Broad beans are grouped in relation to the times they take to mature. There are dwarf beans which grow just over 30cm and tall beans which grow to over 1.25m in height. They are often one of the first vegetables to produce a crop in summer. Longpod varieties, these contain around 8 oblong beans and are a very hardy crop. The longpods can be sown in late autumn to produce an early crop. Windsor varieties, these have much shorter pods with fewer beans in, however these produce a sweeter crop and greater yields. They are best grown in raised beds with a heavy soil which has been well dug in with manure the previous season.
They prefer soil with a high nitrogen level, and not acid soils. They are easy to sow as they are a large seed which whilst benefiting from a few days in a propogator, can be planted in situ where they will grow. Ideally sow them in double rows alternately spaced, by this I mean seed in one row against a space in the opposite row. Sow to a depth of 6 to 7cm deep and allow 9 to 10 cm between each bean. They germinate best at moderately cool temperatures and takes 2-3 weeks when sown outdoors, however I have used a propagator to good effect with beans germinating in just 3 days. As they get taller the broad beans will need canes to support them as they grow. With the smaller dwarf varieties ensure the seed pods are kept off the ground as they grow to avoid wet rot. Keep the raised bed as weed free as possible. Water approximately every other day dependant on temperature.
When the broad beans start flowering, pinch out the tips to encourage the pods to form. They can be sown in spring and can be harvested at around 12 to 6 weeks and beans sown in autumn can be harvested at around 28 to 35 weeks. Your broad beans can then be frozen or dried.
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