How to Grow Broad Beans

how to grow broad beans

Broad Beans are one of the traditional crops for large vegetable patches and allotments and the plants can be a little difficult to accommodate in small gardens but home grown broad beans picked fresh from the garden and shelled straight away far outshine bought ones so they're well worth growing if you have the room, even just as an occasional crop.

You'll need a few rows  for a worthwhile crop and they grow 90cm tall needing quite a lot of support, otherwise they'll flop and sprawl untidily.

When To Plant 

Sow in trays undercover in February/March, or in April in rows where you want the plants to crop. Plant indoor raised plants once the weather improves in late March or April spacing 20cm apart in double rows each 20cm apart with 45 cm between these double rows.

Care Tips

No extra feeding is needed

Water in and then water routinely if it's dry season. No extra feeding is needed but plants need support so use Pea and Bean Hoops with jute netting or string to hold them up without breaking the fragile stems.

Space Broad Beans Between Each Row

Where you have plenty of room plant Broad Beans 20cm apart in double rows 20 cm apart as usual but increase the spacing between the double row to 60 or 90cm - the extra room means plants have larger area from which take up moisture from the soil so they cope better in dry conditions without watering. The extra space also means you can walk between the rows to pick and tend to the crop.

Early Spring & November Sowing

If you enjoy broad beans make several sowings to keep yourself supplied over a longer season starting with early and late spring sowings followed by November sowing using a suitable variety. 

Broad Beans Harvest

As pods start to swell, open one to check on the progress of the beans inside. Start picking once the beans are the size of your thumbnail -  they are most tender while small. Pods can be picked even younger an eaten like French beans but you might see this as a bit of a luxury with a limited crop!

To pick the pods pull the pod gently back against the direction in which it is growing, twisting slightly and taking care not to skin the stem of the plant (If pods are difficult to pick by hand, snip them off with secateurs instead)

Expect to be picking most of the crop over six weeks from mid June to the end of July.

Possible Problems

Mice, Pigeons & Cold Weather

Seeds sown early outside in spring are at the mercy of mice and pigeons (who will happily eat the lot!) or cold wet weather that makes them rot. You can protect seeds under cloches or fleece, raise your plants undercover first or sow later when conditions are better.

Black Fly

Black Fly is a regular pest of broad beans they congregate around the plant tips and on young developing pods once the plant sets pods nip out the growing tips to remove the black flies favourite feeding sites.

Chocolate Spot Disease

Chocolate coloured markings on the leaves are caused by a fungal disease called Chocolate Spot this can be prevented by adequate feeding, good drainage and good air circulation around the plants - another fungus produces rusty brown markings on the leaves it occurs late in the season but isn't a worry and won't affect your crop.