How to Sow Broad Beans

How to sow Broad Beans

One of the ideal jobs for February or March when it’s still cold, is sowing broad beans, and that’s because broad beans are really truly hardy annuals, they love getting their roots down when it’s cold and wet, just like sweet peas in fact. They get really down deep, and then they don’t get all those annoying things like chocolate spot and broad bean black fly and all that kind of stuff, so sowing early is a really good thing.

Now what you sow into is also important as well as the timing, and some people would sow broad beans into a little pot like that, maybe 2 or 3 seeds in a pot like that, and some people, particularly on allotments tend to favour loo rolls. Now these are both ok, but if I just explain why they’re not ideal, so with a short pot like that, if you sow your seeds in, the root shoot comes out the bottom, and then out the bottom of the pot and it breaks off, and you then get this thing called air pruning, and it breaks off the root, and then you get lateral rootlets forming just like pinching out the tip, if you pinch out the root, you get those lateral rootlets. Now, because it’s in a short, stumpy pot, you don’t have much depth to then branch, if you see what I mean, so that’s why people favour loo rolls, because if you sow one broad bean seed into here, you’ve got double the depth when it comes out the bottom to laterally shoot. Best of all, and what we use here at Perch Hill, are these things called rootrainers, and I’ll just show you exactly why they’re so much better, because if you open up these envelopes, and these are made of plastic but we’ve been using ours for 5 or 6 years, this one is, is the age of this one, so can you see here, you’ve got the long thin profile of the loo roll, but you’ve also got the addition of these channels down the side, and so as the root breaks off at the bottom, you form the lateral rootlets, then those get to the edge of the pot, and in the loo roll they go twiddle, twiddle, twiddle, and it takes time for them to get out the bottom and break off, whereas in this rootrainer they get directed straight to the bottom, break off, lateral rootlet formation, straight to the bottom, break off, lateral rootlet formation, so you get a root ball forming much more quickly, and particularly in March, and as we go into April, getting your broad beans out there as quickly as possible is important, so a rootrainer is the thing to use.

These were sown in February, and to get succession going, I’m going to sow another pack now in March, and then later today I’m going to put these in the garden, but leave these in here to grow on, to then go out in 3 to 4 weeks’ time. When I’m sowing broad beans, I plant them down to about the first knuckle on my finger, and so I guess that’s about 2cm, and I always sow the whole tray with the seeds first, and then I cover, because otherwise if the phone rings, or something happens and I get distracted, I forget which cell I’ve already filled, so then I go back over it again. So that’s a general rule whenever I’m sowing, don’t cover until you’ve finished the whole tray, and then I water and label, and because I’ve got a horticultural electric blanket, I put it on to speed up germination, but honestly you don’t need it for broad beans.