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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Broad Beans, Fava Beans

Broad beans flowers1
Broad beans near harvest

Broad beans, also called fava beans, are a cool-season crop. The broad bean is a bushy, hardy annual that can grow from 3 to 4½ feet (.9-1.3m) tall. The broad bean has square stems with leaves divided into leaflets.

Broad bean pods are 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) long and contain 4 to 6 flat, oval seeds that can be white, yellow, green, or pinkish-red. The broad bean has white flowers that are splotched with brown. The broad bean is not a true bean; it is related to vetch, another legume.

Broad Beans–Fava Beans Quick Growing Tips

  • Sow broad beans in spring as soon as the soil can be worked for harvest before the weather warms.
  • Broad beans grow best in temperatures ranging from 60° to 65°F (15-18°C) but fava beans will grow in temperatures as low as 40°F (4.4°C) and as warm as 75°F (24°C).
  • Broad beans require 80 to 100 days to reach harvest. In mild-winter regions sow broad beans in early autumn for winter harvest.
  • Yield: Plant 4 to 8 broad beans per household member.

Where to Planting Broad Beans–Fava Beans

  • Grow broad beans in full sun.
  • Plant broad beans in loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting.
  • Broad beans prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.

Broad Beans Planting Time

  • Broad beans grow best in cool weather where air temperatures are below 70°F (21°C).
  • Broad beans, unlike snap beans, will not set pods in warm weather.
  • Sow broad beans in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
  • Broad beans will grow in temperatures as low as 40°F (4.4°C).
  • Broad beans require 80 to 100 days to reach harvest.
  • In mild-winter regions sow broad beans in early autumn for winter or spring harvest. They will not produce in the summer’s heat.
  • In cold regions, grow broad beans instead of lima beans, which require a warmer and long growing season.

Good Products for Growing Your Garden

Broad bean seedlings for transplanting
Broad bean seedlings ready for transplanting

Planting and Spacing Broad Beans

  • Sow broad bean seeds 1 inch deep and 4 to 5 inches (10-12cm) apart.
  • Space rows 18 to 30 inches (45-76cm) apart.
  • Thin seedlings to stand 8 to 10 inches (20-25cm) apart. I
  • n short-season regions, start broad beans indoors in peat pots and set them in the garden shortly after the last frost in spring.

Broad Beans Companion Plants

  • Grow brad beans with potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, summer savory.
  • Do not plant broad beans with onions or garlic.

Container Growing Broad Beans

  • Beans can be grown in containers; use a 5-gallon container. A good crop will take more space than most containers can provide.

Watering and Feeding Broad Beans

  • Water broad beans just before the soil dries out, but do not over-water them.
  • Keep soil moist during flowering and pod formation.
  • Plant beans in well-drained soil.
  • Broad beans do not require feeding apart from planting in fertile, composted soil. Beans set up a mutual exchange with soil microorganisms called nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which help them produce usable nitrogen.

Broad Beans Care

  • Keep planting beds weed-free; cultivate shallowly to avoid disturbing roots.

Broad Beans Pests

  • Broad beans can be attacked by aphids, bean beetles, flea beetles, leafhoppers, and mites.
  • Spray aphids away with a blast from the hose.
  • Bean beetles and flea beetles can be controlled with sticky traps.
  • Exclude leafhoppers with horticultural fleece or spray with insecticidal soap. and mites can be controlled.
  • Spray mites with insecticidal soap.
  • Small white and yellow moths are adult cabbage worms that shelter in beans. They will not harm beans.

Broad Beans Diseases

  • Beans are susceptible to blight, mosaic, and anthracnose.
  • Cut down the incidence of disease by planting disease-resistant varieties.
  • Keep the garden clean. Avoid handling the plants when they are wet.
  • Remove and destroy infected plants so they can not spread the disease to healthy plants.
  • Soil-borne diseases can be reduced by changing the location of bean crops each year.
Broad beans after harvest
Raw broad beans out of pods

Harvesting Broad Beans

  • Pick broad beans for fresh use like you would snap beans–when the seeds are about the size of a pea.
  • Pick broad beans for drying when they mature and begin to yellow, usually about 85 days after planting. 

How to Dry Broad Beans

  • For dry beans, let the pods mature and turn yellow.
  • Pick the pods before they darken or turn black (a sign of mold); this can happen quickly in humid or wet regions. If you allow the pods to turn black they will require additional time to dry.
  • Dry fava beans on a screen or cookie sheet in a warm, sheltered spot with good air circulation; do not dry beans outdoors if it is humid.
  • Beans can also be dried in a food dehydrator set on low heat.
  • The skin of the fava bean will wrinkle when it is dry.

Storing and Preserving Broad Beans

  • Unshelled broad beans will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Broad beans can be frozen, canned, or dried.
  • Dried shelled broad beans can be stored in a cool dry place for 10 to 12 months.

Broad Beans Varieties To Grow

Few named varieties may be available; grow the variety available in your area.

  • Short-season varieties (80 days): ‘Express’, ‘Loretta’, ‘The Sutton’.
  • Longer-maturing varieties (90 days or more): ‘Aprovecho Select’, ‘Aquadulce’, ‘Aquadulce Claudia’, ‘Imperial Green Longpod’, ‘Jumbo’, ‘Masterpiece’.

About Broad Beans

  • Common name. Bean, broad bean, fava bean, Windsor bean, Scotch bean, horse bean
  • Botanical name. Vicia faba
  • Origin. Central Asia

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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