Tuesday, February 10

Broad Minded

I know that many of you overwinter broad bean plants after sowing in winter. The rational behind this is that you end up with an earlier crop. If this works for you all well and good but we tried it once and were unimpressed. Our plot is an inhospitable place during winter. In the photo below it may look to be a fairly benign place but appearances are deceptive.

In winter cold winds whip across the site. The angle of some of the trees and the amount of miscellaneous debris strewn about bear testament to that. 
Being a clay soil the ground also becomes very cold and wet and no doubt winter hungry creatures would make a meal of any surviving plants or seeds. 

If we grew our vegetables in a garden then things would be very different. We always try to resist the urge to plant seeds too early which can be difficult when all around you people are sowing theirs but we want the seeds to get off to a good start and not suffer any setbacks as they often do if conditions are not conducive to planting out and young plants have to sit in pots for too long.

We sow our broad beans in small pots - two seeds to a pot - at the end of March and beginning of April.
If both seeds germinate they are left to grow on side by side and are planted out as one plant. It will not surprise many of you that we planted through weed control fabric.
After that, other than if the plants need watering and to apply a foliar feed, the plants are left to get on with growing. We don't stake them and have never found this to be detrimental. As with the peas the only problem is the pea and bean weevil damage.
Fortunately as long as the plants are growing well, the damage is mainly cosmetic. Hoeing around the plants is supposed to improve the situation. As we grow through the fabric this isn't an option but previously when I have done this it didn't seem to make a difference.
Broad bean flowers produce a beautiful perfume and they look a bit like the bumble bees that fortunately love them and pollinate them for us.
The first lot of beans are harvested to use fresh but once all the pods are full we strip the plants and freeze the beans.


From the two tables below you can see that the 2014 harvest was down on the previous year especially for Masterpiece Green Longpod. This was due largely to the temperature. The plants suffered in the high temperatures at the end of July and so we removed all the beans that were ready before they spoiled
This year we will be sticking with Witkiem Manita but will be growing Robin Hood, said to produce compact plants, as our second variety. 

25 comments:

  1. I have never overwintered broad beans as I once watched as a neighbour lost his entire crop to a late and very unexpected frost. My veg patch is small and I am constantly battling against cats and couch grass so I am going to adopt your strategy of using weed suppressing membrane on the veggie plot this year to see if it helps deter the little blighters. Deb

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  2. Broad beans are my least liked beans so I've stopped bothering with them. Great photo of the bumblebee.

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    1. No point growing things that you don't enjoy, Jo

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  3. Yum broadbeans. I'm going to plant them again this year. I can only hope that I can eat them. If they still make me sick (right now all legumes do), my townhouse mates will get to feast instead of me.

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    1. I hope that you manage to get some enjoyment from them, Daphne

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  4. I used to over-winter beans when I had a walled garden, but I've not bothered since we moved to a more exposed site on clay. Now I've read this, I can feel smug that I didn't bother! Do you use the tops for soup? I used to do that - I might try again this year. The problem with reading blogs is seeing everyone rushing to plant seeds. I am still looking at unopened seed packets, even though I am itching to get on with the season. I love the bean/bee photos!

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    1. We will only sow the off thing Sarah. Last year we started sowing at the very end of March. We just have to sit tight.

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    2. No we have never used the tops

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  5. I have never tried over-wintering beans, for the reasons you mention. Unlike you though, I do support mine with strings, which is practical in a very small garden, and necessary too because there isn't room to let them flop. Last year my daughter had great success with staking each plant individually, so I am going to try that approach this year.

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    1. I never thought to stake them individually and I always get in a kerfuffle with stringing them, but will try this method this summer. Deb

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    2. Oddly ours don't seem to flop too badly or maybe we just don't notice it being on a plot.

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  6. I love broad beans, I wish I had the space to grow more. We tried to overwinter them once or twice but it never worked for us. I have seeds ready for this year still in their packet, just the one variety for us the Crimson flowered one!

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    1. Wegrown the crimson flowered many times in the past but have found they don't crop as well for us, JO

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  7. You just can't beat broad beans with a little salt and butter....I love them. It's lovely seeing yours here with the bumbles all over them. Mine always seem to self-sow in my veggie patch and I have lots growing at the moment, it is very sheltered so they always do well. xxx

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    1. We still have some in the freezer, Dina,

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  8. I'm really enjoying these posts about individual vegetables, and the tables Witkeim are considerably better aren't they, I've not heard of them before but I'll look out for them. I haven't planted any broad beans for the last couple of autumns either. I'm sure they would be eaten by something at the plot. But I'll no doubt grow some later on. As you say, it's very tempting to start planting things. I noticed quite a lot of things starting to grow in the garden today - little white roots on the strawberries and some weeds poking through. All I've sown so far is a couple of chillies though. I've been trying to remember when I usually sow tomatoes. Soon I think.

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    1. Our tomatoes seeds went in indoors under the grow light in 6 April last year CJ, Better later than dead!

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  9. Mmmmm Sue - your post has conjured up thoughts of broad beans, bacon and new potatoes. Spring sowing here too as our plot is usually way too wet in winter to contemplate sowing in autumn. I'm sowing 'Robin Hood' this year too.

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    1. Let's hope Tobin Hood proves to be a good choice, Anna

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  10. Very interesting Sue. Reading you makes me think I should try broadbeans again - starting them in pots as you do. The problem is that we go from winter to summer. You have to seed them late because it is still too cold and by the time they are growiing it is far too hot. However starting them in pots might be a solution.

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    1. We direct sow peas, carrot, parsnips and some salads but most other things start life in pots, Alain.

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  11. Your plots are so tidy Sue. I don't over-winter B Beans, though I did try it for a couple of years. I found that I gained little while having to worry about the plants over the winter. I don't like B Beans but my husband loves them . I do like the tops though in salad.

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    1. It;s seems that we are not the odd ones out as we thought, Gill

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  12. You must had plan so well to get that handful harvest of broad beans

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