Broad beans are the first bean to be harvested each year. To achieve this they have to be planted earlier than other beans. There are some varieties that can be over wintered (sown in autumn and left to grow through the winter) these include Aquadulce Claudia and the Sutton which is a dwarf variety and can be grown in a pot. Over wintering always feels to me like I’m somehow cheating nature, as there aren’t many things that grow through our cold wet winters. So it feels good to get an early crop on the go.
Broad beans, like all beans, prefer a moist, fertile, free draining soil with some protection from wind and plenty of natural light. I dig a pit about six inches deep add well rotted manure or compost or even old newspaper (not the glossy type) then fill in and leave to settle for a few weeks. Then sow the broad bean seeds about four to six inches apart in rows roughly six inches apart.
At each end of the bed I put a pole or a stake in the ground and then along the sides of the bed I sink sticks or poles in to the ground and then tie a string or clothes line around it all at about three foot high. This is to support the bean plants from the winds then just water in dry spells and wait until early spring. When others are just sowing their broad beans you can be harvesting yours.
If you are over wintering your broad beans sow them form late October through to the end of November and if your sowing in spring start them off in pots in February and plant them out at the end of March or just sow them straight in to the soil at the end of march. Spring sown broad beans are usually ready about June time. I prefer to over winter my broad beans as it means I don’t get troubled by blackfly this is because with spring sown beans the leaves are tender and easy for the blackfly to feed on whereas autumn sown beans have tougher, more robust leaves.
If you end up with more beans than you can use or share they are very simple to freeze just drop them in boiling water for a minute or two and then plunge them in cold water until they are cool, this is called blanching. They can now be divided into portion size polythene bags and frozen.
Don’t worry too much about when to plant as broad beans are quite a hardy crop this year I missed a couple of beans when I harvested mine in April /May and they self seeded and produced beans in November (nature knows best) although I don’t advocate sowing them through the summer as there are plenty of other crops to take their place.