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How to Plant Fava Beans

Fava beans (Vicia faba), also called broad beans or horse beans, are annual bean plants that reach about 2 to 4 feet tall and enjoy cooler temperatures, not enduring hot summer conditions. Fava beans can be eaten individually or cooked inside the pods, similar to peas. Fava bean plants are sometimes planted as “cover crops,” because the plants actually return large amounts of nitrogen to the soil. If you live in a region where winter temperatures stay above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the best time to plant your fava beans is in September or early October, harvesting the beans in early spring. If you live in a colder climate, plant your fava beans in early spring.

Plant your fava beans in full sunlight and in well-draining, fertile, loose soil. Avoid planting in the same spot each year, but instead rotate the planting site with non-bean crops.

Remove all weeds, grass or debris and loosen the soil to a depth of 6 to 12 inches, using a rototiller or pitchfork. Mix into the garden soil some organic compost if the soil is nutrient-poor.

Spread a granular 5-10-10 NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer at a rate of 1 cup per 50 feet of row and work it down into the top 6 inches of soil. Water the soil generously to moisten the top 6 inches thoroughly.

Plant your fava bean seeds about 1 to 2 inches deep and 3 to 6 inches apart. The rows should be about 2 feet apart.

Water deeply once or twice each week throughout the growing season to supplement rainfall, soaking the soil around the roots. Give the plants about 1 inch of water per week.

Remove weeds from around your fava bean plants by hand-pulling them or hoeing them shallowly. Be careful not to disturb the plants’ shallow roots. Also spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of straw or shredded bark mulch around the fava bean plants to control weeds.

Tip

If you have heavy, compacted soil, cover the fava beans with peat moss, sand, vermiculite or organic compost instead of the garden soil to prevent the soil from compacting and crusting over the planted beans.

Harvest your fava beans about 120 days or more after planting them, when the pods are plump and thick but are still green.

Warning

Avoid planting your fava beans before all danger of hard frosts has passed. Although fava beans can often survive temperatures down to 20 or 25 degrees Fahrenheit, you shouldn’t plant them when late winter frosts and freezes are still occurring. Also, don’t plant your fava beans too late in the spring, because they won’t tolerate hot summer temperatures.

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