Growing Broad Beans In Pots For Bumper Early Harvests

Broad beans are delicious when freshly picked and if you are short of space, then growing broad beans in pots is the solution.

They are also one of the earliest crops to be sown in the vegetable garden. You can plant broad bean seeds in many areas in October for harvests in May/June when there still aren’t many staple crops ready to harvest.

We love broad beans and grow them every year. And with the first shelled batch, we always make a broad bean and minted mash with pork chops. Delicious!

Growing broad beans in pots for early harvests can be quite tricky, but this article will guide you step by step from sowing, planting and growing your beans and how to essentially guarantee a successful crop.

Broad Bean Varieties To Grow In Pots

Growing broad beans in pots will only work if you choose the right variety. 

Like with most vegetables, broad beans come in dwarf varieties, which are perfect for being grown in pots or containers, as they are bushier and grow outward, rather than up.

So here are some broad bean varieties we would recommend you try out for your adventure of growing broad beans in pots.

The Sutton: this dwarf variety only grows 30 cm (12in) high, so ideal for growing in containers. The beans taste delicious, and you can expect to get 5 beans per pod. You can start sowing it in autumn, which means you can harvest the beans in early summer.

Crimson Flowered: this is a heritage variety which produces delicious beans. And at the same time, it will produce beautiful deep red flowers. The pods are shorter and upright, but you will get a good yield. This old variety is also said to be pest and disease resistant.

Robin Hood: this British-bred dwarf variety is ideal for growing in pots. It’s a heavy cropper, and you get very tender and tasty beans. The Robin Hood has also been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Now that we have discussed the best varieties of broad beans to grow in containers or pots, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of growing broad beans in pots.

When To Sow Broad Bean Seeds

sowing broad beans

You can sow hardy broad bean seeds, such as The Sutton, in October and November for harvesting in early June.

It’s far more common (and much easier) to begin sowing from February to May but will result in later crops, you can expect to begin picking the first Spring sown crops in late June or July.

As in this article we will show you the best way of growing broad beans in containers for an early harvest, we recommend to start sowing your broad bean seeds in October or November.

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Sowing is best done in small pots, roottrainers or trays.  Fill your pots with good quality free draining, multipurpose compost and firm down well. 

Sow one broad bean seed per pot, which is easy to do, as they are big seeds. With your finger, make a hole of about 5cm (2 inches) deep and pop your seed in on its edge and cover with a thin layer of compost.

Then water well, to make sure the seed has moist soil. Do not water again until the plants have germinated.

Keep the pots in a cool environment, such as an unheated greenhouse, cold frame or the windowsill of an unheated room. Wherever you put them, make sure there is no risk of frost.

Under these conditions, you can expect to begin seeing the first leaves of your broad beans within three weeks.

Quick tip: Rather than sowing broad beans in pots, I have had fantastic success growing broad bean seeds in cardboard toilet roll inners which can be planted directly in the ground with no root disturbance. 

Growing Broad Beans In Pots

broad bean seedlings ready to be planted on

Once you can see the roots of your broad bean plants coming out of the bottom of the pot, they are ready to be transplanted in their final pot, because the roots will have filled the pot.

Choosing The Right Pot

Broad bean plants have a deep root system, so you have to make sure that you choose pots or containers that are deep enough to give the roots the space they need.

As a minimum, your container or pot should be 30cm (12in) deep. I like to use reusable growing bags, because they can be folded up and won’t take up much space in the shed, when not in use.

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I have read that you can fit five dwarf broad bean plants into a pot or container that is 30cm (12in) big, however, I find that three plants work better. 

Overcrowding your pots can lead to a higher risk of diseases affecting your plants.

Whichever container or pot you use, make sure it has drainage holes to prevent the soil from becoming water-locked.

Fill your container with good quality multipurpose compost, or you can also use loam-based compost. Make sure you get peat-free compost. Water well after you have planted the broad bean seedlings.

Once you have planted your broad bean seedlings up, you need to harden them off. This means to acclimatise them to the outside conditions. 

Put them out in a warm and sunny spot, for a few hours per day. After about a week, the plants should be used to the conditions.

Broad bean plants that have been hardened off will be able to withstand frost, snow and cold weather much better.

Best Spot For Your Broad Beans

The good thing about growing broad beans in pots is that it is easy to find the perfect spot for them.

Broad beans are very tough plants and will survive cold, wet days, frosts and even snow. In fact, they will grow leggy and thinner when grown in too warm conditions.

Choose a sunny and well sheltered spot for your plants. Dwarf plants don’t need supporting, as they grow bushy rather than tall.

Caring For Broad Bean Plants In Pots

Growing broad beans in pots means you have to water them regularly. This is because plants in pots or containers tend to try out quicker. 

In autumn and winter, it might not be necessary every day, but make sure the soil in the pot doesn’t dry out.

