This is a gourmet crop that matures in early summer, when most other vegetables are still getting started. The beans are easy to grow and very hardy. In well-drained soils, sow them in autumn for an early crop; in heavier soils, you may have to wait a until spring. Give them a sunny, sheltered site.
When to start: Early autumn or spring.
At their best: Early summer.
Time to complete: 30 minutes for sowing.
You will need: Bean seeds, dibber, wooden pegs, string, garden stakes.
Peg out a length of string and make holes along its length, 3 in (6 cm) deep, 10 in (25 cm) apart, and drop a single seed into the base of each one. Mark out and sow successive rows at 8 in (20 cm) intervals. Refill the holes with soil, and water the seeds in well.
Broad beans can grow up to 4 ft (1.2 m) tall and become heavily laden with pods, which can cause the plants to collapse. To prevent this, support the plants by using garden stakes and string to make an open frame around them, particularly in windy areas.
Pinch out growing tips
To reduce the risk of aphid damage, snap off the soft tips of the bean plants once they have started to produce pods.
Broad beans are usually ready to harvest four to five months after planting. Check the pods regularly, and pick them once they are clearly swollen with beans but still look glossy. Once the pods turn leathery, although the beans inside are still edible, they will be tough.