Real Men Sow

Six Tips for a Successful Broad Bean Crop


If you haven’t overwintered your broad beans (like me) then you might be thinking about sowing some seeds right about now.

I enjoy growing broad beans. They’re attractive plants, with sweet little beans and are one of the first crops of a new season. As an extra bonus, they’re very hardy and dead easy to grow.

Avoid the blackfly, and little else can go all that wrong. Here are 6 tips I have picked up, which have regularly given me a plentiful broadie harvest.

Sow in Pots
I sow most my veg seeds in pots these days, and broad beans are no exception. I sow beans undercover in February, but if you haven’t a greenhouse, you can wait until March time.

To save on multipurpose compost, I will sow up to five seeds in a 6 inch wide pot, before tipping out the contents and breaking up into individual seedlings.

Sowing in pots is particularly useful as the ground in early Spring can still be very wet and heavy in some areas, and not ideal for sowing direct.

Plant Out in Blocks
I plant out seedlings when they are about 6 inches tall, with a gap of about the same between the next plant. Plant another row about 9 inches away, and create a ‘block’ of seedlings. The plants will support each other as they grow bigger.

Stake around the block, and tie string around the perimeter of the plants so they don’t fall outwards.

Pinch Out the Tips
Pinching out the tips of each plant strengthens the setting fruit and helps deter blackfly. I tried this for the first time last year, and it really worked! The time to do this is after the first of the flowers have set – these are normally at the bottom of the plant.

Spray Off Any Blackfly
Nipping off tips isn’t a foolproof prevention method though, so keep a beady eye out for a blackfly outbreak. Blackfly are a common problem and multiply fast, so check every day if you can.

If you spot blackfly, try spraying them off with hot, soapy water. Have a good look around neighbouring rows too, as they can spread onto other plants such as courgette and French beans.

Harvest When the Pods Bulge
When picking pods for shelling, wait until the shape of the beans can be seen through the pod. This is easy to see, but try to get them before the pods get too big. Don’t worry if you miss a few though – parboiled the beans and mash with feta, mint, garlic and olive oil for a delicious spread.

Broadies also freeze really well, so throw any gluts into the freezer for winter.

Good Varieties
My favourite variety is Bunyard’s Exhibition, a long standing cultivar which crops heavily. Other varieties I’ve had success with are Aquadulce Claudia (good if you do wish to overwinter) and Sutton. Sutton is smaller in size, making it suitable for containers and smaller growing spaces.


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  1. @spadeforkspoonFebruary 18, 2014 at 3:11 pmReply

    Great advice thanks. Never tried the hot soapy water trick.

  2. MarkFebruary 22, 2014 at 7:21 pmReply

    Already got flowers on my broadies in the greenhouse! Grown much quicker than expected after an unseasonably mild winter. Recently transplanted most of them to join the ones I’ve overwintered direct into the ground. Adjusting to that big world outside the cosy greenhouse will be a shock but as your mum would say: they’ve got two choices…

    • Jono

      JonoFebruary 24, 2014 at 9:24 pmReplyAuthor

      haha, thanks for the comment Mark.

      I can’t believe how mild it has been. I’ve overwintered caulis, pak choi and all sorts in the greenhouse, and had raspberries on my canes until December. Crazy really.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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