Broad beans may be dwarf (and multi stemmed) or tall and varieties include green, white and red.
Seeds are normally sown under cover, in individual pots (about 7cm).
There is a risk of predation by mice or squirrels at sowing time. Once the plants are firmly established as defined by the roots appearing through the bottom of the pots, the bean seed should have been largely consumed by the growing plant and the plant should therefore be of less interest to predators. This cannot be guaranteed!
When the roots start to appear through the bottom of the pot, the beans can be planted out in their final positions. In due course, taller varieties may need staking. We suggest a single stake in the centre of a group of plants with string wrapped round to hold them all in a “column”.
As growth continues, blackfly becomes a risk. This is minimised by pinching out the top shoot of the plant when the first pods have been formed. These will be at the lowest point of the plant.
Broad bean seeds can be saved when the pods are fully dry and “crispy” – ready to split when squeezed. However, broad beans are promiscuous and readily cross. Unless only one variety is being grown on the site, the next year’s plants may not breed true and the quality and volume of the crop may be affected. There is also the risk of crossing with related beans, such as fava (field beans). In practice, the impact is minor if the crop is being grown for food. However, it is probably not fair to give away saved seeds at a seed swap without a warning note.
Harvesting for eating fresh is when the pods are feeling solid and firm beans can be felt within the pods.
When the plants are cleared, leave the roots until the ground is due to be re-used as the roots have nodules of nitrogen which provide a fertiliser.