Broad beans are ready to harvest from late May through May and June from an autumn sowing. These great long pods are from the Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia, which is a very hardy variety, the standard for overwintering.
One great thing is about growing broad beans is that they are ready to harvest in late May, when there is hardly any other veg available to pick, from an October sowing, and it is really satisfying to sow the seeds outside in the autumn. An other main reason is for the autumn sowing is to avoid the damage caused by black flies. These insects love to feed on the top of the broad beans and on the joints of the flowers, but with overwintering the plants you can easily avoid this, as the plants will flower and the pods will be ready sooner than the black flies can do any damage to the crop.
The advice is to pinch out the growing tips of the plants as soon as they are in full flower, this will help to avoid black fly attack and the plants will put their energy towards producing tastier and bigger pods rather than vertical growth.
Sow the broad bean seeds outside in the open ground in October-November for an early crop, under cloches in January or March-April. Alternatively the seeds can be sown inside in February and later transplanted out when the seedlings about 30 cm tall. Harden off the seedlings properly by keeping them outside during the day and putting them back inside for the night. Do this for 4-6 days before planting broad beans outside to their final position. This is very important with the broad beans as the cold spells in March can easily damage the young plants which are raised inside in a protected environment.
Sow the seeds in double rows 5 cm deep, 20-25 cm between the rows and leave 70-80 cm between the double rows. Plant them in blocks, this way the plants will protect each other from wind and will surpress weeds in the spring. In fact I had to weed the patch only once.
If you don’t have enough space on the plot and want to grow your beans in large pots it is best to sow in January – February inside in moduls; but if you have large containers and raised beds outside you can plant the broad beans the same way as described above, direct in the autumn.
Growing broad beans in the winter is very easy, as the plants are cold tolerant down to about – 13 Celsius. If you expect colder nights than that you will have to provide some protection for your plants, cloches, and different horticultural fleeces are readily available. Even in the spring they need no attention, as the weather is normally quite rainy and weeds don’t appear usually before the beans start growing again. Make sure they have enough water when in flower and keep them weed free. The only thing what you should do is to pinch out the growing tips when the plants are in full flower.
After harvesting the pods make sure you leave the roots in the soil as they contain plenty of precious nitrogen.