Runner Beans are generally the first legume to produce a crop, making them one of the first new-season crops of the year. Arguably they are not as tasty as peas or french beans, but they are very easy to grow and prolific, and they freeze well.
Sow “early” broad beans in the autumn for a late spring crop, but only do so if your soil is good – they won’t fare so well in wet, heavy clay. Alternatively sow in February for early summer crop. Dig in some well rotted manure before sowing. Broad beans are hardy so you can sow direct in the soil, or you can sow in module trays for transplanting later. Either way, sow 5cm deep. Transplant to 15cm apart. Sow extra seeds to provide spares in case some get eaten or fail to germinate.
Weed and water frequently. A mulch is a good idea around the base of the plants to preserve moisture. Pinch out the top growing shoot when the plant starts to set pods. Support the plants with individual stakes or canes. Alternatively, enclose a row of broad bean plants within a ring of twine strung between canes (this will stop them from toppling over).
The key is to keep picking ’em! The more you pick the more they will produce. Start cropping from the bottom of each plant and work your way up. Marvel at the beautiful white fleece inside the pod! The beans inside are at their best when the membrane attaching them to the pod is green or white, not brown.
The biggest problem for broad beans are blackfly which will be clearly visible at the top of the plant and stunt its growth. Pinching out the growing tip helps to prevent them. Chocolate spot is another problem and is not as much fun as it sounds – it’s actually a fungus that causes brown spots on the leaves and pods. It is most common in damp, humid weather – leaving enough space between plants will allow air to circulate between them and may prevent this problem.
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