Broadbeans have been cultivated since ancient times and are extremely simple to grow. In fact there few plants easier to grow.
Broadbeans are Good for the Soil
They are best planted directly into the ground in early autumn through to early winter and take about 3 to 4 month to reach maturity. Allow about 20cms between seeds and grow them in long rows so that you can access the bean pod easily. The soil shouldn’t be to well fertilised as you want to encourage pod production and they are nitrogen fixers, meaning that they will absorb nitrogen from the air and bring it into the soil. For this reason, they are very useful for condition or helping soil that has had a heavy feeding crop to recover for the next spring time planting. They are excellent as part of a crop rotation system.
Broadbeans have very long tap roots so the other benefit that they can give to the soil and therefore to your next crop, is that it can bring up nutrients that are deep in the soil and otherwise unaccessible for plants with shallow root systems.
Broadbeans need Support
Broadbeans grow very tall and have a slender stem. I would recommend either staking them or finding another way to support them. A strong wind can bend and break them over. My own solution is to plant two well secured stakes into the ground at both ends of the broadbean row as well as further supporting stakes at 70cm intervals on either side of the rows. I then create a support by wrapping a rope around the stakes at 50cm intervals. You can stake them directly if you wish, so long as you place the stake early to avoid root damage.
How and When to Harvest
Harvesting broadbeans isn’t tricky. You can get them early when pods are about the length of a finger. This gives you the young sweet beans and means no peeling. You can wait a little longer and get them when they are larger and perfectly ok to eat, they just require double peeling which can be a pain. You can also leave them at this point and let the broadbeans dry out in their pod for use over winter in soups and stews.
Mulch broadbean plants that you have harvested from. Dig them back into the soil to get the most benefit.