Broad Beans

Why Grow Broad Beans?

A native of North Africa, the broad bean became part of the Eastern Mediterranean diet 6000 BC or earlier. It was a major food of the Romans and ancient Greeks; today it is eaten in Iran, Egypt, Greece, Ethiopia, Nepal and Peru (who all have their own ways of preparing the beans) and most other countries around the world.

It is one of the easiest crops to grow. Several varieties can happily over-winter (for example, Super Aquadulce and the Sutton), withstanding harsh and cold conditions; and even salinity, so can be grown in coastal areas.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Vicia faba
Sowing Time : February to June
Harvest Time : June to September
Hardiness : Some varieties are Hardy
Position : Full Sun, Sheltered from strong winds
Soil Type : Rich and free draining.
Average Plant Height : 90cm / 3ft (Dwarf Varieties 45cm / 18in)
Spacing : 20cm / 8in in double rows allowing 60cm / 2ft between double rows.
Spread : 50cm / 20in
Soil and Preparation

Broad Beans will grow in almost any soil type providing it is not waterlogged or too acidic. They do however perform best in rich, free draining soil that has been thoroughly dug with garden compost or well-rotted manure incorporated.

Choose a reasonably sunny position which has not been used to grow beans in the last year. Apply a liberal dose of general fertiliser about a week before planting.

Seeds and Sowing

Broad beans should be sown 5 – 7.5cm / 2 – 3in deep and 15 – 23cm / 6 – 9in apart. Sow in open ground in single rows 45cm / 18in apart or in double rows 23cm / 9in apart with 60cm / 2ft between each double row.

Caring for your Crop

Regular hoeing may be needed before the crop gets established, but they should not need watering unless it is particularly dry. Once the flowers start to appear watering may be required and if it is dry when the pods start to swell they will require regular watering.

Taller varieties may require some support this can be provided using twine strung between sturdy stakes placed at 1.2m / 4ft intervals along the row.

When the first bean pods start to form pinch off the top 7cm / 3in of the stem, this helps give an earlier harvest but more importantly helps control blackfly which can be a serious pest.


Remove the pods with a sharp downward twist. Early harvesting is essential to avoid hard, dry tasteless beans. If you have the time, the beans taste even better if, after podding, the beans are blanched in boiling water and the outer skin of each bean is also removed.


Broad bean plants can be dug into the soil, as green manure, once harvesting is finished.