Better Broad Bean Planting
Amateur Gardening|September 25, 2021
Q We love fresh broad beans and attempted to grow some earlier this season by buying plants. They went into good soil, but didn’t seem to take off and were attacked by blackfly. I’ve heard about autumn plantings. Do they work, and when do we sow? Monica Huggins, Camberwell, London
Anne Swithinbank

A Broad beans don’t yield a massive crop for the space they take up, but the tenderness and flavour of young beans harvested from pods picked at precisely the best moment is worth the effort. Thrown into lightly salted boiling water, they cook in minutes. Mealier beans can be boiled, slipped out of their skins and mixed with olive oil, garlic and herbs as a hummus-like spread.

In spring, broad beans grow fast, and buying young plants in good condition can be a lottery; in fact, you almost need to be standing by their shelf when they arrive from the nursery. This is a crop better grown from seed usually sown in February undercover into seed trays or modules, or direct to soil when this is workable outdoors. Autumn sowings of hardy varieties are a great idea, unless you live in an exceptionally cold area. In colder regions, beans are sown in October but here in East Devon, I usually wait until early November. The aim is to have them germinate and grow sturdily to no more than 6in (15cm) high by Christmas. They bounce back from frosts and grow strongly as the weather warms in spring, delivering good, early crops that often beat blackfly.

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