Sowing broad beansPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
Now is the perfect time to sow broad beans. The soil is in a workable state and still warm enough to encourage germination before the chill of winter sets in (colder weather is forecast for late October), so with luck the emerging plants will make enough growth to withstand a few cold, dark weeks. Once they get going, broad bean plants are tough little things. They will sulk a bit when hit by heavy frost, but soon perk up when the temperature rises. I’ve written before about the need to protect the plants from severe weather, suffice to say, watch out if a heavy fall of snow, or high winds, are forecast. Snow crushes fragile stems; wind snaps them.
Broad beans to sow now
The variety of broad bean which is best suited to autumn sowing is ‘Aquadulce Claudia’, although I know of fellow allotmenteers who have sowed ‘The Sutton’ at this time of year with some degree of success. As long as the weather remains mild, broad beans germinate in about ten days, always a joy to see tiny shoots appearing from the soil on a grey autumnal day.
How to sow
Broad beans are best grown in a series of double rows, 23cm (9”) between plants and 30cm (12”) between each row. Sowing is easy. I start by lightly forking over the ground, loosening the soil and removing any trace of weeds. If you have previously grown potatoes in this spot, make sure that you remove any small spuds still lurking in the ground as they will only put on growth in spring and push a few young broad beans out of the way in the process which is very annoying!
Once the soil is ready, use your string to set out the first row, then make a series of holes at least 5cm (2”) deep with a fat dibber, spaced as above. The shaft length of the dibber I use gives me a good indication of spacing, so I’ve no need to resort to using a tape measure. I like my plants to be evenly spaced and in neat rows. Once you’ve made the holes, simply pop a single broad bean seed into each, then use a flat rake to draw soil and fill the holes. Here’s a useful tip: sow a group of half a dozen seeds on one side and use the resulting plants to fill in any gaps where any of the seeds in rows fail to germinate.
Aftercare of broad beans
As soon as I have sown my broad beans, I cover the area with horticultural fleece, weighted down with old bricks and tiles. Not only does fleece keep the soil warm and aid germination, but I also find that it deters mice who love to sniff out bean seeds and dig them up! I remove the fleece once the plants have reached a reasonable size and are able to fend for themselves.
As well have having a developing crop to watch and nurture over the winter months, sowing your broad beans in autumn has one major advantage over those sown in spring: they are generally immune to infestations of blackfly.