Broad Beans seem to be one of those crops that you either love or hate... here at Bulbs Direct HQ, we're big fans!.
Broad beans are a fabulous winter cover crop - they're nitrogen fixers for your soil, provide food for your family and produce beautiful flowers that add colour to an otherwise dreary time of the year. If you haven't given them a go before, why not try a few out!
Planting Broad Bean seeds:
- Broad Beans like it sunny and protected from wind. They can grow up to a couple of meters high, so the more protected from prevailing winds the better.
- Soil should be rich and well-manured. Avoid Chicken manure, and other fertilizers which are high in nitrogen. Broad beans add their own nitrogen to the soil... too much Nitrogen will mean you have a healthy looking plant, but very few beans!
- Sow seeds between May and August, at a depth of 4cm and 15cm apart.
- Water deeply at planting, and don't water again until the seedlings begin to emerge. From then on, make sure you give them adequate water throughout the growing season, especially when they're in flower and setting pods.
Broad beans need support - even the dwarf varieties grow to 1m in height, so all Bean varieties need staking (or trellis to grow up). The tall-growing varieties can be pruned when 1m high or when beans form on the lower trusses - this not only helps with avoiding the spring winds, but makes a denser, healthier plant.
Stakes should be strong and driven into the ground to support the weight of plants (they will end up rather heavy). A light stake lashed to the upright stakes helps to support the tops.
Harvesting Broad Beans:
The size your beans are when you pick them is really a matter of taste - if you're wanting to eat them whole (pod and all) then you're best to pick them at a young stage (around 5-8cm long). These are delicious boiled up with a sprinkling of salt, and a good dollop of butter.
If you intend eating the beans, and removing the outer pod (great for dips, blanched in salads etc)... let them get slightly larger, roughly the thickness of your thumb.
Eating young Bean shoots:
If you're not a fan of the beans, but you like the thought of adding some freshness to your salads, you can't go past fresh bean shoots! Young shoots (the first 10cm of the stem’s growing tip), can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach.
Once your Bean plants have died down:
When your broad beans have done their dash, and you're left with those sad, empty looking stems... don't biff them! they are a gardeners dream! cut these down and dig them into the soil (roots and all) where they will act as a handy fertilizer for your soil – adding nitrogen back to the benefit subsequent crops.