We usually plant the seeds straight into the soil about 2.5 cm (1″) deep but they can be started off in modules in December, ready to plant out in February. It’s also a good idea to place stakes around the perimeter of the crop which will help to prevent the stems snapping in the wind (they’ll support each other).
Broad beans like well-dug, previously manured soil so are an ideal crop to follow potatoes. Once they’ve all been harvested, if they’re disease free chop the stems off at soil level and compost, leaving the nitrogen fixing roots in the soil to help the Brassica type crops (cabbages etc) that might follow them.
Things to watch out for ……. if you plant broad beans in the Spring, one day you may wander into your garden and find that the tops of them are covered in blackfly, who adore their sweet flavour. Sometimes just spraying them hard with the hose is enough to remove them, or pinching off the tops of the plants as soon as you notice the little black aphids. A garlic spray works wonders on them too but will have to be repeated regularly.
It’s caused by a fungus (Botrytis fabae) that thrives in damp, humid air and can overwinter on the remains of previously infected plants. For this reason it’s a good idea to get rid of old, infected plants rather than composting them. The good news is that it usually affects the pods last of all so whilst they remain unaffected (or infected), they’re still fine to eat.
Spacing the plants well, about 25cm between each plant – will help with air circulation and may prevent or delay infection.
So why not give Broad Beans a chance? They’re a great crop for grow your own newbies as their success rate is high, which all helps in raising the confidence levels.