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how to grow broad beans

How to grow Broad Beans

Broad Beans are a superb crop for smaller plots, producing high yields from a comparatively small area of your vegetable garden. They are best eaten freshly picked from the plant, so home-grown Broad Bean crops have a far superior flavour to those found in the supermarkets.

Broad Bean seeds are cheap, easy to handle and simple to germinate. All in all, the perfect vegetable crop for beginners or growing with children. Take a look at our range of Broad Bean seed for sale and give some a try - you won’t be disappointed! If you don’t like the idea of growing Broad Beans from seed, we can even supply you with young Broad Bean plants which can be grown on before planting outdoors.

Broad Bean Varieties

Broad bean crimson flowered

There are plenty of Broad Bean varieties to choose from, including many that hold an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Here are just a few of our favourites selected from our full range of Broad beans.

How to grow Broad Beans from seed.

When to sow Broad Beans

Broad Beans are normally sown in the spring from February to April. However some varieties are particularly hardy and can be sown in autumn from October to November (provided that that soil is still reasonably warm). Autumn sowings will give you a head start and an early Broad Bean harvest.

When sowing Broad Beans in early spring or late autumn, it is well worth putting cloches in place prior to sowing outdoors. These will warm the soil in advance, aiding germination and establishment of the plants during the earliest stages.

Direct sowing

Many gardeners choose to direct sow broad bean seed either under cloches in late autumn or February, or without protection from March to April. Grow Broad beans in full sun on rich fertile, well-manured soil. Choose a sheltered position away from strong winds.

Plant broad beans in double rows, set out at 23cm (9") apart. Staggering these rows will help you make the most of the available space. You will need to allow at least 60cm (24") between each set of double rows in order to access you crops.

Sow broad beans at a depth of 5cm (2") deep and a distance of 23cm (9") apart within each row and water well. Germination usually takes around 10 days.

bean-plot

Sowing in the greenhouse

If you prefer to start your Broad Bean plants in the greenhouse then they can be sown into module trays, Root trainers or small pots. Germination tends to be more reliable under greenhouse conditions and it is easier to control pests such as mice, slugs and snails.

If the soil is frozen outdoors then sowing in the greenhouse is a far better option. They can be planted out once the soil is warmer and the plants have developed a good root system. Don’t forget to ‘harden them off’ to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions prior to planting.

broad beans in containers

Tips for growing Broad Beans

  • Support plants to prevent them from flopping under their own weight. Simply place a cane or stout stick at each corner of a double row and tie a taut piece of string between each cane. This is especially important in windy gardens.
  • Keep Broad Bean plants well watered, particularly as the flowers begin to set.
  • Hoe between rows regularly.
  • Pinch out the growing tips after the first flowers have set pods to deter blackfly and encourage further pods to set

Growing Broad Beans in pots

Broad Beans can easily be grown in containers. Dwarf varieties such as Broad Bean ‘The Sutton’ are ideal for growing on the patio. They have deep root systems so choose a deep container to accommodate them and be sure to keep them well watered throughout the growing season.

broad bean harvest

Harvesting Broad Beans

Broad Beans can be harvested and cooked as entire pods while they are immature at around 7.5cm (3") long. However they are more usually harvested a little later than this, when the pods are well filled and the seed still soft. They can then be shelled and eaten as individual beans.

Top Tip: The scar on the edge of each bean should be green or white in colour. If it is black then the beans have passed their best and will be tough and chewy when eaten.

Broad Beans are ideal for freezing. Simply pick them, shell them from their pods and pop them into a plastic bag in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

Pests and Diseases

  • Mice - Mice are particularly partial to Bean seeds and will often dig them up before they have a chance to germinate. Where mice are a particular problem, try starting your plants off in the greenhouse. Traps will help to control the problem. Direct sown crops can be covered with fleece during germination to prevent mice getting to them.

  • Blackfly - Aphids, particularly Blackfly, are a common problem when growing Broad Beans. They often attack the young growing tips. These can be pinched out and the plants sprayed with a suitable insecticide.

  • Chocolate Spot - This disease is very distinctive and particularly prevalent during wet summers. Dark reddish or chocolate brown spots appear on the foliage and stems causing plant in severe cases. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed.
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Sue Sanderson

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.