Growing Tip: You can top the pot with mulch or stones, which will help to retain the moisture better.

If you have used good quality compost you won’t need to feed your broad beans.

To ensure your plants focus on growing beans, pinch out the tops once the plant starts flowering. 

Harvesting Broad Beans

harvesting broad beans

Let’s get to the best part of growing broad beans in pots, harvesting them. Harvesting can start as early as May or June, if you have started your broad beans in October or November.

Depending on when you harvest them, you can eat the whole broad bean pod, or you can eat them shelled. 

If you pick them when they are still young, around 5-7cm (2-3in), you can eat them in the pod. The first ones of the season should be eaten like this, as they will be so tender and tasty.

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To harvest the beans you’ll need to wait a little longer until you can see the shape of the bean through the outside of the pod. Once you can see the outline of the beans in the pod they are ready for harvesting, don’t allow them to get too large as broad beans can quickly get tough and bitter if not harvested regularly.

Keep harvesting them regularly to ensure the plant continues to crop.

Getting A Second Crop Of Broad Beans

It is possible to get a second crop of broad beans from the plants once they have begun to die. In late June or July, cut the plant back hard, cut the plant down to around 10 cm (4in) and within two weeks, new shoots and growth will begin.

These new shoots will grow quickly in the summer weather, and you can expect to have a second crop in September.

Using this method, you can almost double the crop and significantly extend the growing season.

But even if you don’t plan on getting a second crop, leave your broad bean plants in the soil for as long as possible. Because they are part of the legume family and will release nitrogen into the soil.

This will greatly benefit any plants that you plant after them.

Pests And Diseases Affecting Broad Beans

No guide about growing broad beans in pots would be complete without a section on pests and diseases.

The good news is, although there are pests and diseases that will affect broad beans, these hardy plants don’t normally suffer too much and your yield should be good.

Pests

black bean aphid on leaf

Because we are growing broad beans in pots, we don’t need to worry about mice, who can eat seeds that are planted into the ground.

However, the blackfly or black bean aphid can still attack your broad bean plants in containers. 

They are black little insects that will suck the sap out of young broad bean shoots. They tend to build colonies on plants, so they are easy to spot.

If left unchecked, a heavy infestation can stunt the growth of plants and pod formation could become poor.

Here are some measures you can take to minimise the impact of this pest:

  • Once your broad bean plants have started to flower, pinch out any new shoots. This will reduce the opportunity for the pests to feed on your plants.
  • You can squash the aphids with your hands, if you are not squeamish.
  • You can use companion planting and plant basil, marigolds or lavender with your broad beans. Or you can put your pots next to these plants. These will repel the black bean aphid.
  • Encourage the natural predators of the blackfly into your garden. Ladybirds, ground beetles, hoverflies, parasitic wasps and earwigs will control this pest.

Another pest that might have a nibble at your broad beans is the pea and bean weevils

These grey/brown beetles will nibble at the leaves of your broad bean plants. Established plants can easily tolerate this attack. You will easily see where they have eaten the edges of the leaves.

Their larvae will eat the root nodules, but again, won’t do any harm to established plants.

Only small seedlings could suffer under an attack. If you start sowing in October or November, the seedlings will be strong enough by late spring, when the beetles emerge.

Diseases

brown spots on leaf caused by fungal disease

There is really only one disease that could affect your broad beans, chocolate spot.

This fungal disease is common on plants that overwinter, so it could be a problem for your broad bean plants. As the name suggested, the fungus leaves brown spots on the leaves, stem and pods.

A severe attack could cause the loss of flowers, and therefore, bean pods, and could also kill the plant.

There is no cure, but you can take measures to minimise the risk:

  • Don’t overcrowd your pots. Ensure there is good air circulation around the plants.
  • Water from below to keep the foliage as dry as possible.
  • Don’t save seeds from an infected plant
  • Make sure you keep the pot free from weeds
  • If you spot any signs on the leaves, remove and destroy the infected material, do not compost it.
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Frequently Asked Questions

If you did not find what you were looking for in our guide about growing broad beans in pots, you might find it in our FAQ section.

How Do I Store Broad Beans?

Broad beans are best used when fresh, as they don’t store very well. You might be able to keep them in the fridge for a day or two.

However, they do freeze well. Just blanch them in boiling water for 3 minutes, then leave them in ice cold water for a while.

Then you can freeze them. They will keep in the freezer for a few months.

Do I Need To Soak Broad Bean Seeds Before Planting?

This is normally not necessary, as broad bean seeds tend to germinate well. 

Some people say that soaking the seeds before planting will make them germinate quicker. But there is no real consensus if it is necessary or not.

If you want to, you can soak them in a dish of water the night before you plan on sowing them. However, I have never soaked my broad bean seeds and never had a problem.

Now that you know everything about growing broad beans in pots, why don’t you give it a go. Happy Growing!

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