Broad beans are one of the oldest known vegetables. These beans are easy to grow, being hardy so can be sown in autumn as well as in spring. They do not seem to suffer from any real adversaries if certain steps are taken to discourage pests before they become a problem. One advantage is that they will grow in any soil whether light or heavy.
Autumn sown seeds should go into well-manured beds from the previous crop. Alternatively two or three weeks before the crop is sown, work into the soil plenty of well-rotted manure and compost. At the time of sowing lightly, fork fish manure with 10 percent potash content into the ground at 3 oz (90g) to the sq. yd.
If it’s an early crop that you want, then sow long-pods these can be sown in boxes in seed compost in a greenhouse or cold frame about the middle of December or early January, where they should remain until at least the end of March when they can be planted out in the beds. For most of us the first sowing will be outdoors in April, then a second sowing for late crops about the beginning of May.
After the soil has been raked level and fish manure has been scattered on the surface, a hoe can be used to draw out 3 in. (76mm) deep drills. Space out the seeds to about 8 in. (203mm) apart then make another drill roughly about 8 in. away, making another row keeping the same distance between the seeds. This is known as a double row method.
The next set of double rows should be positioned about 2 ft. (75cm) away. The distance between dwarf seeds should be a little less, 6 in. (15cm) apart and 6 in (15cm) between the rows for the doubles with a distance of 2 ft.(60cm) to the next double rows. It is always a good idea to sow a few extra seeds at the end of each row so that should there be any gaps, these may be used to fill in the spaces.
Keep down weeds between the rows with the aid of a Dutch hoe, a most useful implement for getting between the plants easily. To discourage pests such as blackflies, which can become a serious problem, pinch out the top inch of the growing tip of each plant as soon as the first flowers appear. The tip of the plant is tender and succulent and will attract these aphids in their thousands. However, there is another advantage to “stopping” the plants as it encourages the production of earlier beans.
Pick the pods whilst the beans inside are still young and tender, though they need to be of a reasonable size to make them a worthwhile crop. The ideal size is about the size of a pound coin.