Grow your own: Broad beans

Broad beans are a great crop for sowing in spring but also autumn to get some delicious beans in June when there is not much else in the veg garden.

These large, leafy beans produce big pods which contain either white or green beans depending on the variety. The tips of the bean plants can also be picked and eaten, so can whole small pods or, wait until the beans reach full size before harvesting.

Broad bean calendar

These can be sown in spring or choose a hardy variety and sow them in autumn for the earliest pods.

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  • ‘Aquadulce Claudia
    Grows to 1m (40in) so may need some support. Best variety for early or late sowings. White seeds.
  • ‘Bunyard’s Exhibition’
    A white seeded variety that grows up to 1.2m (4ft) so definitely some support needed with this one. It is an old variety that has remained popular because it produces good crops on all sorts of soil conditions. A good variety grown for the show bench.
  • ‘The Sutton’
    A short variety growing to about 30cm (12in) high with white seeds. A good choice if you don’t have a lot of room.
  • ‘Imperial Green Longpod’
    Another tall one at 1.2m (4ft) and a green-seeded type. As its name suggests it produces long pods with up to nine beans in each.
Broad Beans on a white background.

Sowing & Growing Broad Beans

Broad bean seeds are large making them easy to sow, they are traditionally sown in a double row. Scoop out a shallow trench about the width of a spade and about 3-5cm (12in) deep. Then sow the beans in a double zig-zag line down the trench. Space the seeds about 20cm (8in) apart. The double row of plants will give you a greater harvest from a smaller area. Pull back some soil to cover the seeds and water well. It will take seven-10 days for the seedlings to emerge.

Growing on

Some broad bean varieties grow quite tall and once they start to produce pods become top heavy. It is a good idea to give them some support by placing four stakes at the corners of the crop and tie up string around them. Keep the plants well watered in dry weather, especially once they flower and start to produce pods.

As soon as afew pods have started to form, it is a good idea just to nip the tops of the plants off. This tip takes a lot of the plant’s energy, which you want to redirect into growing the pods. It will also take away the part of the plant that attracts the dreaded blackfly, a problem pest of broad beans.

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Blackfly prefers the new soft tips of the plant to any other part. You can harvest the pods when 58cm (2-3in) long. These can be cooked and eaten whole. Alternatively, wait until they are more than 13cm (5in) long and have filled out. Split open apod to see if the beans are large enough to harvest. The smallest beans are the tastiest.

For more growing tips and guides, you should subscribe to Kitchen Garden – you’ll receive free seeds with every single issue too!

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