Vegetable patch at the Yeo Valley Organic Garden Vegetable patch at the Yeo Valley Organic Garden

Broadly Speaking

Thursday 10th June 2021

Yeo Valley gardener Zelah is a real fan of the humble broad bean.

Down in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden, our veg patch is made up of several raised beds and is a real hot spot for our visitors. Yeo Valley gardener Zelah tells us about her favourite bean!

Zelah in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden
Gardener Zelah in the Broad Bean bed

‘My name is Zelah and I look after the vegetable garden in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden. I want to talk about Vinca faba, A.K.A The Broad Bean! I love everything about broad beans starting with their smell and their leathery outer pod. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than peeling down the side strings to reveal the soft, furry inner pod which holds all those tasty little bean gems!

Broad beans are a cool season crop with two main sowing times; they go straight into the ground October -November for an overwintering crop or in Mid-March – May. If you want to get ahead of the game, you can also sow undercover in mid- February. A bonus of autumn sown beans is that they shouldn’t have to be watered after the initial watering in as there is always plenty of rain through the winter season.

support for the broad beans in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden
Adding in the vertical canes to support the growing plants

I sowed two lots of beans this year because I’m greedy and want to pick and eat them for as long as possible! The first lot were sown direct in the ground last October. I used a variety called ‘Super Aquadulce’. It’s known for its tolerance to cold, semi compact growth habit and its high yield of delicious beans… what’s not to love?! These were sown in a double row with sturdy stakes at each end and at intervals along the rows. The stakes were then strung together to stop the plants from flopping over when they began to grow. Once the seeds were sown and germinated successfully there was nothing to do except wait for spring when they would (fingers crossed) start growing in ernest.

Trying string between the canes
Trying string between the vertical canes keeps the support strong

Come February I was itching to start sowing the next crop, which I hoped would follow on nicely from the first lot sown in October. This time I sowed into 9cm pots in our heated glasshouse. The variety I choose was ‘Hangdown Green’ as it is a main-crop variety. Not as fast growing but well worth the wait. It is also blessed with long, well filled bean pods and lovely green coloured beans that have an excellent flavour. My mouth is watering just writing about them! Towards the end of March, and as soon as I judged the plant babies to be tall enough to withstand a slug attack I planted them in out into the bean bed. I must say that I haven’t had too much trouble with slugs… yet.

All I need now is for the pesky blackfly to stay away from them! I think that’s going to be a tall order as I have had trouble with them every year so far. Being a certified oraganic garden means we have stringent rules to follow on how we deal with pests and disease. No chemical pesticides here thank you very much. Luckily for me, the humble hoverfly (Syrphid fly) has come to my rescue for the last few years.

Broad Beans in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden
And that’s our broad beans fully supported!

The first year I used them as part of our pest control, I scattered the eggs around as evenly as I could. The emerging and hungry larvae were able to crawl straight onto the plants which were covered in blackfly. They promptly hoovered up the lot in under two weeks. I have to admit I was pretty astounded at their efficiency, and then smug at being able to harness the power of nature. Result! I was so impressed, I ordered them the following year from an online store, this time at the larvae stage. They came in a very handy and eco-friendly cardboard tube with holes in one end for precision scattering onto the plant leaves. They are delivered as live insects so you have to be ready to use them straight away.

If you can’t get hold of the hoverfly eggs/larvae, try pinching out the growing tips of the plants. This is the two leaves at the top. Do this when the first flowers appear. For zero waste gardening, pinched out tips can be steamed and eaten. Yum!

Right, I’m off to harvest my first crop!’

If you’re a broad bean fan like our Zeal, why not give this Broad Bean Pâté recipe a go? Just the ticket for a summery picnic!

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