Yes, I’m still searching for a successful method to get a good crop of fava beans, after four seasons. The first year I tried a combination of direct seed and pot grown, just to hedge my bets. I’d love to be able to just direct seed, like the folks in England and Italy can do, but our winters are too cold and seeds just die. I’ve tried planting them directly in spring when I plant peas, but by the time the plants get big enough to bloom, it’s too bloody hot for them to produce well. Supposedly favas prefer temps at 75 degrees F and below, but not long-term freeze. There was a small crop from the pot transplants, but very few from the direct seeded, and usually just a bean or two per pod.
Year 2 was a repeat of both methods, but with an earlier planting date and about the same lackluster results. Year 3 was all pot grown, but two batches of two different varieties, with the dwarf “Robin Hood” producing best. Last year was actually the worst, with most of the plants rotting in our never-ending spring rains, and bees unable to do the pollinating required for beans to form. There was barely enough for one meal. (sigh!)
This year, the seeds were again started in recycled paper tubes, which has worked well in years two and three, but with an earlier start. They are planted 1″ from the top in standard potting soil, and kept moist and at 55 degrees in the basement. I’m also going to experiment by putting the tubes in a small plastic tote, where they will be easy to move and light can penetrate from all sides and top, but with a lid the mice and squirrels won’t be able to eat them, which sometimes happened when they were in the greenhouse or on the bench to harden off in prior years. Once they’ve germinated, the tote will go outdoors on any nice day and stay in the greenhouse at night, which will be cooler than in the basement. As soon as possible, half the plants will go into the ground in the poly-tunnel, and half into another bed with cut-off gallon plastic jugs to cover them if needed. I realize this will require nearly daily opening/closing of the poly-tunnel, and removing/replacing jugs, but the taste of fresh fava beans is worth the extra trouble.
The variety is “Robin Hood,” a dwarf from Renee’s Garden Seeds, which of three kinds tried over the years has produced best in our short season for cool weather crops. It just gets too hot too fast here in Indiana for the taller ones that require more time to produce. So, that’s this year’s plan. Wish me luck!
By the way, there is a photo-filled recap of my trip to RHS Wisley, just posted on my website in the February newsletter, if you’d like to take a look. Wisley is an amazing garden!