During the months of June, July and August when most of the garden is in hibernation mode, broad beans suddenly become a top seller on the seed stand or as punnets of 6 in the garden centre.
Broadbeans are a vegetable that seems to be either a favourite to be savoured, or on the disdain list conjuring some horror from childhood! Like all good vegetables, broadbeans are full of nutrients and goodness including potassium, iron, vitamins A and C and are a good source of fibre and protein. Broadbeans are a good plant to grow with children as the seeds are large and easy to handle. It also seems that kids are more keen to eat vegetables that they have helped to grow.
Broadbeans are a cool season crop, they are frost tolerant and will germinate in temperatures as low as 2°C. The seed can be sown from late Autumn right through the winter months. They don't like to grow in the heat of summer. They are an easy crop to grow and will provide a good food supply at a time during spring when options are often limited and vegetables expensive to buy from the store. A general guide is to plant 12 plants for each person who will be eating them.
A sunny site is preferable although broadbeans will tolerate some shade. Running rows north to south in the garden will ensure more even light distribution and that no plants are disadvantaged. Some prefer to make their planting in blocks (eg 6 plants by 6 plants) in this case make your plantings on the southern most edge of the garden so as they grow tall they will not block light from other vegetable plants.
They can be grown from seed planted directed into the garden or from seedlings purchased from garden centres and planted out. If the soil is very wet where they will be growing and there is risk of the seed rotting, then starting off with seedlings or sowing seeds into trays first for later planting may give better success. Broadbean Seeds should be planted 2cm deep.
When sowing seed plant in rows approximately 25cm apart in rows 50cm apart. Most varieties grow between waist and shoulder high so will need to be staked to avoid being flattened by wind. Use a secure stake at each end of a row and stretch string down each side of the row at a height of approximately 30-40cm.
As the plants grow add a second string down each side at approximately 65-70cm high and a third higher again if needed.
Depending on the severity of winter, plants will take approximately 13 to 17 weeks to reach harvest. Later plantings tend to catch up with earlier plantings. By sowing seed now in Whanganui gardens, you should be harvesting broadbeans around late September/ early October. By making an early and late planting, or sowing of seed you can give yourself a second crop, giving good production of broadbeans for a number of months.
A good variety to grow is 'Chefs Best Ican Broad Bean' called Mr Green Seed. It will produce a great crop of beans that look good and taste good. Mr Green Seed produces beans that remain green after cooking. Rich in minerals, vitamins A & C, and dietary fibre.
So have a go – plant some broadbeans today!
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre