How to Grow Broad Beans

Broad beans are high in protein and the plant is an excellent soil improver.

How to Grow Broad Beans

 Botanical Name:Vicia faba

Plant Type: Hardy Annual

The broad, or fava bean, Vicia faba, has a distinguished heritage, having been cultivated in Europe for at least 4000 years, and prior to the discovery of the new world was the only bean cultivated on the Continent. It is a frost-hardy annual, with its wild ancestor thought to have come from the Mediterranean or Middle East. It is traditionally grown through the cooler months to supply beans for the kitchen when other types are unavailable and deserves to be grown more widely in Australian gardens.

Broad beans are high in protein and the plant is an excellent soil improver.

Varieties

There are over 40 varieties of broad beans that form a number of distinctive groupings. Most varieties can grow up to one metre in height and being top heavy are susceptible to wind damage. A number of dwarf varieties are available, and as well as being less prone to wind damage, they mature early and produce numerous small pods. Tall varieties are classified as either long pod or short pod types. Long pods, as their name suggests, have longer pods and are hardier plants than their short pod cousins. The short pods also generally mature later but have the advantages of broader pods containing larger beans and are generally of superior flavour to the long pod types. Long pods, being hardier, are a better choice for autumn sowings, while short pods are best sown at the end of winter to early spring, to avoid the harshest conditions.

Cultivation

Broad beans perform best in warm, sunny positions and do well in most soils, provided there is an ample and constant supply of moisture. Broad beans require similar growing conditions to that of other beans, and preparation and management practices are largely the same. The principal difference is the sowing time, with sowing traditionally taking place from autumn through to early spring, surviving heavy frost. In our trails, broad beans have prospered when grown in the warmer spring months and have suffered less from mildew and other fungal problems at this time, but they must be sown early enough to flower before the onset of 20°C and above temperatures. It is important to select beds with full sun, but with protection from the wind, because strong winds, combined with heavy rain (a common combination in southern areas during spring), can result in plants falling over.

Seed should be sown to a depth of 5cm at a spacing of 50 cm to 60 cm. Once established, plants may need support in loose soil, and short lengths of bamboo make ideal stakes. Ensure that once plants start flowering, they receive ample water to promote the pods developing without any checks to growth. Broad beans are hardier than the common bean and most pest and disease control practices for other beans work well with broad beans. Beds should be rotated each year to avoid disease build-up. Being a legume, they improve soil and are an excellent green manure crop.

Sun: Full Sun           

Pollination:self-pollinating, insects

Soil: When preparing garden beds for beans it is important to ensure that there is a good supply of potassium in the soil, and providing nitrogen as well tends to produce more vigorous plants. Broad beans are tolerant of acidic conditions but perform best in neutral conditions, so we recommend the use of lime or dolomite to counter soil acidity.

Growing from Seed

Sow: sow seeds directly to a depth of 5cm in compost enriched soil.

Ease of Germination: easy

Germination Temperature: 10°C–18°C.

Germination Time: 10-14 days

Spacing: 20 cm

Harvest: 60-120 days

Yield: 1kg/metre

Maintenance and Additional Care

As long as they are planted in fertile soil enriched with compost, broad beans do not require fertilization.

One of the key things to remember when it comes to how to grow broad beans successfully is that taller varieties will need supporting, because broad beans (unlike French or runner beans) do not climb and tend to flop as they grow tall.

Keep soil moist during flowering to ensure optimum pod development and keep the water up if there is a dry spell.  As they are legumes, broad beans generally do not require additional fertilization.

Companion Planting

Good companions:  carrots, lettuce, marigolds, celery, peas, potatoes, parsnip, cabbage, parsley, eggplant.

Bad companions: beetroot, onions & garlic, kohl rabi, sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes.

Pests and Diseases

Several pests, diseases and disorders can affect broad beans, but these robust plants are rarely severely damaged and usually still produce a good crop. 

Aphids can be a problem, and these can carry other fungal diseases so they must be kept in check.

Growing in Containers

Broad beans can be grown in large pots or containers. In the early stage of growth, they can be tip pruned regular to bush the plants up so that they don’t require support. Use a good quality potting mix and liquid feed monthly with a complete organic fertilizer

Harvesting

The pods can be picked when small and tender and steamed whole or left to reach full maturity to be stored as dried beans to add to stews and soups.

Seed Saving

Seed Longevity: 6 years

Isolation Distance: 1600m

How to Save Seed: broad beans are best left on the plants to dry. They can then be easily shelled and stored

Tips and Tricks for Success

  • when the pods start to grow on the lower part of the plant it's a good idea to pinch out the growing tip to help the pods grow well and also to reduce the severity of any attack by aphids.
  • after harvesting, leave the plants in the ground for as long as possible. Like other legumes, broad beans have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the nodules on their root system, which boost nitrogen levels in the soil. The crops you grow in this area in the following year will reap the benefits.