Growing fava beans early in the season
Fava beans produce lovely, chubby little plants that I move to my garden beds quite early in the season. They’re very easy to sow. In this post, I’ll share some of my best tips on how growing fava beans early can help you prolong the harvest season.
I start growing fava beans in March. And I’d like to share how it’s done, so you’ll be able to reap the benefits of an early harvest too! You can actually start growing fava beans a lot earlier than most other beans.
My goal is always to use the beans while they’re fresh but I also keep some in my freezer or dry them and put them in my pantry for later use. The fava beans take some time to grow and that’s why I like to put them in the soil as soon as possible. And it’s really not that difficult to plan for an optimal harvest. I want to have a long harvest season. That’s why I always put my pre-planted fava beans outside while I also direct sow new seeds in the same bed. If I repeat this procedure, I’ll have enough beans for several months.
Fava beans are extra hardy
The good thing about fava beans is that they’re not as sensitive to cold temperatures as many other types of beans. They grow nicely even if it’s only a few degrees Celsius outside. The best thing is that the little plants are resistant to temperature swings and won’t die if it the temperature suddenly drops. Many other bean plants get damaged by the frost and then they can’t develop properly. Their hardiness is one of the reasons I like fava beans, it means that you grow fava beans before many other vegetables. That way, I don’t have to do everything at the same time when spring comes.
I usually start growing my fava beans in mid-March. I do it in troughs or seedling trays with deep cells. You can also use toilet paper rolls or simple paper pots. I put the troughs in the polytunnel after I’ve sown the seeds and cover them with a cloth if it’s cold outside. Then I just need to wait. It takes about a month for the chubby little plants to grow and then they’re all ready to get replanted.
It’s also possible to sow your fava beans inside but you should be aware that they grow quite quickly and will get lanky in a room with no extra light. You should probably only keep them indoors for about two weeks before putting them outside. Otherwise they’ll get too big.
When is the right time to put the plants in the ground? Well, it depends on the weather. Last year, April was horrible (where we live). It was cold and miserable until early summer. Many people contacted me in despair and asked me what to do. But it actually turned out ok. Like I said earlier, fava beans are hardy and have managed to pull through really cold springs before. Try it and you’ll see! You might not be able to put them outside if you’re growing fava beans in an even more unforgiving environment than my gardening zone 3. But you might at least want to try putting them outside a bit earlier than usual?
Growing fava beans in "double rows"
The instructions on how to grow fava beans (on the seed bag) say that I should keep my fava bean rows quite far apart. I don’t do that. I put my plants around 10 centimeters (4 inches) apart in my rows and then start the next row around 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches) away from the first one. It becomes sort of a double row. I do this because I find that the plants can support each other when they’ve grown a bit. If they need additional support then it’s easier to build that when the rows are quite close.
I really like putting the pre-cultivated fava beans in the ground and direct sowing a new batch at the same time. Just remember that the little plants are very popular with birds and other animals. That’s why you should try to put them quite close together, so you can afford to lose a few. Some put several seeds in the same hole and find that to be the best method. So, you don’t have to worry that the plants will compete too much!
I always cut the top of my fava bean plants off when they’ve grown a bit. I think the end result gets a lot better if I stop the plants from growing too tall. The pods in the top are usually not very well developed anyway since ants and aphids gather around them. So it’s better to just cut the plant. This also protects them from collapsing in strong wind or rain.
My favorites are the varieties Witkiem and A Grano Violetto. They're both easy to find in your local garden center. The violet fava beans are very popular with our children who love growing them. There are of course plenty of other varieties that I’m curious to try. But that’s a story for another day!