Botanical descriptionBush varieties form erect bushes 20?60 centimeters (7.9?24 in) tall, while pole or running varieties form vines 2?3 meters (6 ft 7 in?9 ft 10 in) long. All varieties bear alternate, green or purple leaves, divided into three oval, smooth-edged leaflets, each 6?15 centimeters (2.4?5.9 in) long and 3?11 centimeters (1.2?4.3 in) wide. The white, pink, or purple flowers are about 1 cm long, and give way to pods 8?20 centimeters (3.1?7.9 in) long, 1?1.5 cm wide, green, yellow, black or purple in color, each containing 4?6 beans. The beans are smooth, plump, kidney-shaped, up to 1.5 cm long, range widely in color, and are often mottled in two or more colors.
A fibre is obtained from the stems. The burnt stems are rich in potassium and can be used in making soap.
The earlier sowings should be of suitably hardy varieties such as the 'Longpods' whilst later sowings can be of the tastier varieties such as the 'Windsors'. By making fresh sowings every 3 weeks you will have a continuous supply of fresh young seeds from early summer until early autumn. If you want to grow the beans to maturity then the seed needs to be sown by the middle of spring. You may need to protect the seed from the ravages of mice. Another sowing can be made in middle to late autumn. This has to be timed according to the area where the plants are being grown. The idea is that the plants will make some growth in the autumn and be perhaps 15 - 20cm tall by the time the colder part of winter sets in. As long as the winter is not too severe, the plants should stand well and will grow away rapidly in the spring to produce an earlier crop. The plants will also be less likely to be attacked by blackfly. Make sure you choose a suitably hardy variety for this sowing.
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in situ in succession from late winter until early summer. Germination should take place in about 7 - 10 days.
Prefers a fairly heavy loam but succeeds in a sunny position in most soils that are well-drained. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Dislikes dry conditions according to some reports, whilst another says that it is drought tolerant once established. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 to 7. Broad beans are often cultivated for their edible seed and sometimes also as a green manure crop. There are two main types, the 'longpod' beans are the more hardy and can be sown in the autumn in cool temperate areas, whilst 'windsor' beans, which are considered to be finer flavoured, are less tolerant of the cold and so are best sown in spring. The ideal temperature range in the growing season is between 18 and 27°c, at higher temperatures the flowers are often aborted. The autumn sown varieties are more susceptible to 'chocolate spot' fungus, this problem can be alleviated by the addition of potash to the soil. Black fly can be a major problem in late spring. Autumn sown crops are less likely to be affected. Pinching out the soft tips of the plants, one they are tall enough and are beginning to flower, can reduce the problem since the blackfly always start on the soft shoots and then spread to the older stems. Grows well with carrots, cauliflowers, beet, cucumber, cabbages, leeks, celeriac, corn and potatoes, but is inhibited by onions, garlic and shallots. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.
Problems, pests & diseases
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