How to Grow Broad Beans

Broad beans germinated in toilet roll holders

Broad beans are cheap and easy to grow from seed.  You need a good number of plants for a decent crop and germinating from seed is the most economical way to get a good crop. Broad beans are a large seed, easy to handle and to germinate. Watch the video for  tips on sowing broad beans and a video looking at the different types of beans and tips about planting beans 

Broad beans are the hardiest of the bean family to grow, quick to germinate, in about 5-7 days of sowing, and they put on rapid growth producing a crop around June /July depending on the growing conditions.  In more sheltered parts of the UK, with a soil which is well drained you can sow Broad beans in the autumn,  the best known varieties for autumn sowings is Aquadulce Claudia' and the plants will overwinter. However if your soil is heavy, wet, poorly drained or in an exposed area Broad beans are best sown in the Spring.

The image in the centre above shows the Broad Bean just emerging after germination. Beans have long roots and need to be planted in a deep, and not in a shallow container. To do this you can buy from garden centres containers known as root trainers, which can be expensive, or as image left shows Broad beans can be germinated into toilet roll holders  in which they will grow well until ready for planting out. The main tip,  when growing Broad Beans in toilet roll holders, is to take care when watering and avoid soaking the cardboard otherwise it may go soggy and collapse. The image left shows Broad bean plants ready to plant out with their roots extending out of the toilet roll holders in which they have been germinated.

When growing Broad Beans they can be germinated from late February onwards. Fill suitable containers with compost, damp it and press down gently to ensure there are no air pockets and then place a bean seed about 7 cms down the container, sprinkle with a little compost and cover. Put in a warm place and germination should occur after a few days. Broad beans can be planted out in March/April and also sown direct into the veg plot.  When growing Broad Beans  in the veg plot or planting out note they will  need some protection from severe weather. Plant in double rows 30 cms apart, shallow about  7 cms deep, plant every 15cms.

Broad bean support system

Image  top right shows the bean coming into flower and Broad Beans do have attractive flowers usually white, or this variety which is a very attractive crimson., and is simply called Broad Bean 'Crimson Flowering'. One of the main tips about growing Broad Beans is to be aware Broad Beans do not climb or cling and need support as they have a tendency to flop over. The best way to do this is to grow the Broad Beans into a corridor to keep them upright using string and bamboo cane supports. 

 In addition to preparing the ground, adding good organic matter, you need to set up means of keeping the beans upright. Broad beans will not grow up canes and instead it's best to create a run using canes and string.  This works very well and as illustrated left, the plants grow  inside the string and keep the string tight and about 1ft/30cms apart  so you can plant a double row of beans and use the string tunnel to support the beans as they grow. 

 Some crops are more upright in their growth, and I have grown Broad Bean 'Oscar' without support and found it to be excellent.

This keeps the beans in check  and is much better than trying to train up canes and wigwams which are really only suited to Runners and French beans, and peas. 

                                                  Beans need very little else other than appropriate support. They can suffer from black fly which cluster on the tips and new growth . it is recommended to pinch out  the top grow to try and prevent it because the young tips are the bits the black fly are drawn to.

The image left shows how to create a corridor of support using bamboo canes; wrap the string around to create support. When growing broad beans bear in mind they grow to a height of around 1.5 metres and which means the support will need several layers of string. Broad beans have a tendency to splay out wards and so need regularly to be pushed back in within the string supports. As soon as the pods swell and you can feel the beans inside they are ready to pick. 

Broad bean support system using natural materials

When growing Broad Beans if conditions are wet, there can be problem with rust (small brown patches on the leaves) and chocolate spot ( spreading brown patches) may occur. Rust is not too much of a worry remove the leaves and battle on . Chocolate spot is  a problem as it can spread across the plants as quickly as you try to remove the leaves. It's a relative of Botrytis ( a type of  mould ) and chocolate spot only affects Broad beans. As it is related to mould, damp will encourage it so when planting and growing Broad Beans space them out more generously to allow greater air flow. Broad beans will need watering in dry spells. 

If you want neat tips,  and the  RHS gardens always have the tidiest vegetable plots ever seen, in the image left,  instead of using canes and string, the RHS garden at Harlow Carr supports the Broad beans with twigs which have been pruned off plants and shrubs earlier in the year. Lots of plants require support and twigs and branches do look a lot nicer  than canes. Just a question of collecting enough to make the supports so I guess those winter gales  have a purpose when they bring down all the twiggy tree bits; don't compost them, but keep for the vegetable plot.

There are many other types of tasty beans to grow and all are easy green wheelbarrow vet : runner beansgrowing beans and easy peasy peas.

How to get a second crop of broad beans

Broad beans second crop

Broad beans are vigorous plants and it is always worth trying to get a second crop which can be harvested during late August,  September especially if the late summer and early autumn is warm with some good sunshine .  In July, cut down the plants from which you have harvested the beans, and those whose foliage is looking tired, shortening it to around  20 cms. Within a short time the plants will throw out new shoots, and if it's a reasonable summer, new flowers will appear and in due course  produce a second crop, less vigorous, but still worth picking. The image left was taken in October when the plants were still cropping, although the pods are smaller the plant produced a light crop throughout September and into October. 

After harvesting cut plants down to ground level using the tops for compost, and leave the roots in for their nitrogen content.

Good Varieties of Broad Beans to Grow

Good varieties to grow, all of which are AGM (Award of Garden Merit) Aquadulce Claudia, The Sutton, Express, Imperial Longpod and the crimson flowering variety  (not AGM) is simply called 'Crimson Flowered'

In  2017 I tried Broad bean 'Oscar' because it is described as being compact, and not requiring support which would be a plus.  It is a popular variety with commercial growers and freezes well. It performed well in what was a poor summer and I will definitely be growing it again.

Video How to plant and grow Broad Beans