cm apart. Pinch out the tips of plants to prevent blackfly, and stake taller varieties to stop them collapsing under the weight of the beans. Harvest when the pods are just 6cm long, for the most tender beans.
More on growing broad beans:
How to sow broad bean seed
Sowing broad bean seedsCertain hardy varieties of broad bean can be sown in autumn and will be ready for harvesting after about 25 weeks. Spring-sown broad beans develop more quickly and will crop within about 15 weeks, although still later than those sown in autumn. Spring sowing is generally more reliable, especially in heavy clay soil, which can lead to the seed rotting before germinating.
Before sowing, fork plenty of compost or manure into the planting area, then rake the surface to a fine, crumbly texture. Mark out 5cm deep drills, with about 20cm between each, or sow as double rows 15cm apart. Broad bean seeds are large, so they’re very easy to sow. Simply sow them about 20cm apart along the length of the drill. Cover the seeds with soil, firm it down and water well.
If you live in a cold area, have heavy or waterlogged soil, or have a problem with mice (which eat the seeds), then it’s a good idea to sow broad beans in deep pots or modules. Place in a cool, frost-free place, such as a cold frame or unheated greenhouse, and they’ll germinate within three weeks. Plant out after six weeks, when the roots have filled their pot.
How to care for broad bean plants
Cover the newly sown area with netting to protect the seeds from birds and squirrels. Seedlings should appear in a few weeks, depending on the weather and soil conditions. Keep the plants well watered and free of weeds.
To avoid having to support broad bean plants with canes, grow them fairly close together or in double rows. With a gap of just 20cm between them, even taller varieties provide mutual support to do the job themselves.
How to harvest broad beans
If you want to eat broad beans in their pods, harvest them really young (when they’re about 6cm long) before they have the chance to become tough or bitter. To eat them shelled, wait a little longer, until you can clearly see that the pods are bulging with beans.
After harvesting, leave the plants in the ground for as long as possible. Like other legumes, broad beans have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the nodules on their root system, which boost nitrogen levels in the soil. The crops you grow in this area in the following year will reap the benefits.
How to store broad beans
Cook broad beans fresh, or prepare them for freezing by blanching in boiling water for three minutes then plunging into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
Preparing and using broad beans
The fresh pods can be eaten whole like mangetouts when young, or the beans can be left to mature inside the pods.
Growing broad beans: problem solving
Watch out for blackfly, which multiply into dense colonies on the soft, young shoot tips. To prevent this, pinch out the tender shoot tips once the first flowers appear.
Great broad bean varieties to grow
- ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ – very hardy, so great for autumn sowing
- ‘Bunyards Exhibition’ – sweet and subtly flavoured, with a delicate texture
- ‘Masterpiece Green Longpod’ – sweet, nutty flavour and high yield
- ‘Stereo’ – beans have tender skins and are good as a mangetout-type crop if picked young
- ‘The Sutton’ – dwarf variety, so a good option if you’re short on space
- ‘Witkiem Manita’ – an early cropper, producing large, well-filled pods