Pick broad beans fresh from the garden and they taste sensational – young beans are sweet, tender and succulent. Sow them in the autumn and you’ll be able to pick them from May. Or sow in late winter and early spring for summer harvests. Short on space? Dwarf varieties can be grown in pots.
In mild parts of the country you can sow some cultivars in sheltered sites in autumn, for a crop that should be ready to pick in about 30 weeks. During very cold weather it pays to cover the plants with cloches or other forms of protection.
The main sowing period is March and April, although they can be sown in February, under cloches or in a cold greenhouse, for an earlier crop. Spring sown crops will be ready to pick in about 15 weeks.
Sow seeds 5cm (2in) deep and 20cm (8in) apart. Dwarf varieties can be sown 15cm (6in) apart. They are best sown in double rows, with the rows 20cm (8in) apart. If a second double row is needed this should be positioned 60cm (2ft) away from the first.
Sow a few extra seeds at the end of the rows to fill in any gaps produced by seeds that don’t germinate.
Taller varieties will need supporting, so place a stout stake at each corner of the double row, and every 1.5m (5ft) round the rows, and run string around the stakes at 30cm (1ft) intervals from the ground.
Water plants when they begin to flower and again two weeks later – watering at other times is only needed during prolonged droughts.
Troubleshooting Growing Problems
Black bean aphid: Sap-sucking aphids will disfigure plants and cause stunting to leaves and stems.
Remedy: Pinch out the top 7.5cm (3in) of the stems when the first growth starts to form – this will also help produce an earlier crop.
Chocolate spot: Common on overwintering plants or in damp, humid weather, this fungal disease causes brown spots on leaves and brown streaks on stems and pods.
Remedy: Ensure there is good air flow around plants by spacing them correctly and keeping the ground weed free.
Pea and bean weevil: This tiny insect bites tiny U-shaped holes from around the outside of the leaf, resulting in a distinctive scalloped appearance.
Remedy: Although unsightly, damage is unlikely to have an impact on the harvest. Covering with fleece will boost growth and exclude the weevils.
You can pick pods when they are 7.5cm (3in) long and cook them whole. When picking pods to shell, wait until the beans are visible through the pod, but don’t leave them too long – the scar on the bean should still be white or green – not black, as the beans will become tough at this stage.
broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chinese cabbage, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, peas, potatoes, radishes, strawberries, swiss chard