HOW TO GROW THE AUTUMN BROAD BEAN ‘Aquadulce Claudia’
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Broad beans - or fava beans as they are known across the pond - are an ancient food crop that dates as far back as 6000 years BC. Still popular today, broad beans are one of the few vegetable plants that can be sown late in the year for winter production. This timing is important as it will ensure a late spring/early summer harvest when there is little other home-grown fresh produce around.
Freshly picked, small, young broad beans are packed full of Vitamins A, C and E. They are also a good source of protein and fibre. It yields well and produces tender white beans of good quality. Freeze any surplus for future use.
Of all the broad bean varieties ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is universally recognised as being the best for an autumn sowing. It establishes itself quickly and is able to produce a very early crop. In fact it actually needs the cold winter temperatures in order to perform so plant early in cool conditions and try not to sow any later than mid January as this will have a detrimental effect on both the quality and the quantity of the harvest. If the ground is frozen before sowing, lay and secure some polythene or other material down to warm it up.
‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is a reliable cropper, yielding well and producing large pods filled with good quality, tender white beans. Once harvested this versatile vegetable can be used for freezing, fresh shelled beans or dried beans.
Sow broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ seeds any time from early autumn to late winter. Choose an open sunny site on ground which has been well dug and manured – preferably a couple of months previous. Although broad beans prefer a deep, free draining soil they are in fact tolerant of most soil types so long as they are not water-logged. A week or so before sowing you can add a nitrogen feed to the soil. While it is true that broad beans have nitrogen fixing bacteria in little nodules along the roots, they will not function properly until the plants begin to grow away. This extra nitrogen feed at the beginning of their growth cycle will help to get them off to a good start.
The seeds should be sown in double rows, 2 inches deep with each individual row 9 inches apart from each other. Should you require further sets of double rows then leave a distance of between 18-24 inches before you start your next line. If you are short of space then consider staggering your plantings to make the best use of the area. Remember that spacing shouldn't be compromised as good airflow is essential for combating fungal disease. ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is not a very tall variety but can still suffer with stems breaking or falling over with the weight of the beans - they are especially at risk in strong winds. If you secure stakes on the outside of each rows and run wire or strong string along them, this will support the crop as it matures. Should you wish to, you can cover your crop with horticultural fleece to help to keep off the worst of the weather.
Hoe between the rows regularly to keep down the weeds but use a hand tool close to the plants to prevent accidental breakage of the fragile bean stems. Cut off the tops of the plants as soon as four clusters of bloom are showing or when the first set of bean pods show. The beans should be ready to harvest as early as end of May, pick from the bottom up when pods are well filled and the seed still soft and continue to harvest frequently. Finger thick beans can be eaten whole or wait until the pod bursts open to harvest the fully ripe beans inside. Broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993 by the Royal Horticultural Society (AGM).......
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