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Fava Bean Secret?

 
Will Holland
Posts: 300
Location: CT zone 5b
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Is there a secret to growing nice fava beans? I love them, and every year mine don't produce well, and get weird black spots all over the plant/pods. I also have no idea how to properly grow them, if there is such a thing, so by secret I mean how do you grow these damn things? cheers
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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I think favas are pretty particular as to climate. They don't like really hot weather unless they are just coming up or else the mature pods are drying down. They are a Mediterranean native, which means that ideally they come up in the fall, grow slowly through the winter, then shoot up and produce their crop in the spring. If the beans are for dry beans then they stand on the stalk till early summer when they are dry. It's a comparable season to that of winter wheat. In climates too cold for them to overwinter, they have to try to grow during the summer. This works very far north, as in Canada, or in cool-summer climates, like England or the Pacific NW. Reading from your other post that you are in the NE, my guess is that they are trying to grow in a short season between a winter that's too cold and a summer that's too hot, and the black spots are coming on with the hot weather.....
 
Will Holland
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Location: CT zone 5b
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Yup, I'm in southern Connecticut. I wonder how hardy they are? If they won't overwinter here, I could at least try overwintering them in my hoophouse. Otherwise, I might just have to let them go.
 
Alder Burns
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I would say you're definitely too cold. If you can't plant peas in the fall you can't plant favas either. I found them iffy even in central Georgia. But if you have a hoophouse situation where you can bring hardy vegetables through, they should do fine. You might also try planting fairly early in the fall, like Sept. 1 or so, and then mulch the plants heavily, even burying them in mulch, through the winter. I find that when there's an occasional hard freeze the tops kill back but more sprouts come back from down near the ground and after a while you never know the difference. Those rootstocks will make much bigger and faster growth come spring than spring-planted seeds....
 
Rosalind Riley
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Location: Kent, South-east England, UK
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Hi Will and Alder

I think what Alder's said is really useful. I overwinter what we call "broad beans" (ie favas) in the SE of the UK and sometimes it works well! The worst thing for this technique is a mild early winter as you get lots of soft green growth which is susceptible to total destruction when the frost/snow comes. With the bad winters we've been having I'm thinking of protecting mine this winter, possibly with fleece rather than plastic so I don't have to worry about water, and perhaps take up Alder's mulching idea.

I use a variety called Claudia Aquadulce which is specifically for autumn sowing. There's other varieties as well but most seed available in the UK is for spring sowing so I choose carefully.

The other possibility for Spring is to do what my friend does - she has a big polytunnel and brings on her plants in early Spring for planting out once the worst frost are past. They can still take a bit of cold and you can use the regular Spring varieties. Best to plant in deep pots or "root-trainers", or in the cardboard tubes from what I call loo-roll but I guess you might call toilet paper! Depends on how big a crop you want, as bringing on in pots is obviously a bit more fiddly, but with the cardboard tubes you can plant the whole thing, tube and all, straight in the ground.

I realise my info is from a different continent, but I hope it helps. There's nothing like young and tender broad beans, especially if you get them earlier than anyone else!
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Here in Maine I planted my favas as soon as the soil could be worked. Currently the plants are 18 inches tall or more and full of flowers. This is my first year growing them but so far it seems to be going well. I should also say that I bought a lot of seed and planted them in four completely different climate ares of my property. Even still, they all seem to be doing about the same and just about every seed came up healthy. There are ants on some of them but no black spots thus far. Now I'll be a little more diligent in observation. Thanks for the heads up on this one.
 
Rosalind Riley
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Location: Kent, South-east England, UK
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote: There are ants on some of them but no black spots thus far. Now I'll be a little more diligent in observation.


Craig - those ants will be farming out black aphids on the leafy tips of your plants! Your diligence will mean that you can rub off any colonies as soon as you see them. One trick is to pinch out the tips in advance of any infestation - you can eat the tips, they are very nice and work in soup/quiche/as greens. If they tips get heavily infested just pick them off anyway and compost - the aphids will die in the heap - but if you wait for this stage you can't eat the greens!

Reminds me I must check mine out after work...
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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Rosalind Riley wrote:
Craig Dobbelyu wrote: There are ants on some of them but no black spots thus far. Now I'll be a little more diligent in observation.


Craig - those ants will be farming out black aphids on the leafy tips of your plants! Your diligence will mean that you can rub off any colonies as soon as you see them. One trick is to pinch out the tips in advance of any infestation - you can eat the tips, they are very nice and work in soup/quiche/as greens. If they tips get heavily infested just pick them off anyway and compost - the aphids will die in the heap - but if you wait for this stage you can't eat the greens!

Reminds me I must check mine out after work...


That's pretty much what's going on out there. I just took a walk to feed the chickens and pigs a little treat and stopped to look at the favas in one place. There's a few plants with a couple aphids but not much more than that. The aphids seem to prefer the lambs quarters. That works out great because the chickens and pigs love lambs quarters and I'm happy to feed it to them.
It's good to know that the fava plant tips can be eaten. I have a few that got knocked over in a storm last night so I might just thin them out. Thanks for all the info.
 
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