The fava bean plant (Vicia faba L.) is a cool-season crop which produces 6- to 8-inch seed pods that contain four to six horizontal seeds. The flattened appearance of the seeds gave the beans another common name: broad beans. Other names to the fava bean include, horse bean, field bean, pigeon bean, “tick bean, as well as English or Windsor beans. Although they’re not officially beans, favas are tightly linked to the vetch legume. The ideal time to plant that crop depends upon the climate zone in which you reside.

Fava Bean Basics

The fava bean is an annual, bush-like plant. This plant lends itself to increased bed or container growing, though you have to be careful that the plant does not become stunted, should it outgrow its container. Fava beans need roughly a few months between harvest and planting. Before creating seed pods, the plant displays little white flowers with brown specks. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep in rich, loose, well-draining dirt, in an area of full sun, and space the plants to five inches apart. Keep the soil moist, particularly during flowering and seed pod production, but don’t over-water your fava beans. Inadequate companion plants for fava beans include garlic and onions. Favas thrive when planted with strawberries, strawberries, onions, corn and potatoes.

Cool-Season Crop

As a cool-season crop, fava beans should not be planted in summertime in climate zones which experience warm, dry weather. Temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more negatively affect fava beans, either slowing or preventing the production of flowers and seed pods. The ideal temperatures for fava beans range from 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant withstands a minimal temperature of 40 F, and a maximum temperature of 75 F. In areas that experience all four seasons, fava beans are best planted in the early spring, just as the dirt starts to thaw.

Planting in Mild Climates

In light Mediterranean climates that encounter warmer winters and cooler summers, it is likely to raise and plant fava beans year round. Because there is not much concern for frost in this kind of climate, and since the summers are rarely above 75 F, fava beans can grow annually. To avoid delayed or impeded blossom and seed production, just plant fava beans if your neighborhood is very foggy from May through August. To enjoy these beans in soups, stews, salads and side dishes during the cool, rainy winter season, plant fava beans during September and October.

Fava Beans as a Cover Crop

Fava beans planted during the fall serve as a cover crop to the following spring. Cover crops, also called green manure, are plants you add to your garden bed during fall, and till into the soil in the spring after harvest. These crops prepare and add nutrients to the soil, making it more rich and fitter for spring plantings. Specifically, fava beans increase the nitrogen levels in the soil, an essential mineral for healthy plants. But it should be mentioned that once the seed pods are harvested, some of the sulfur added by fava beans will be lost. This is easily contaminated by planting fava beans as a cover crop, together with other cool-season crops, such as peas, vetch or bell beans.

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