How to Grow Broad Bean Seeds
Grow Guide #2235
Binomial name: Vicia faba
Life Cycle: Annual
This 'How to Grow' guide details everything a home gardener needs to know to plant, grow and care for Broad Beans (Vicia faba).
When to Sow Broad Bean Seeds
Broad Bean is a cool season crop. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to sow broad bean in your climate.
Broad Bean plants are best grown in full sun. Choose a location that will receive at least 6 hours of full sun each day.
Broad Bean plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting. Learn more about preparing soil for planting here.
How to Sow Broad Bean Seeds
Broad Bean seeds do not require any treatment (eg soaking, stratification) before sowing.
Broad Bean seeds grow best when they are sown directly into the garden.
- Sow seeds directly in the garden 50mm deep and 30cm apart, with rows 100cm apart.
- Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
- Seeds should germinate in around 7-14 days at a soil temperature of 6-24°C.
- Young seedlings will need protection from pests, pets and weather until they are established.
How to Grow Broad Bean
Broad Bean plants may need watering during the growing season. Water when the soil is dry about 5cm below the surface (test this by scratching away a little soil with your finger). Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here.
If soil was well prepared no extra fertiliser should be necessary. In poor soil or to give your plants an extra boost, application of a balanced fertiliser or one formulated for fruit and vegetables can be beneficial:
- Apply slow release fertiliser at the recommended rate when transplanting or when seedlings are 5-10cm tall.
- Apply liquid fertiliser at the recommended rate and frequency while plants are fruiting or flowering.
Broad bean plants may need support as they grow. Use string strung between stakes around the garden bed or on either side of each row to 'corral' the plants and support the stems to grow upright.
Once the first pods appear, pinch out the growing tips to deter aphids and direct the plant's energy into producing large pods.
How to Harvest Broad Beans
Broad Beans should be ready to harvest in approximately 90 days.
Broad beans are ready to harvest when they are large enough to eat. Harvest small pods (7.5cm or more) to eat whole. Harvest pods to shell when the beans are visible through the pod; small beans are more tender than larger beans. Pods growing lower on the plant will mature before those growing at the top of the plant. Harvest pods by cutting with snips/secateurs. Harvest regularly to encourage more pods. For short term storage, pods can be kept in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge. For longer term storage, beans can be removed from the pods, blanched and frozen.
The flowers and growing tips of the plants can also be harvested and eaten. Eat the flowers raw in salads or as a garnish. Eat the growing tips raw or lightly cooked in salads or stir fries.
Common Problems when Growing Broad Beans
Like all plants, broad bean is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing broad bean plants:
- Aphids are small (2-4mm long) sap-sucking insects that congregate on the new shoots or the undersides of leaves. They can cause leaves to wilt or become discoloured, and also excrete honeydew which can attract ants and other insect pests. To manage aphids, remove them by spraying with a garden hose, apply a soap or alcohol spray, or encourage predatory insects to your garden. Read more about aphids here.
- Rust (Puccinia sp.) is a fungal disease that causes brown to orange raised spots or patches to appear on foliage. Fungal spores are spread by wind or water to neighbouring plants, especially in temperatures of 10-20C and when humidity is high. To manage rust, space plants to avoid overcrowding, grow them in the recommended amount of light (eg full sun), do not over fertilise crops, remove dead plants and practice crop rotation. Read more about rust fungus here.
- Chocolate Spot (Botrytis sp.) is an air-borne fungal disease that causes round, red-brown spots on all parts of the plant. Flower production may be affected and in the worst cases plant stems will collapse. Infections are worst during damp, cold conditions and when plants are crowded together. Grow plants at the recommended spacing and avoid damp, humid growing conditions where possible. Destroy infected plants at the end of the season.
- Pea beetles (Bruchus pisorum, also known as pea weevil) are 5mm long brown to grey beetles that emerge from hibernation in spring. Adult beetles feed on the leaves and flowers of plants. Female beetles lay single eggs on the outside of pea pods. Larvae then burrow into pea seeds to feed, emerging as adults around 40 days later. Monitor crops during spring and use insecticide spray if adult beetles are found; dispose of infested seed. Learn more about pea beetles here.
- Tough pods, peas or beans is usually caused by harvesting the pods when they are too large. Harvest pods when they are firm and large enough to eat but still young and tender; harvesting pods while they are small will also encourage the production of more pods resulting in a larger harvest.