Nick Kitchener wrote:If you harvest the bean at flowering then you naturally wont have any beans. I tried this last year with grains and it worked well.
Fava beans grow pretty big (you need to stake them otherwise they'll fall over and make your lodging problems even worse), and so just after flowering (the bees love them), I cut the plant off at ground level and removed the plant for composting.
With grains, if you introduce Nitrogen at the wrong time, you get too much green growth and not very good seed growth and so any Nitrogen additions should come early in the growing season.
What happened was that the beans didn't die like I expected. In fact it burst forth new growth and flowered again about a month later. It was too late in the season for them to develop beans good enough to eat, but it was good information.
It means that the fava bean self pruned its root system, releasing Nitrogen at the right time. It then continued to grow, accumulating more Nitrogen and storing it until after the grain was harvested. I then had a second Nitrogen harvest that went into the soil ready for the next growing season. It also provided a late bloom of flowers for the bees.
I'm going to do it again this year. The only thing to watch out for is wind blowing over the beans and damaging the grains.
Trevor Walker wrote:What happens when you chop and drop a fully fruited bean plant?
Does it waste the nitrogen? Or do you get it back in the soil through green mulch?
My understanding is that the nodules fix nitrogen, most of which the fava uses for itself when it's putting on those big huge seed pods. So for max nitrogen you till it in right about when it's flowering. For max biomass you let it run it's course and eat as you like.
How about eating the beans and returning the pee to the soil?
Renting a tractor and tilling the field would cost perhaps $200 including fuel. Some people might badmouth plowing the soil, but I presume that the reason that tilling has survived for 10,000 years is because it has proven itself to be inexpensive and productive. I suppose that tilling has shown itself to be sustainable, because since time immemorial farmers have tilled their fields: Regardless of how bad the economy is. Regardless of availability of fossil fuels. Regardless of social decay or warlords. Regardless of environmentalists or mycologists.
The reason that I don't apply mulches or wood chips or other organic matter to my farm is that it's unaffordable. Small-scale growers can pretty much do anything that they want without calculating costs for labor or materials. You ever tried to gather together enough cardboard to cover 22,000 square feet? That's about 4400 boxes, or a pile 140 feet tall if broke down and laid out flat. That's around 20 to 40 pickup trucks full of boxes. You priced gasoline lately? Who can even supply that quantity of boxes? Putting a 4" layer of organic material on a half acre garden requires 272 cubic yards. The cheapest organic material around here costs about $25 per cubic yard delivered, so that works out to around $7000 per half acre. (6" = 407 cubic yards = $10,000.) Have you calculated how much labor it takes to spread out enough wood chips to cover 22,000 square feet? Last time I did the math for my 4 acre garden, it would have taken longer than the available growing season. I suppose that if I had the money to buy the materials that I could pay to have the supplier spread them for me as well.