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Planting broad beans in the winter

broad bean borderI was up earlier this morning than usual. To clear a bed in our kitchen garden so that John could dig it over and we could plant the broad bean seeds. This is the second year that we have sown broad beans in November and already it has become something of a ceremony. Discussed and planned for weeks.

“Shall I dig over this bed? There’s nothing but weeds.” John had said a couple of weeks ago.
“Don’t worry. I’ll do it. Next time that you come the border will be clear.”

Unfortunately, I had fallen at the first fence. I had not prepared the bed for John. Mullien had self seeded across the bed and I had had plans for this extended family.

For the last five mornings I have planned to rise at six and dig. The warmth of the bed has seduced me. This morning I had even hoped for heavy rain which would keep John at bay. But a clear crisp morning greeted me when I drew back the curtains.

John arrived before I had finished the job. Along with a present of a pheasant, I spied a small box wedged into the top of his Wellingtons when he carried them into the kitchen. Halfway through our coffee I admitted that I hadn’t had time to finish the patch.

John’s face dropped.

Even though I cleared the border as he collected the leaves from the lawn, I realised that I had messed up, big time. Next year I will have the border ready.

We planted broad bean seeds at around the same time last year and they got off to a great start in the Spring. Large, strong plants, covered with flowers – a great potential harvest of beans. We guzzled the young tops and picked some baby beans. We continued to graze and harvest broad beans for weeks. Good fat beans packed with flavour.

There were plenty of flowers for a second flush and then the crop was struck suddenly by rust (a fungus that attacks the plants and eventually spreads to the pods). I put this down to the prolonged wet weather and the position of the plants. The broad beans had been planted in a rather shady border, overhung by sycamore trees.

Today the broad bean seeds have been planted in the best border for sun and warmth. I’m hoping that they will appreciate this honour and produce wondrous bounty next year. If you usually plant your broad beans in the spring why not try planting a few now? I am sure that you won’t be disappointed.

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  1. Anne Skennerton

    Here on Hayling this spring we’ve had a wonderful crop of purple sprouting brocc, chard, kale, cabbage seed sown Sept. However last year & now this our broad beans eventually succumb to rust & I thought it was the long hot spring/summer here last year. Also I didn’t leave the prescribed spacing only maybe 10″ apart & about 15 ” from the perpetual spinach (also rusts but goes on to continued abundance so I don’t dig it up. I concluded that our rust problem results from me not watering enough & prolonged dry periods plus plants maybe too close together.

  2. Lorraine NZ

    Its autumn in NZ and I am just about to try planting Broad beans at this time of the year. Do you soak your bean seeds before planting?

  3. Lindsay


    Yes, the beans fix nitrogen. All legumes do this with the help of special bacteria that attach to their roots. This is why you shouldn’t ever pull up your beans at the end of the season. It’s the same principle of farmers growing clover in fallow fields.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Dawn

    I’m not sure how long that it takes to fix the nitrogen in the soil, I think it is fixed by just growing them. If you leave them in the soil they will not give your sprouts the best possible chance as they will be taking nutrients from the soil.

    This sounds like a great way of growing early broad beans. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. I planted my broad bean seeds Nov ’07 in old mushroom boxes and they grew rather tall and lanky and with flower buds on them due to the mild weather. I planted them out staking each one and covered with fleece in the frosty weather. I didn’t lose any flowers and subsequently had a very early crop. I have now finished harvesting them and have cut them down. I would like to know how long it takes for the nodules to fix the nitrogen in soil as I would like to use the bed for my Brussells sprouts. Perhaps I should just plant them between the beans.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Gloria,

    What a shame that your seedlings were plundered. I can’t tell who was to blame, from a distance.

    Our broad beans are just peeping through now and I would be devastated if the were nipped in the bud.

    If it was me, I would give the seed another go. Under a cloche or covered with fleece. Wait for a mild day when you plant them.

  7. I planted some broad beansin Nov for the first time, and they were coming up nicely, but the other day we found all the shoots lying on the ground and looks as if something with a long beak
    has been digging.
    We have Jays in the garden, and a green woodpecker. Could it be them? and as its quite mild at present is there any point in sowing some more and covering with fleece?

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Ray

    Broad beans need space and air. We lost the second flush to rust (due to overhanging trees and not enough air). You need to be able to walk between the rows to harvest them. Our broad beans are bushy and grow to over five feet! That™s why you need the space.

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