Even if you are a relative new-comer to growing your own vegetables, growing Fava beans would be a good starter project because they are so easy and rewarding to grow, even If you live in a cool climate, because they actually thrive best between 40 and 70- deg F.
They can take up a bit more space than other beans because they have a bushy habit rather than a climbing habit. However, their value for money and value for time is unquestionable; from their nutritious culinary properties to the delights of their aromatic flowers and the very high nitrogen content in their root nodules making the residual plant material an excellent component for making compost or digging back into the soil.
Optimum pH 6.0-7.0
The Fava bean, a most nutritious vegetable extensively grown in England, enjoys limited popularity in most other countries but deserves to be known more widely for it is relatively easy to grow.
It is essentially a winter vegetable that enjoys cool, moist growing conditions. During very mild winters and in warmer areas the set of pods may be disappointing even if the plants are good in size and colour.
Being a legume, a giant vetch in fact, the broad bean can be sown alongside peas in the winter rotation and is a much safer crop during the winter months than the dwarf bean, which is much more tender.
The broad bean is also called the fava bean in some countries.
Recommended Cultivars of Fava Bean
There are two principal types of broad bean – ‘long pod’ and ‘Windsor’ – and most cultivars fall into these classes.
The former is a more consistent performer in sub-tropical areas and most seedsmen catalogue only this type, of which the following are examples:
Aquadulce: A long-podded, white-seeded cultivar. The pods tend to grow away from the stem at an upward angle.
Longpod: There are several strains of this cultivar and most are prolific bearers in ideal conditions. The pods are pendulous.
Fava Bean Soil preparation
Broad beans are perhaps the heaviest feeders among legumes and although they will grow satisfactorily on a wide range of soils, they prefer heavier ones and demand generous treatment.
Ground well improved with compost or manure for a previous crop is ideal and can be brought up to scratch with a base dressing of 60-120 g per m2 of 2:3:2.
On poorer and unimproved soils mature compost can be incorporated together with a similar fertilizer dressing.
Propagation of Fava Beans
Like all leguminous vegetables, the broad bean is propagated by seed sown where the plants are to mature.
Sowing Broad/Fava Bean Seeds
March to June is the most favourable period for sowing, April and May being the most satisfactory months for large sowings.
Broad beans are of upright habit, attaining a height of up to 1 m under good growing conditions, and it is advisable to sow in double or even triple rows. Widely-spaced single rows usually end up lying on the ground, but in closely-sown double or triple rows damage from wind and heavy rain is much less likely to occur, and pollination is improved.
The seeds can be sown singly 150-200 mm apart in the row in holes 50 mm deep. Alternatively, a drill of similar depth can be made and the seeds can be dropped in singly, the same distance apart, and covered with soil.
Double rows should be 250-300 mm apart, allowing at least 600-750 mm between each set of double or triple rows to facilitate cultural activity.
Growing Fava Beans Further Treatment
Once the seeds have germinated and the plants are growing away, they should be kept clean and free from weeds. Regular watering or rainfall is a must with this crop, especially during the flowering and fruit-setting period, when a check would be disastrous.
Low humidity appears to be a factor adversely affecting fruit set. In this respect double and triple-row plantings are at an advantage because close planting encourages a moist micro-climate.
In exposed situations it is worth running a single or double string, depending upon growth, along each side of the double row to give some support when the pods begin to fill and the plants become top-heavy. Light-gauge galvanized wire (2 mm) will also do the job, as will plastic-coated washline.
Once a good number of pods have set on a plant the growing point should be removed to discourage aphids.
Harvesting Fava Beans
The pods are usually ready for picking 3-4 months after sowing and the rows should be gone over twice a week.
Removing pods regularly as they mature allows the younger pods to fill before plant vigor flags.
Pests Affecting Fava Beans
Aphids, black on this crop, are a scourge wherever broad beans are grown.
They usually appear as the plants flower and set fruit, congregating in large numbers in the flowering area.
A severe infestation weakens the plant and reduces yields.
Removing the growing points of the plants, as has been mentioned, is often sufficient to prevent severe infestation.
Should further control measures be necessary Malathion is a useful spray, while even a soap solution is better than nothing.
Fava Bean Diseases
Chocolate spot can be destructive in some areas, especially during prolonged wet periods. Both leaves and stems are affected.
Dithane M45 and copper oxychloride will give some measure of control if used in good time.
Rust can be a problem, especially on late sowings. Dithane M45 and copper oxychloride are suitable for this problem also.
Mosaic, a viral disease, occasionally appears. The removal and destruction of affected plants are the only measures that can be taken.