Broadcasting broad beans

P1020852One of the great end games of seed saving is that you can grow decent crops of a decent size providing only that you have the ground to sow this surplus seed into. With winter now only two weeks away and the annual pilgrimage to the Fatherland ahead for cook and gardener, the pressure is on to complete autumn plantings and to clear the seed table.

Broad beans (Fava beans) are an important crop to get planted before the cold settles in and the chances of germination slow. At the same time, delaying the planting of the broad beans gives me the best shot at getting the biggest possible crop of beans off these plants in early Spring when the flowers are no longer threatened by frost. That way beans can set for harvest at a  time when the soil is still too cool for anything much else to be producing. Finally, a good crop of broad beans - because they are a member of the legume family - locks nitrogen into the soil from the air, and improves the size of the follow-on crop of tomatoes or capsicums. In short, timing is all with broad beans.

P1020847Despite the importance of this crop to cook and gardener,I’ve got to get more than 500 broad bean seeds into the ground as speedily as possible. I’ve a tin and a half of these large ‘Aquadulce’ broad beans, so I can literally ‘throw’ them into trenches hurriedly cut into some good fallow soil. These beans are going in ‘dry’; elsewhere I’ll be throwing clumps of lettuce seedlings into trenches also, but they will be more demanding of moisture. So I deep water those trenches with rainwater from the tall tanks while I’m blasting in the broad bean crop. Slow soaking wets up the sub-soil and gives the lettuces every chance of getting their roots down early.

P1020854Back in the broad bean bed, I just walk down the trench lines and through the bean seeds into the trenches at 10 cm (6”) spacing. I can push the crop density because I’ve spent so much effort making great friable soils high in nutrients and with good structure.Only after each trench is seeded and backfilled do I cut the next trench in the plot. Even the rows are closer together than normal; this block of free-standing bean plants will then have a better chance of supporting itself during the windier weather of Spring.

After two solid days of gardening, the seed table is empty and only garlic remains to be planted. There too timing is important, and I’m waiting for my seed garlic to show just a little more enthusiasm by sprouting; that’s the best sign that the cloves are ready to be returned to the soil.


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