Last week I took up the last of my Cavolo Nero plants, thereby releasing the space for me to sow the first of my Broad Beans. This year I have decided not to grow any peas, but instead to grow more Broad Beans. In order to extend the cropping period I am going to sow one row each of three types: Aquadulce, Bunyard's Exhibition, and Witkiem Manita. With a bit of luck they will all mature at different times.
Sowing Broad Beans is a very easy task, because the bean seeds are so big and you only need a few of them. A few days ago I forked into the soil a couple of handfuls of Growmore multi-purpose fertiliser, which has been nicely dispersed by the rain we had last Thursday. Then I just placed the beans on the surface of the soil in a line, adjusting the spacing to about 15cm between beans, and simply pushed them into the soil with my finger, to a depth of about 3cm. These ones were the Aquadulce ones, from the sample pack kindly provided by Hannah Flynn of The London Herb Garden. Aquadulce is a particularly hardy variety, which is often chosen for Autumn or very early Spring sowing.
Aren't they a strange mix of colours? I would have expected them all to be fairly similar.
Whenever I sow Broad Beans I expect to have one or two casualties or non-germinations, so I always put in a couple of spares at each end of the row. In the photo below the main row is in the direction shown by the red line, and you can see the extra bean seeds offset from this row by a few centimetres. If all the beans do OK I will probably remove the spares, but at least they are there if I do need them.
Amongst the beans I put in some "Cherry Belle" radishes (Franchi seeds from Seeds of Italy).
This fast-growing catch crop will mature before the Broad Beans grow big and block out their light. I would normally consider it too early to sow radishes, but they and the beans are now safely ensconced under a couple of long cloches, so I reckon they will be fine.
Radishes germinate very rapidly and because of this they are often used as row-markers for slower- germinating crops. You simply sow a few radish seeds along with the others, and they will come through much quicker, showing you where the other ones will eventually appear.
I'll wait at least another couple of weeks - perhaps 3 or 4 - before sowing my next lot of Broad Beans. That way not only will they mature at different times, but also they will all be able to have a turn with the cloches to help them germinate. I have four of those long cloches, which is enough to cover one complete raised bed - so in other words not enough!