Growing broad beans in Perth is easy and the kids can help you with both planting and harvesting. In Australia we call them broad beans but in Europe and in US they are known as fava or faba beans. A legume, similar to runner beans and peas. It differs from most other vegetables in Western Australia as it crops in spring and for less than 10 weeks of the year. Broad beans are a great autumn garden addition. They are simple to grow, delicious to eat and planting them naturally enriches the soil.
Broad beans are a good source of protein, carbohydrate, B group vitamins and fibre. They mature in spring and are available for a short period only.
April to July is when to plant broad beans. They prefer cool weather, so you can start planting them in autumn. Plant every 4 weeks over the season to extend your harvest period.
Plant your broad beans in double rows and water thoroughly. Broad bean plants can be heavy once they’re grown. Plant them deep to prevent from being uprooted in windy conditions and stake them for further support.
Varieties of broad beans:
There are more than 40 varieties but the most popular and easiest to grow is Aquadulce. An heirloom variety with a nutty flavour, it has long pods. They take 65 days to be harvest ready. Coles dwarf is a heavy cropper with 20cm long pods on a shorter plant; the Egyptian looks similar but has a huge amount of baby-sized beans.
Aquadulce – A dwarf heirloom variety useful for windy areas. Pods get to 20cm long.
Coles Dwarf Prolific – Produces heavy crops on 1m-high plants.
Crimson Flowered – Has red flowers instead of black/white and good tasting beans. Grows to 90cm.
Early Longpod – Grows up to 1.5m produces large pods.
Egyptian – Large volume of baby-sized beans.
How to plant broad beans in a garden:
- In a sunny spot in a well-drained garden bed, sow seeds 4 cm deep into moist soil that’s been enriched with some soil improver.
- Don’t water again until the seedlings emerge in around 2 weeks. Limiting watering helps to reduce the chance of seeds rotting before germination.
- Broad Beans need support as the plants grow, particularly once they are covered in their large pods. Supports can be constructed from tomato stakes or bamboo and garden twine.
- To encourage a good harvest, as soon as the broad bean seedlings are established start feeding each week with a soluble plant food, which is boosted with extra potassium which will promote flowering and pod development.
- Young and tender pods can be harvested or allow them to develop until you can feel the beans swollen inside the pod. To ‘extract’ the beans, boil the full pods for a few minutes, allow to cool and then slice the pod lengthways and pop out the beans.
- At the end of the season, dig spent plants into the soil to add organic matter and nitrogen into the soil.
When to harvest broad beans:
Crops are harvested from August to November, with the biggest crop in October.
Broad beans ripen from the base upwards, so check the lowest pods regularly as they begin to expand with beans. Pick the pods at full size which is typically longer than 15cm with seeds the size of a five cent piece — before the skins become tough and leathery.
Pick before the tissue that joins the bean to the pod turns black.
The crop is mainly cross-pollinated and, if the activity of bees is low, yields may be low.
Harvest in early morning and keep cool. Broad beans have a short storage life.
Broad beans care and common problems:
Like most plants aphids, snails, caterpillars, redlegged earth mites, vegetable weevil and nematodes are common pests for broad beans.
Chocolate spot (Botrytis fabae) can cause extensive losses and is the major disease in Western Australia to be on the lookout for.
If temperatures are low in early spring broad beans can drop their flower buds. This is natural and new flowers will quickly follow.
Check out our other how to grow in Perth guides: