Growing Broad Beans at the Allotment

Growing Broad Beans at the Allotment

Broad beans are a popular choice to grow on the allotment as part of the Legumes family. 

They come in different varieties. Dwarfs are great for windy spots and have a great flavour. Aquadulce Claudia are a popular choice for autumn sowing.  Windsor is a great producer of larger beans with an amazing flavour.  

Generally, before Spring, start in small pots inside and you can plant out a few weeks later once the shoots are appearing and its mild enough outside. They usually take approximately 3 weeks to germinate. 

Starting your broad beans off in pots, indoors gives them a better start if your soil is heavy with clay. Sow in good compost about 2 inches deep. Water well and keep them in a light environment. 

You can sow directly or plant out from March onwards if the conditions are mild. Vulnerable young plants may require some protection during cold spells. You can even sow some varieties directly in November and February in milder and sheltered locations. 

Provide the bed with good compost or well-rotted manure and plenty of water. Sow in rows approximately 6-10 inches apart, setting your crop up for easy picking later. Always sow a surplus to replace any failing plants. 

Give your plants a thorough drenching upon flowering and again one week-fortnight later, water regularly and soak well in hot and dry spells. 

Some larger plants may require some support using canes and string.  
When the lowest flowers have produced, you can pinch out the shoot tips at the top. Not only are these edible and delicious but pinching out helps reduce blackfly and encourages reproduction. 

Some issues to look out for are blackfly, which can be reduced as described by pinching out but can easily be washed off. Chocolate spot is a fungal disease, which Potash really helps reduce. Add plenty when planting them out. Space the plants out to give them enough room, will also help prevent the spread of this disease. 

Rust can be a problem later in the season. This is caused by excess rain and may result in smaller pods and leaves to drop.  

Mice like broad bean seeds!  

You can pick young pods when they reach approximately 3 inches from late Spring to midsummer; variety and sowing time dependent. You should pick pods that are ready on a regular basis to encourage regrowth. Generally waiting until the pod is plump and you can see and feel the beans inside. Pods mature quicker the lower they are on the plant, and they can grow fast, so ensure you check often. 

Small ones are much more tender and sweeter, and larger, older beans can be tough if they are left too long. They will require blanching and peeling before you store them. 

To store your broad beans, they can easily be frozen or dried before cooking. 

broad bean 3631991_1920
broad bean 5373644_1920
broad bean 7297699_1920
greenfly 5388588_1920

Growing Broad Beans in Summary

Sowing Broad Beans

  • Sow indoors from February
  • Directly in March, April to Mid May
  • Winter varieties in October - November

Growing Broad Beans

  • Water well and soak once flowering
  • Potash helps fight fungal disease Chocolate Spot.
  • Watch for pests and diseases such as black-fly and rust
  • Pinch out shoot tips (edible)
  • Offer support if required


Harvesting Broad Beans

  • When you can feel/see the beans in the pod
  • Pick regularly to encourage growth
  • The smaller the bean, the more tender and sweet
  • Large, blackened can be tough
  • Harvest June - October
  • Winter varieties June
  • Freeze or dry for storage. Blanch and peel older beans first