The only way to get your small garden to continuosly produce is to practice succession planting. Succession planting is nothing more than putting something in the ground as soon as something else comes out. Since my potager is so small, and I love a steady supply of fresh veggies, I have to be fairly deligent in the way I manage my plantings.
This past weekend, I harvested all but one of my cauliflower plants. This freed up the middle of my four triangular beds for something else. I decided to replace the cauliflower with fava beans (or Broad Beans for my English readers). I also took this opportunity to plant a few more radishes, some round Paris Market carrots and Green Arrow English Peas.
I have never eaten or grown fava beans before. However, the seeds were a gift from my dear friend and gardening mentor, Cythia Mueller. So, in honor of my friend, and in keeping with my tradition of trying new things, I decided to plant them where my cauliflower had been.
Fava beans (Vicia Fava) are a cool season crop that have been grown for millenia. While native to North Africa and Southwest Asia, they are widely cultivated around the world. It is believed that along with lentils, peas and chickpeas, fava has been in production for over 6000 years. It is also interesting to note that they are not true beans. Fava beens are legumes; but they are more closely related to vetch than they are to green or lima beans.
Fava beans are a great choice for the fall Texas garden. They love a nice loamy soil, but will grow well in less perfect soils. They will also tolerate soils with high salinity so that makes them a great choice for the Bryan-College Station area. Fava are a true cold weather crop and they can take just about anything our winter can throw at them. They will survive freezes into the the twenties. Even though I planted mine on December 31, most people in our area plant them around Thanksgiving. They grow best at temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees F and they will not set beans once the night time temps go above 75 degrees.
Fava beans produce a thick, square stalk and can grow to heights of three feet or more. The leaves of these tall plants can be harvested and used like spinach. Their white flowers are streaked with black. Since black is a very unusual color in the plant world I can’t wiat for these plants to bloom so I can see it for myself. Also, those lovely white and black flowers are edible.
Fava beans should be planted about an inch deep. You can plant them every four inches or so but they need to be thinned to about 8″ apart. I used the end of a hand rake to make holes in my soil about 1″ deep and about 9″ apart. Next, I placed the beans in the hole, covered them with soil and watered them in. Now, if eveything goes right, I should be picking my favas by mid-March. What do you think the odds are that the temps will stay below 75 until then?