In mild parts of the country you can sow some cultivars in sheltered sites in autumn, for a crop that should be ready to pick in about 25 weeks. During very cold weather it pays to cover the plants with cloches or other forms of protection.
The main sowing period is March and April, although they can be sown in February, under cloches, for an earlier crop and in May to extend the crop throughout the summer months and into autumn. Spring sown crops will be ready to pick in about 15 weeks.
Sow seeds 5cm (2in) deep and 20cm (8in) apart. Dwarf varieties can be sown 15cm (6in) apart. They are best sown in double rows, with the rows 20cm (8in) apart. If a second double row is needed this should be positioned 60cm (2ft) away from the first.
Sow a few extra seeds at the end of the rows to fill in any gaps produced by seeds that don’t germinate.
Taller varieties will need supporting, so place a stout stake at each corner of the double row, and every 1.5m round the rows, and run string around the stakes at 30cm (1ft) intervals from the ground.
Water plants when they begin to flower and again two weeks later – watering at other times is only needed during prolonged droughts.
You can pick pods when they are 7.5cm (3in) long and cook them whole. When picking pods to shell, wait until the beans are visible through the pod, but don't leave them too long - the scar on the bean should still be white or green - not black, as the beans will be as tough as leather at this stage.
‘The Sutton’ AGM: Dwarf variety with small beans that can be grown in pots. Sow in autumn.
‘Aquadulce Claudia’ AGM: Long pods. Can be sown in spring or autumn.
‘Stereo’: Tender skinned variety that can picked early and cooked like mangetout.
‘Witkiem Manita’ AGM: Sow in spring or autumn. Fast growing with long pods.
Black bean aphid: Broad beans can be attacked by sap-sucking aphids, which will disfigure plants and cause stunting to leaves and stems.
Remedy: Pinch out the top 7.5cm (3in) of the stems when the first pods start to form – this will also help produce an earlier crop. Don't throw these tops away as they can be lightly steamed and eaten. If you need to spray, you could use pyrethrum, plant or fish oils or soap (fatty acid) based insecticides.
Chocolate spot: Common on overwintering plants or in damp, humid weather, this fungal disease causes brown spots on leaves and brown streaks on stems and pods.
Remedy: Ensure there is good air flow around plants by spacing them correctly and keeping the ground weed free.
Read more information about chocolate spot
Pea and bean weevil: This tiny insect bites tiny U-shaped holes from around the outside of the leaf, resulting in a distinctive scalloped appearance.
Remedy: Although unsightly, damage is unlikely to have an impact on the harvest. Covering with fleece will boost growth and exclude the weevils.