Saturday 14 May 2016

Staking my Broad Beans

This year I am growing three varieties of Broad Bean - "Masterpiece Longpod", "De Monica", and "Robin Hood". Up till now they have been covered with netting to prevent animal disturbance, but since the plants are now flowering I have decided to remove the netting to make it easier for the bees to access the flowers. Broad Beans are usually pollinated by Bumble Bees which, being large, might find it hard to get through the holes in my netting.

The netting has also acted as a bit of a wind-break, which is useful because even in my comparatively sheltered garden the plants do sometimes get a battering. With the exception of the "Robin Hood" type, the plants are getting much taller now (about 2' 6") and I think they have reached the stage where they would welcome some support. Theoretically, Broad Beans can manage without any support, but I find that if you don't provide support the plants will flop all over the place, which can be another reason why bees find it hard to access the flowers. So, my beans will be kept upright!

I have tied each of the 12 tall plants to a 5-foot bamboo cane, using soft string, not tied too tightly.

At this stage I have only tied each plant in one place, but as they grow taller I expect I will need to do it at least once more, probably twice, because the plants will eventually be about 5-foot tall. If they look like going taller than that I will pinch them out anyway.

Here's a size comparison. The tall ones at left are six each of the "Masterpiece Longpod" and "De Monica", whilst the short ones at the right are the "Robin Hood".

Not having tried "Robin Hood" before I'm not sure, but I don't think they are going to grow a huge amount taller - perhaps just 2-foot. It looks as if they will manage OK without any support. Compare them with the Radishes either side in this next photo...

Talking of Radishes, I'm sure you have seen that I maximised my use of space by sowing three rows of Radishes in this bed along with the beans. In this next photo you can clearly see a row of Radishes in the foreground. The left-hand part of it has been depleted by harvesting, but the right-hand end is still densely populated.

It's curious that the tallest beans are in the centre of the row, and the smallest ones are at the ends. Is this pure chance, or what? I didn't consciously arrange them in that way when I planted them.

At this present time I'm very happy with the condition of my Broad Beans. The plants are very clean and have suffered almost no damage from pests so far. Long may it stay that way! In the past, I have often had big problems with aphids / blackfly once flowering begins, so I suspect that I have that "joy" to look forward to in the not-too-distant future.

Incidentally, tying beans to bamboo canes is not the only way of supporting them. In the past I have tried several different methods, such as growing the plants between two lines of string or a criss-cross pattern of strings, but they weren't very effective - the plants still flopped over, especially when laden with pods.

Photo from June 2013

You could also use twiggy sticks like the ones often used for Peas, but I think the individual canes method is by far the best. Perhaps not if you have loads of plants, but with just a few like mine, it's easy and effective.


  1. When I planted broad beans, I planted them in a block and tried surrounding them with a couple of fold-able tomato cages, unfolded. I still had floppers inside. You also had to watch for shoots going through the cages and catch them early while they were still flexible enough to re-route back inside. And I never see aphids in my garden unless I plant broad beans. Then they magically show up.

  2. I love the photos. My Robin Hoods are about your size..almost. But when I grew them before, they did flop as the weight of the beans caused that. Think I will give them a little support this year. I only have six plants. That variety is also touted good for containers BTW. So enjoying reading your blog again. Thank you.

  3. My Robin Hood plants have flopped over, but they are short enough that it's not really a problem. The only difficulty is that the foliage is so dense it hides the beans, so I've been cutting leaves off. The aphids usually find my beans, but somehow this year the lady bugs showed up before the aphids!

  4. Hi Mark
    I don't know whether your blog is still active, so here goes! Just about to stake my broad bean plants 'Aquadulce', a variety I've used several times before. Like you I've covered them in netting to keep the pigeons off which seems to work, but will take it off when the flowers are produced. Then it's keeping those black fly at bay!

    1. Hello! Yes, my blog is certainly active (I had a long pause over Winter). This year I have not staked most of my Broad Bean plants, because for some unknown reason they are much shorter than usual. My main bed of them is still covered with wide-mesh netting, to keep the night-time diggers off them!


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