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How to Grow Broad Beans, Fava Beans

Broad beans near harvestBroad beans, also called fava beans, are a cool-season crop that grows 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). Sow broad beans in spring as soon as the soil can be worked for harvest before the weather warms. Broad beans require 80 to 100 days to reach harvest. In mild-winter regions sow broad beans in early autumn for winter harvest.

Description. 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. 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 is related to vetch, another legume.

Yield. Plant 4 to 8 broad beans per household member.

Planting Fava Beans

Site. 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.

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). They 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 areas where winters are mild, plant broad beans in the fall for a spring crop. In cold regions, grow broad beans instead of lima beans, which require a warmer and long growing season.

Broad bean seedlings for transplanting
Broad bean seedlings ready for transplanting

Planting and spacing. 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. In short-season regions, start broad beans indoors in peat pots and set them into the garden shortly after the last frost in spring.

Companion plants. Potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, summer savory. Do not plant broad beans with onions or garlic.

Container growing. Beans can be grown in containers, but a good crop will take more space than most containers can provide.

Caring for Fava Beans

Water and feeding. 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.

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

Pests. 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.

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

How to Harvest Fava 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 Fava 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.

How to Store and Preserve Fava 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.

Fava Bean 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’.

Common name. Bean, broad bean, fava bean, Windsor bean, Scotch bean, horse bean

Botanical name. Vicia faba

Origin. Central Asia

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32 Comments

  1. Thanks for your informative site. I bought the dried variety in the health food store and still have a big bag left. I thought they were a little to chewy even after cooking them well, however they are tasty. So I sprouted some and one plant got a great start, so I moved it out in our South Florida yard in the center of a big sunny bed. I realize that I should have more plants for the two of us, so this will be a fun experiment only. I hope it will be fun?! I am expecting to have a “harvest” by the end of January.

  2. I grew fava bean three years ago and “forget” if soaking them in a nutrient rich medium (fish emulsion or kelp stock) is a must or just a reccomendation. The bag I have has no instructions. But a small packet I saw at a seed stored mentioned soaking them for 12-24 hrs before planting! Really?

    • Soaking seeds in water will help the seed coat to split which in turn initiates germination–the embryo must soak up water and swell for germination. When the weather is hot and dry and the soil is dry, soaking vegetable garden seed–especially seeds with hard or thick coats–can speed up germination by several days. Generally, you don’t want to soak seeds for more than 12 to 24 hours–soaking seeds too long can essentially drown them. Soaking seed in compost tea or a weak fish emulsion or weak stock kelp will add nutrients to the equation but is not essential. Some gardeners like to treat beans with a powdered inoculant — that is a powdered form of bacteria or fungus–before planting. Bean inoculants commonly include the Rhizobium bacteria which is a nitrogen-fixing bacterium. Beans use nitrogen to make amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, and nitrogen is essential for making chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the molecule that converts sunlight (energy) into carbohydrates by the process of photosynthesis. All of this can lead to a bumper crop, however, if you are adding aged compost to your garden a couple of times a year, you will likely have a bumper crop without inoculating your beans.

      • Thank you! I started a little experiment after posting here and reading other sites asking the same question.

        I planted 10 fava beans yesterday and placed 20 in water at ambient temp outside. It’s at the 24 hr point about now so I’ll plant those in the grown as well. Will be interesting to see which ones germinate first!

        I like your website too. Glad I found it! Looking forward to learn more and being active here as well!

        Cheers!

  3. im from zimbabwe and i got a couple of seeds from a friend abroad and sprouted them. im due to haverst them within the month and boy or boy did they produce. it was all an experiment when i planted them and i didnt even know them. this site has been very useful. thanks a lot

    • If your fava beans are not a hybrid varieties, you can allow the pods on one of the plants to dry on the plant. You can then save the seed and plant it next season. That way you will not need to get seed from abroad on a regular basis. If your plant is a hybrid, get some non-hybrid or open-pollinated seed to plant and save the seed. Broad Windsor is an open-pollinated fava bean.

  4. Hi. Thanks for the great article. I love Fava Beans and definitely want to grow some. I would like to grow them in pots and have some pretty big pots I could use. Do you know how big a pot should be? Also, I live in Sacramento California where it stays pretty warm well into Fall. Fava beans are just about ready to hit the farmers’ markets here and its April 1st. Does this mean that I would plant Fava seeds in November out here? That would work out to being five months from November to April. Thank’s again.

    • Yes, fava beans are a cool-weather crop, unlike most beans. You will want to grow them in the cool time of the year, so planting in fall for spring harvest would be the best course in Sacramento. Fava beans can take some frost, but if a freeze is predicted during the winter cover the favas with a row cover to protect them from too much chill. A 7 or 10 gallon container would likely be big enough for one or two plants.

  5. Do broad beans survive temperatures of over 30c? – I’m planning on harvesting early June when temp is about 32c. – also is it bad that I planted groups of two next to each other 4in apart from another group? And 4in deep. I dont know what to do exactly, quite a lot of free spins to it; do I need to give it support when it starts growing? – anyhow thanks amigo.

    • Broad beans do not like temperatures as warm as 30C (86F); the optimum growing temperature is 70-80F (21-26C). It is best to harvest before temperatures get too warm; very warm weather will stress the plants and affect flavor. Plant seeds 1–2 inches deep into well-prepared, aged compost-rich soil. Sow seed 3–5 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 8–l0 inches apart. Plants should not need support early on; as they grow, plants set 8-10 inches apart will support each other as they mature.

  6. I’ve been growing broad beans here in the hills east of Perth,Western Australia for thirty years . I select the biggest dried beans each year for planting the next autumn, We have frosts down to 23 degrees F(probably zone 8)and I’ve never covered them. Additionally, warm weather increases the size of the pods for us. Temperatures over 90F in October are not uncommon.
    We eat the young shoots as a steamed vegetable. and young pods,(10 cm long by 2 cm diameter) straight off the plant,Some people chop up the whole semi-mature pods to go in stews. If your pods are mature you can cook the beans,then drop them in cold water so you can peel them,then eat the double-peeled beans.Delicious!.
    Then ,of course we make falafel and hummus from the dried ,cooked and mushed beans.
    The haulms are great for compost either green or dried,
    Great plant.

  7. My favas are ready to harvest in seattle. If I want to improve the soil do I chop these stalks into the soil or just leave their rootballs intact before planting out foot tall tomatoes plants?

    • Nodes on the roots of the fava bean will add nitrogen to the soil; chop them and turn them under. Chopping the stalks and turning them into the soil will add undecomposed organic material to the soil; they eventually will decompose. Chop the stalks and add them to the compost pile; they will decompose more quickly there over the course of the summer.

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