How to Grow Broad Beans

Also known as fava beans, broad beans are the rare cool weather bean, though not technically a bean at all but a vetch. Still members of the legume family, they are rich and succulent, grow more similarly to peas than beans and have a great variety of culinary uses and health benefits. Here are some tips on how to grow broad beans in your own home garden.

VARIETIES
Broad beans come in many different varieties, some of which claim to be more resistant to warm weather. Mostly you can rely on the fact that they will have small differences in size and taste. Check with local growers to find out if there is a specific type best for your area.

WHEN TO GROW
Broad beans can be grown as summer annuals in the north and from fall to winter in the south. They prefer temperatures of 60° F – 65° F. Avoid growing when temperatures exceed 75° F or drop below 40° F or your crop will suffer. They will not set pods if the temperatures are too hot. In areas like the Midwest, where winters are harsh and summers get hot fast, plant fava beans as soon as the soil can be worked. They germinate fine in cold soil, so the sooner you get them in the ground the better. They’ll need 80-100 days to mature.

WHERE TO GROW
Broad beans are best grown in cool climates with consistent temperatures of 60° F – 65° F. Choose a sunny spot in your garden; they’ll need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, but more is better.

Companion plant fava beans with strawberries, cucumbers, corn, potatoes and summer savory. Avoid planting them with garlic or onions.

BEST SOIL FOR GROWING FAVA BEANS
Broad beans need loose, fertile soil in order to thrive. Enrich with plenty of mature compost prior to planting. Test the soil to be sure you have a pH of 6.0-6.8.

PLANTING
Grow 4-8 plants per household member. Sow seeds 1 inch deep and 3-4 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 8 inches apart once they have emerged.

Avoid transplanting if possible, but if you live in a short growing climate and need to get a head start, sow fava seeds indoors in biodegradable pots to help limit the risk of transplant shock. Set out transplants 8-10 inches apart.

Fully grown broad bean plants may need staking for support. Put your stakes in place at the time of planting to avoid root damage later on.

WATERING & CARE
Broad beans should be watered regularly to keep the soil consistently moist. Avoid over-watering and overhead watering, which can lead to mildew.

Hand weed carefully to avoid damaging the shallow fava bean roots. Use mulch to help keep down weeds and maintain soil moisture.

Broad beans should not need any fertilizer if you plant them in compost-rich soil.

PEST CONTROL
Bugs, rabbits and deer all have a taste for broad beans. Watch out for aphids, leafhoppers, mites, and beetles. Handpick and blast them off with a hose. Organic sprays can help. Deer and rabbits are best kept at bay with good fencing.

Other pest control tips: Harvest before the weather becomes too hot. Keep a clean, tidy garden. Keep your plants healthy and well looked after.

HARVESTING
Broad beans can be harvested as immature pods, like snap peas, or grown to maturity and shelled as dry beans. Pick green fava pods when they are about as big as a pea. Harvest mature pods once the shells dry out, usually after about 85 days but check the seed packet for your particular variety.

TIPS & ADVICE
To increase the process of legumes turning atmospheric nitrogen into plant food, you can inoculate the beans with rhizobium bacteria. There are inoculants specific to broad beans but any legume inoculant should do. Coat the seeds in inoculant powder just before planting. This is as simple as dampening the seeds and shaking them in a bag or can of the powder until they are well covered. Some inoculants may just require you to mix in with the soil prior to planting.

Do you have tips on how to grow broad beans? Let us know in the comments section below.

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