How to grow Broad Beans or Fava Beans

Broad Beans are one of the most useful crops we can grow, they fill a gap in the garden over winter when little else is growing and the beans germinate at lower temperatures than even grass starts to grow at in spring. This means that we can plant them as early as February and continue to start them off and plant them right up until May, this method gives us a continuance of cropping.

One of the other great things about growing broad beans is like all legumes they fix nitrogen into the soil and this allows us to increase the soil fertility for a follow-on crop which makes them perfect to sow in a bed before nitrogen hungry summer crops.

You can sow seeds directly into the soil, but my preferred method is to raise them in either root trainers or the centre of cardboard toilet rolls. Toilet roll centres are a money saving way to get your seeds of to a good start, so save them for just this purpose, find a seed tray that you can snugly fit them into before filling with compost. The cardboard holders are planted along with your seedling and will biodegrade.

Fill up your root trainers or toilet roll centres with a potting compost, there is no need to use a specific seed compost for beans. Tap down the soil in the container by banging the tray or container on a hard surface and then insert the beans with the black line on the bean facing down at roughly 3 to 5 cm deep. Cover with a layer of compost and water.  The key is to keep the compost damp and not to over water.

The beans will not need heat to make them geminate, as they will happily germinate at about 4 degrees, so I would recommend that you start them slowly in a cold environment such as a cold frame, an unheated greenhouse or conservatory.

When they are roughly 7 1/2 cm or 3 inches high you will need to acclimatise them to the outside (hardening off) and plant out at approximately 23 cm or 9 inches apart. There is no need to leave to 2 feet between rows as this is the spacing designed for commercial agriculture we can plant ours in 9in sq with 9 between double rows

I cover planting out in the broad bean film below:

Planting Broad or Fava beans

The varieties I grow are:


This variety and its derivatives are the perfect bean for overwintering Its famously hardy and being a longpod variety produces 8-9 nice tasting beans. Remember if your sowing in the Autumn you want short stocky plants that are strong enough to get through the Winter so don’t fertilize before planting.  Grows to about 100cms

The Sutton

If you live in a mild area you can overwinter this bean but its also good planted in the Spring.

The Sutton is a much shorter growing bean so is ideal for windy gardens or in raised beds or even large containers. It crops early producing 5-6 small but deliciously nutty flavoured tender beans that freeze well.  Grows to about 45cms

Bowland Beauty

One of my favourite broad beans, red and green seed often in the same pod!. The long, well filled pods with upto 12 beans respond to early sowing in loo rolls in a greenhouse in January, cropping at the same time as autumn sown varieties, so can be a great choice for exposed or cold gardens but can be sown until April with very good results.

It is named after George Bowland who first grew it.  It grows to about 80-100c

Grando Violetto

The most wonderful purple beans although the pods are green and with an excellent flavour as they are a “Windsor” type with 4 -7 beans per pod. Best started in March with a couple more sowing upto May for beans throughout the summer to add to a colourful salad  Grows to about 60-100cms

Crimson Flowered (Vicia Faba)


The main attraction of this bean is the stunning deep red fragrant flowers means it easy to fit into a flower border with the added bonus of being highly productive for tender tasty beans. Its a Windsor type from the 18th century and was saved from only 4 beans!.

It was Queen Victoria favourite bean and was always grown at Osborne house on the Isle of White.  Grows to about 60-80cms

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5 thoughts on “How to grow Broad Beans or Fava Beans”

  1. Thanks Mark for your post. It is good to have you back again as your posts inspire some of us to get up and get at it. I emailed you some questions on cold frame making and positioning and I’m sure other folk would benefit if you made a post on this.

    1. Hi David

      Thank you for your comments really appreciated.

      I am planning to make a post on cold frame making in the not too distant future so keep your eyes open for the email update.

      Kind regards


  2. Hi mark, e-mailed you about a month ago , regarding what other than brown turkey figs to grow ??

    1. Hi Gary

      The figs I grow are Bourjasotte Gris which is quite a large fruit but very a lovely syrupy fig and it grows happily in a pot. Also Peter’s Honey is very sweet and probably my favourite. Orphan is also a good fig, it can be harder to get hold of but I do have to keep it in the polytunnel to ripen the fruit. Rouge de Bordeaux can give you two crops a year if you keep it in a polytunnel or greenhouse and is probably the darkest, most classic looking fig of the ones I grow.

      Sorry for not replying sooner, I think your email may have gone astray.

      Kind regards


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