Sowing Broad Beans

Last year was the first year that I grew broad beans, and I wasn’t overly sure that I would enjoy growing or using these beans in cooking. The good thing about broad beans is that in cold climates they are one of the first plants that can be sown. These delicious, tart beans definitely won me over last year, and I am hoping to be able to do an even better job of growing broad beans this year.

Choosing a variety

Evergreen: This broad bean variety produces bright lime green beans that are plentifully produced on 1-1.5m plants. The pods need to grow to 15 cm in length before harvesting as the beans are surrounding by a lot of cushioning in the bean pod. Suitable for eating fresh, or freezing to be used year round. This variety is widely available in New Zealand. Produces white flowers, with black dots and if planted early shouldn’t have too many problems with pests.

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Hughey: This broad bean variety produces lime green beans that are more muted than the Evergreen variety. Pods are plentiful and on 1-1.5m plants. The pods need to grow to 15 cm in length before harvesting, even though they do not have the same sort of cushioning as the Evergreen variety. These broad beans produce gorgeous violet, red flowers that look gorgeous in the garden early spring when little has bloomed. Suitable for eating fresh, or freezing to be used year round. This variety is also widely available in New Zealand, but not as well-known as the Evergreen variety.

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Exhibition Long Pod: This broad bean is one of the taller growing of the varieties, so best planted in an area where you can provide more space, and where it won’t shadow other plants that you want to sow late winter or early spring. This variety needs proper staking as the plants are strong and can grow to 2m tall. The pods, evident by their name are best harvested when they reach 30 cm.

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Sowing

For evergreen and hughey varieties sow the seeds 15-20 cm apart and 5 cm deep. It does help if you turn the soil over to 20 cm deep and add in some compost for extra nutrients a few weeks before the broad beans go in. However, this is not vital. I would suggest adding in a pellet fertiliser when sowing your broad bean seeds if you do not add extra compost before the beans go in. For the exhibition long pod, keep separation distances at 25 cm, including between rows. Plant in a position that gets full sun, and that has easy access.

 

Broad beans branch from the base of the plant so you want to maintain separation distance and possibly not plant a lot of rows together. If you do, it can be very hard to reach the middle plants and harvest your beans among the may branches that your healthy plant will shoot out. I suggest planting two rows on the edge of the garden bed, making sure you plant them in a bed where you arm span can reach at least to the centre of the bed. Plant, lower lying plants next to the broad beans for easy access to them when it is harvest time.

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Last season the broad beans I planted had issues with yellowing leaves, meaning that the soil was likely deficient in either nitrogen or potassium and I struggled to improve the plant health over the growing season. While this did not affect bean production, it did stunt the growth on a couple of plants. So this year I sowed the seeds with a generic NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertiliser dug into the soil. You can fertilise on the soil surface once the plants are established, but I did not find this method very successful.

Companion planting and crop rotation

In my experience broad beans grow well next to root vegetables such as carrots and parsnip, as long as you ensure 20 cm between the rows. Growing marigolds and calendula next to the broad beans also helps attract bees that are needed to pollinate the broad bean flowers and may keep down aphids.

Spinach, especially the winter queen variety, grows well next to broad beans as you can sow the spinach seeds near to the same time as the broad beans, or when planting out broad bean seedlings. Once the spinach has bolted in the warm summer weather you can replace this by sowing calendula seeds.

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Apparently they also grow well next to dill and potatoes. The issue with dill is that if you are growing it outside with your broad beans, the dill goes in a lot later in the year than the broad beans and will likely be shadowed too much by the established broad beans.

For crop rotation, broad beans should be planted in a different location each year to maintain a good balanced soil in your garden, as well as prevent the recurrence or development of diseases in your garden. In the second year plant broad beans where alliums or root crops have been the year before. Plant herbs, chillies or tomatoes in the location that your broad beans were in year one.

Alanna Marise’s Planting Diary

Evergreen:

  • 5 seeds sown outdoors on 10/06/2018 (early winter)

Hughey:

  • 5 seeds sown outdoors on 10/06/2018 (early winter)

Exhibition Long Pod:

  • 5 seeds sown outdoors on 10/06/2018 (early winter)

 

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