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Broad beans are often grown from seeds in autumn to secure an early harvest at the start of summer, though this versatile vegetable will do just as well in the garden when sown in winter. Raising a new crop of beans at this time of year is incredibly easy due to their hardiness, meaning the seeds require little attention once germinated. And, according to gardening expert-turned-YouTube star, Gardening With Ben, they can even be grown in pots to save space.
How to grow green beans
Demonstrating the “fast and easy” technique using Aquadulce Claudia green beans, Ben gathered a clean trough and some compost ready to sow the large seeds.
He explained that homemade compost is “excellent” for helping the flavoursome beans to grow, though as long as a peat-free multipurpose mix is also “ideal for the job it does”.
It is possible to grow the beans in a large trough until the harvest season (in May and June), though the gardening expert noted that he transplants the seeds after germination into their own pots.
He said: “They’ll need some support, so if you are planting them to keep in the trough, don’t plant as many!”
Fill the container halfway, or two-thirds up to the top with compost before gently patting the earthy mixture down ready to host the seeds.
The large seeds can be purchased in packs of 80 for as little as £1.25 online, or you can visit your local gardening centre to browse different varieties to grow outdoors.
Ben recommended spreading the seeds out onto the soil rather than sprinkling them due to their size, adding that you should avoid planting them “too close together”.
In a wide trough, three evenly-spaced rows should be enough to fill the space without overcrowding the beans as they try to grow.
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The Yorksire-based gardening expert said: “If you plant them in the trough to leave in there, you would just want one or possibly two rows in a diagonal pattern. You wouldn’t want them all crammed together.”
Once the seeds are neatly positioned, add another layer of compost to lightly cover them over without being too deep in the soil.
Without water, the seeds “won’t grow”, so be sure to give them a good drink. Ben also recommended warming the seeds up before moving them to their germination spot.
He said: “A powerful trick for getting them nice and warm is to use cling film. So that will keep the moisture in, instead of having to keep watering them.”
As well as keeping the seeds hydrated, the cling film “keeps them a bit insulated like a mini greenhouse”.
One layer of plastic wrap on top of the trough is all you need, as long as it is tightly secured to the planter to trap warmth and water.
Ben recommended moving the trough to a greenhouse to the seeds started, though you can keep them on a sunny windowsill or in a humid space indoors.
He added that wherever you choose to keep the young seedlings, you should place them high up to prevent any pests or rodents from eating the broad beans before they have a chance to grow.
If you don’t have a greenhouse and want to sow the beans directly outdoors, you will have to wait a few weeks. An expert at Seed Parade explained that although green vegetables are tolerant of temperatures as low as -13C, they require higher temperatures in the early stages of germination.
They said: “Sow the broad bean seeds outside in the open ground in October-November for an early crop, under cloches in January or March-April. The seeds can be later transplanted out when the seedlings are about 30 cm tall.
“Harden off the seedlings properly by keeping them outside during the day and putting them back inside for the night. Do this for four to six days before planting broad beans outside to their final position.
“This is very important with the broad beans as the cold spells in March can easily damage the young plants which are raised inside in a protected environment.”
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