Broad bean seed varieties and when to sow
If you are lucky then cultivars such as broad beans can be sown in the mildest parts of the country in the Autumn, to give a pickable crop in just over 4 months. However, we strongly suggest that protecting your plants with cloches or fleece during the cold weather.
Most of us though will have to wait for the weather to warm up, and for us the main sowing period is March & April though they can be sown in February in a greenhouse or under cloches if you want an earlier crop. These Spring sown broad beans are usually ready for picking in 2 and a half to 3 months.
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 youâ€™re growing lines, leave at least 45cm between them. Too close together, and chocolate spot will turn them blotchy.
We strongly recommend the following types of broad bean:
Red Epicure for a Spring sowing: Red Epicure is full of flavour and is an early cropping bean with uniformly filled pods which retain their striking colour if steamed rather than boiled.
The Sutton, a dwarf broad bean for Autumn/Spring sowing. The Sutton are bushy, compact plants which produce masses of beans which makes it ideal for small or exposed gardens.
De Monica disease resistant broad bean seeds for Autumn sowing.
Aquadulce Claudia broad bean seeds are probably the best for Autumn sowing.
Spring sowing Meteor Vroma broad bean seeds produce long, well filled pods of tender beans - early cropper.
Disease resistant Robin HoodF1 hybrid broad bean seeds produce 6 beans per pod from May.
Masterpiece Green Longpodbroad bean seeds for Spring sowing - full of flavour and ideal for freezing
Sciabola Verde broad bean seeds for Spring sowing producing 8 plus beans per pod from an early harvest.
Growing broad beans
Taller varieties need support, so place a sharp 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. Doing this should stop them being blown over when you aren't there to tend them.
Water your plants when they begin to flower and again a couple of weeks later â€“ watering at other times is only needed during drought conditions, so this makes broad beans very easy to grow.
You can pick broad bean 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 as the scar on the bean should still be white or green - not black, as the beans will become tough at this stage.
Black bean aphid: The black bean aphid is a sap sucking aphid which will disfigure plants and cause stunting to leaves and stems.
Remedy: In the case of broad beans, pinch out infested tips. On other beans, catch populations when small and squash OR resort to a spray bottle of aphid killer if you can catch the infestation soon enough.
Chocolate spot is common on overwintering plants or in damp, humid weather. This is a fungal disease which 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
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.