The seeding is on schedule…but under debate!

The favas are planted!

While the weather was so frigid, and the days were endless gloom it was a little hard to be motivated to sow seeds. It just seemed foolhardy, since spring was so very far away. And, the memory of last year’s hard freeze in mid-May kept circling through my brain. There was a lazy part of me that cautioned, “Just don’t be in such a rush!” However, my Puritan work-ethic and farmer-ingrained optimism ruled the day (for the most part) and the seeding has continued pretty much on schedule, or actually a bit ahead of 2020’s seeding. Last year we traveled in December (Italy), January (Florida) and February (North Carolina) so no seeds were planted until February 19! Obviously this year travel wasn’t possible, so I’ve pretty much been following the 2018 and 2019 schedules with just a bit of tweaking here and there.

The photo above shows toilet paper rolls filled with soil, packed into a plastic tub, and seeded with “Robin Hood” dwarf fava beans (also know as broad beans.) Every year, I debate whether to do them or not. They aren’t really a “normal” crop for northern Indiana, where are winters are too severe to plant them in autumn and overwinter them in ground as they do in much of Europe. I must start them indoors early, harden them off and get them into the ground as early as possible, and hope that they set pods before the temps reach 70 degrees F. Often, that just doesn’t happen and instead the blooms drop off in the heat and no pods set, or there are pods, but the beans are just few, small, and barely worth harvesting. That was especially the case with full-sized favas. Then I discovered the dwarf “Robin Hood” from Renee’s Garden seeds, which are quick enough to produce a crop even heree! That said, there is still the issue of having to shell them, blanch them, then slit each bean to remove the tough outer skin, and one is left with a small amount of usable food. Yes, they are delicious at that point and can be used in a number of ways, but are they really and truly that much better than a good old American lima bean (also known as butter bean)? The debate is on…

This year, for the very first time in nearly 80 years, my 96 yr. old mother has decided not to grow lima beans. They are a family favorite, and whenever any of my children visit her, she knows they’ll be disappointed if those buttery beans aren’t included in the meal. She grew a lot of them last year, and as her hands become more arthritic, shelling those tough pods was more difficult. And, since no one has been able to visit this past entire year, there are still a year’s supply in her freezer. So, she’s planning to grow more peas and zinnias instead.

Not knowing of her decision, I’d already ordered her usual Fordhook Limas, so they are in my seed stash. However, my carefully devised planting plans for the potager did NOT include any beds for space-hungry, sprawling lima bean plants! For the past few days, I’ve been debating whether to revise the plans, which would be a major undertaking and upset lots of succession planning since limas are a long-season crop, or just pass on growing limas. I’d thought about replacing the fava’s space with limas, but limas can’t go into the ground in early spring when it’s cold as favas can, and the favas grow more upright and tidy than the lazy limas. On the other hand, the amount of actual food per bed would be greater with limas than with favas. What to do?

Obviously, from the photo, I’ve decided to grow the favas. It’s still iffy on travel to Europe, and I miss those luscious broad beans. When I eat them this summer, it will bring back lots of wonderful memories of meals past in England or Italy.

Whether the limas will be planted is still a mystery. It may or may not happen. The debate continues…


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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12 Responses to The seeding is on schedule…but under debate!

  1. Tracey says:

    I’m new to all this, I used toilet rolls for my sweetpeas and the cardboard is all mouldy – I’m hoping it’s normal. I also love broad beans!


    • carolee says:

      I’ve used the tp rolls for three or four years now, and sometimes a white mold does appear, but it doesn’t seem to affect the plants or their growth at all. Best of luck!


  2. Judith says:

    Good luck with your broad beans! Here in northern England they are (of course) one of the easiest and most reliable crops to grow. It’s surprising to hear of them being cosseted as a nostalgic reminder of your travels in Europe.


    • carolee says:

      I can certainly tell you that after growing them once, I ate them with much more reverence and appreciation for the effort it takes to put them on the table! And, I ordered them much more often, knowing it was unlikely that I’d get them at home. I have brought back some dried ones, but they aren’t the same as the fresh!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Re-Farmer says:

    Here’s to a year of excellent gardening weather, to help things along!

    I can’t imagine starting beans this early! When are you typically able to transplant them?


    • carolee says:

      These are broad beans, a different species than our green beans. I’ll transplant them out the end of March if the ground isn’t frozen. Lima beans, of course, can’t be planted until late May.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. J.Q. Rose says:

    Filling the TP rolls with soil is new for me. Thanks for the photo so I can prove to my gardener hubby it is truly a method for sewing seeds. My hubby makes a seed tape using toilet paper, so now he’ll have a way to use the roll too. Hmmm, I guess I’d better start saving those little darlings.
    Thanks for sharing!
    JQ Rose


  5. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I grow field beans which are an older, smaller version of broad beans – probably like the ones you are growing. This year, for the first time, I sowed a few in Autumn but most have been eaten by something so I shall go back to staring them in the greenhouse in 2 or 3 weeks time and then planting them out. I haven’t had any problems with it getting too hot for them here!


  6. It must be just about time to put in broad beans here, with tomorrow the first day of autumn. I always grow them because I love the look of the black and white flowers and the beans snuggled in their sleeping bags. But no one in the family eats them except me so they mostly get given away or fed to the pig.


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