Monday, 22 October 2012

Autumn Sowing - Broad Beans

More Autumn sowing on the plot - this time Broad Beans.

Based on past experience I've found this well worth doing. The seeds germinate well, the plants get established before the Winter and they are then hardy enough to survive the cold weather.

At least - that works here in Cornwall - where we are generally blessed with milder weather than in the rest of Britain. Further north this may not apply - and it may be necessary to protect the plants with fleece or something similar.

The young plants are then well placed by early Spring - as the weather warms up - to grow on quickly and deliver an early crop of delicious beans. They will only be a few inches high but should be well rooted - and as they grow to full height I'll add some bamboo canes or netting for support.

One important thing though - you need to use a variety of Broad Bean that is suitable for Autumn and Winter sowing. The one I've chosen is Aquadulce Claudia - as I've had some success growing these is previous seasons.

So - onto the practicalities - fairly straightforward in this case.

First - get the plot prepared - the subject of a previous post:
Digging A Bean Trench

Next mark out the rows with string. My bed is about 4 feet across so I've sown two double rows about 18 inches apart.

Use a dibber to make a hole 2 inches deep, drop a seed in and cover with soil. Use a tape measure to set a gap of about 8 inches then plant the next seed. Continue sowing to the end of the row and then repeat for the other rows.

Finally water in well and add a plant label with details of the seed and date. They should germinate in 10 to 14 days. It might be worth repeating the watering after a few days if you happen to have a dry spell of weather and you have (like me) well draining soil.

Why grow Broad Beans ? When choosing what to grow on the allotment three obvious factors to consider are:

1. Grow things that will do well.
2. Grow thinks that you like to eat.
3. Grow relatively "high value" crops.

Broad Beans fit the bill for me on all counts here. They grew much better than most of my crops this year -   and survived the cold and wet fairly well (Spring sown as I didn't get my allotment plot until too late for Autumn sowing).

I absolutely love eating them - they are delicious fresh and lightly boiled or steamed for a few minutes. They also freeze very well which is handy as (like many crops) I always have a glut when they start cropping. If you don't catch them when they are small and sweet - the larger tougher beans can be used in soups or stews - some recipes to follow.

Also - not commonly found at the greengrocers or supermarket - and if so fairly expensive - so "high value" in my opinion.

As an added bonus they fit nicely into my crop rotation system and - like all beans - they improve the soil by fixing nitrogen in their roots.

Updates on the progress of my beans will follow.

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