Looking after your Broad BeansPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
My family love Broad Beans so I grow lots. There’s a much to be said for ‘Broads’: the seed is easy to handle, simple to sow and germinates readily. One of the earliest summer crops, the shiny beans – white or pale green depending on variety – are eased from their pods and nibbled raw seconds later (a gardener’s bonus!), or gently simmered for a just few minutes and served with a knob of butter. Tempted? Well you’ll be able to sow and grow your own in just over a month’s time.
Protection from snow
If like me you made an autumn sowing of a variety of Broad Bean which copes with the ravages of winter, such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ or ‘The Sutton’, now is the time to ensure that your precious plants are protected from the worst that winter can throw at them. Broads cope surprisingly well with heavy frost and although the leaves shrivel and droop, they soon perk up as the temperature climbs. Snow is a different matter as the weight of even a gentle fall can crush young plants. Like most gardeners, I watch the weather forecast like a hawk and if the possibility of snow is mentioned, I work out a way to protect my beans – nothing too complicated or permanent; just enough to hold any snowfall above the fragile stems and leaves. Horticultural fleece is ideal, provided that it is supported by some means, such as wire hoops or mesh frames.
Protection from strong wind
When warmer weather arrives later this month (hopefully…), Broad Bean plants put on a surprising spurt of growth and will be a foot tall before you realise it. From then on, they develop quickly and are therefore very susceptible to damage from strong winds in late spring, even when sown close together in blocks rather than single rows to encourage self-support. I have arrived on my allotment after an overnight gale to be greeted by the disheartening site of flattened bean plants, their stems snapped. To guard against this, February is the perfect time to protect your Broad Beans by pushing a few short canes into the earth along the sides of the bed where the plants are growing and then making a simple framework of longer canes, tied with garden twine, about two feet from the ground, through which plants will grow. It’s on my list to do.
Filling in gaps
If like me you enjoy seeing your vegetable plants growing in neat rows, there is nothing worse than a gap in the line where a seed has failed to germinate, or a plant has died. When sowing Broad Beans, I always pop a few extra seeds into cluster of holes on one side. The resulting plants can then be utilised if necessary to fill any gaps.