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Growing Broad Beans in The ACT

Introducing Broad Beans

These easy-to-grow beans are a real treat in the spring garden. Plant them in a sunny spot and make sure they get enough water. Remember to give them support as they can easily fall over in windy conditions. Broad beans are among the hardiest vegetables and can withstand heavy frosts, so they’re perfect for the cold Canberra winters and one of the few vegetables that really thrives through the frost.

Classic Mistakes

As with other beans, don’t over feed your broad beans with nitrogen. They can absorb nitrogen from the air, so they don’t need heavy feeding.

These beans prefer cool weather, so if you plant them too late, they’re really going to struggle as the weather warms up.

Sunlight

Grow in: Partial Sun - Full Sun

Soil Preparation

Broad beans like a heavy clay soil, so they are well suited to the ACT soils. Dig through some compost and well-rotted manure to improve the soil. Try to avoid manures that are high in nitrogen like chicken manure. Cow or sheep manure are good options because they have lower nitrogen levels. If your soil is acidic, then add some lime before planting as well. You can easily check the pH of your soil yourself. Soil testing kits are readily available at garden centers and are easy to use. Potassium can help prevent chocolate spot fungus and should be added when you plant. Add sulphate of potash to the soil (carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions) and water in well.

Sowing Seed

Sow seed: March-May
Sowing depth: 50 mm

Sow your broad beans once the weather cools in autumn. These beans thrive in cool weather, so don’t plant them too late or they won’t have time to produce well before the weather gets too warm in late spring and early summer.

Soak seeds overnight. (for around 8-10 hours)

Seeds can be sown directly into the soil or started in pots or trays for planting later in the season. If you sow them into pots, be sure to use pots that are deep enough for them to form their large root systems. If you’re sowing directly into the garden, follow the spacing instructions and make sure you plant the seeds deep enough. Broad beans grow into big plants and can easily be uprooted in windy weather if they aren’t well anchored. Water them well and then preferably not again until they are up. If its particularly hot and dry then you can give them some extra water, but keep in mind that too much water in the early stages can cause the seeds to rot before they germinate. Once the plants are up, compress the soil around them well to keep them sturdy.

They will probably need to be staked at some point. You can stake the individual plants, but most people just plant a double row and then put stakes in at the corners of the bed and tie string or wire around the bed to stop the plants from falling over. You can put the stakes in at any stage, but they’re only really necessary once the plants are heavy with pods.

Planting

Plant seedlings: April-June

Broad beans prefer cool weather, so you can start planting them in autumn. They’ll grow right through winter, but probably only start flowering once the frosts are over. Plant every 4 weeks over the season to extend your harvest.

Plant your broad beans in double rows and water well. Broad bean plants can be heavy once they’re grown. Plant them nice and deep so that they aren’t easily uprooted in windy weather and stake them so that they don’t blow over.

Care

Broad beans need support to keep them from falling over. A good method is to place a stake in each corner of your bed and then tie string around the stakes to create a rectangle that supports the bed.

Beans are a great nitrogen fixers. Their roots are able to take nitrogen from the air and soil and feed it to the plant. Either dig the plants into the soil once the harvest is over or remove the plants and add them to your compost. You can also cut the plants off at soil level and add them to your compost, but leave the roots in the soil to break down. If you’re growing them specifically to improve your soil, then cut the plants into the soil before the pods start to form.

Pinch our growing tips once the first pods start to form. This encourages the plant to put all of its energy into the pods and makes it harder for aphids to attack your plants.

Watering

Broad beans need quite a lot of water, make sure to keep the soil damp. You will probably need to give them a good soak once or twice a week during the dry Canberra winters. If they look thirsty, give them an extra drink, but be careful not to let them sit in waterlogged soil.

Feeding

These lovely little beans don’t need much feeding. Be careful not to overfeed them with nitrogen. They can fix nitrogen from the air, so they don’t usually need any extra nitrogen. Keep an eye on them during especially wet weather though. Very heavy rains can wash nutrients from the soil. If they start looking yellow, they might need a little extra feed. If they’re looking hungry, give them a feed with a good, balanced organic fertilizer.

Mulching

A thick layer of organic mulch will help to keep your soil damp and cool. Mulch will also protect your plants from the worst of the winter cold. Sugar cane and lucerne are both good options.

Harvesting

Harvest: 12 to 22 Weeks After Planting

The beans can be harvested at various stages. The pods can be harvested while they’re still young and tender and used like snow peas. If you leave the pods a little longer, the seeds will start to swell and can also be eaten at all the stages and sizes. The beans become harder as they mature, but are still delicious. Harvesting does not encourage production, but the beans become tougher if they are left on the plant. They ripen from the bottom of the plant up. Leave a few pods to dry on the bush and keep them for planting next year.

What to Plant Now

What to do about Aphids?

Spray with soap spray weekly until the problem is under control. It may be necessary to reapply more often if it’s a particularly rainy winter. Pinch out the growing tips once pods begin to set to prevent infestation. Keep plants well-watered so that they stay strong and can fight off infestations.
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