Although broad beans can be sown directly into the ground in late Autumn (last week of October or early November) this is not ideal in colder areas, as they may need protection over winter, or where the soil is waterlogged – which is a problem many of us face in the heavy clay soil in the Vale of York. One alternative, particularly suited to wetter soil, is to sow the seed in pots under glass in late February for planting out the following month. Once sown, the pots need cool (but not freezing) conditions for the seeds to germinate. If the seeds are grown on in a warmer location (such as indoors) they will become ‘leggy’ and will be difficult to plant out. So a cold frame or unheated greenhouse is ideal.
Use 7cm/3-inch pots filled with a general purpose compost. It is a good idea to stand the pots in shallow water for half an hour before planting. The germination rate for broad beans is high so one seed per pot should be sufficient. Make a hole 4cm (1 1/2″) and drop the broad bean seed in.
It doesn’t matter much which way up the seed is planted. Fill the hole with compost and pat down. Don’t forget to mark your pots – let’s be honest, most of us have planted seeds and then got our pots mixed up at some point! The ideal temperature for germination is around 12 C but anything above 7 C will give good results.
Once the seedlings appear, move the pots to a position where they will get plenty of light. Seeds planted in the last week of February should be ready for planting out on the allotment in the last week of March.
Good luck – broad beans eaten young and tender are really delicious!