The Cottage Smallholder

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Planting broad beans in November

freshly dressed bedThis morning John Coe arrived to mow the lawn, clutching an old yellowing ice cream carton. He explained that he was going to set the seeds for the broad beans. My face must have been pretty blank, so he rattled the box temptingly before he kicked of his boots and sat down for coffee.

He picked up his cup and described how he always sets his broad beans in November, on or around firework night. He went on to say that years ago an old boy had bothered to stop by his gate and give him this tip. Apparently the plants are far less likely to get blight or be attacked by the dreaded blackfly if they are planted now. And of course the broad beans can be picked much earlier. I’ve always wondered how he could bring us those fat parcels of beans in late spring whilst ours were just starting to flower.

This planting rule has nothing to do with Guy Fawkes, although I’m sure he must have toyed with a broad bean or two during his short life. John accepted a top up of coffee and continued. The broad bean is hardy and can be sown now on sheltered well drained soil. He also said that they could be planted any time in November in mild weather. However, if your soil is heavy, forget the November sowing. The seeds are liable to rot in wet conditions.

Unfortunately I had already formulated a schedule of work for John’s morning. As the grass didn’t need a trim, I desperately wanted an overhaul of some of the kitchen garden beds. We had joined forces to remove the weeds and now they needed digging over: a good dressing of compost plumped up with several tons of topsoil from the burial mounds. These are large heaps of earth that were excavated when the big pond was dug out. John has planted yews along their length, as visitors clearly found them disturbing.

By increasing the depth of the kitchen garden beds we should increase their moisture retention. John nodded. He agreed with the plan, coud easily achieve this and more. He sat back in his chair and declared that he would also set the seed. An hour later I went down to check. He had dug, dressed and covered the first bed with barrow loads of topsoil. It looked so inviting that it was hard not to grab a duvet and snuggle down for a kip on the plumped up bed.

Why not try planting some broad bean seed in November? I’m planning to raise some plants in the greenhouse in early spring as usual. If all goes well we will enjoy our own broad beans for months next year.

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  1. I tried November planting in 2009, a bitter winter and only one plant survived; it was so healthy and massive, produced more beans than five spring-planted ones, and kept going all this summer, so I will try again, even if it snows the roots seem to survive and sprout again. With a coveringI think they would all have survived, but I wasnt prepared.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Hazel

    Broad bean flowers are black and white. When the flowers fade the beans begin to grow, the’ll be tiny at first. Nothing has attacked the beans you just need to be patient.

  3. The broad beans planted haves grown and flowered well, but the flowers have all black marks on them, with no signs of “fly” life. I would be grateful if you could tell me what has attacked the beans.


  4. tractorfactorsteve

    When it comes to autumn sown broad beans, at this time of year i like to be pulling my veg and the push for next year’s becomes a ‘get a round tuit’ job.
    so what i do to cope with this ‘don’t do today what you can put off till tomorrow’ situation? I use all the year’s saved toilet roll innards; filled with home made compost and two broad bean seeds. But not till the end of Jan….they’ll be ready to eat at the same time as those sown in nov. BETCHA!

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