Broaden horizons with beans

Broad beans are one of my favourite veges to grow and, of course, eat.

Like most of the over 200 varieties in Awapuni's seedlings range, they're super simple to plant. They're lots of fun to grow with kids. And, they taste great.

Did you know, as well as being able to eat the beans, you can also chomp down on the tops of the plant itself? Cover your eyes vegetarians - bean plant tops mixed with a pork bone and some potato taste fantastic!

However you like to eat your beans, I've got some tips on how to grow them.

First of all you need to grab some seedlings. So, next time you're down at your local supermarket, Bunnings or The Warehouse grab some of our Traditional Value broad beans.

Next, you need to find the right spot to plant. The common misconception about broad beans is they need something to grow up. Not true. Broad beans will need to be tied up, but they lean against each other and grow across the ground.

What's important is ensuring the soil where you plant them has a high pH (around 5.5 to 6.5). Not sure what the pH level of your soil is? Most garden centres sell kits alternatively there are also companies which will test your soil for a small fee.

If the pH level of your soil could go higher, try adding a little bit of lime. If you're still not sure of the pH level, I recommend adding some lime for good measure anyway.

Once you've got the soil acidity levels just right, you're ready to plant.

If you've never seen a broad bean seedling it can give you a little bit of a surprise when you unwrap the newspaper. While I'm probably teaching experienced gardeners how to suck eggs, for those who don't know, broad bean seedlings are broad beans, which have been germinated (see the picture).

So, when you're ready to get started, simply dig a little hole and plant each seedling around 15cm apart in rows approximately 30cm apart.

Depending on the weather where you live and, as a result, the soil temperature, your seedlings will take around eight to 12 weeks to produce beans ready for harvesting.

Once the plants are around one metre high put a stake at either end of the rows and loop a big piece of string around the whole lot to keep them growing together.

While broad beans take at least a couple of months to produce any actual beans, the plants grow really quickly. Got kids? Try taking a photo of the seedlings every few days and track their growth.

Even better, take the picture from the same spot each time and make a mini-movie. You can do this digitally, or print the pictures on your printer and staple or tie them together for your very own stop-motion video. Simply flick through the pages and watch the beans grow.

Using the last of your beans to create seedling is another fun project to get the kids involved in.

At the end of the season take the beans out of the last of your pods and store in a container in a dry spot.

Next winter grab some used kids' yoghurt containers, clean them out and fill them up with potting mix. Take one dry bean and press it into the soil in a yoghurt container. Do this for each of the beans. In around three weeks you'll have some broad bean seedlings ready to transfer to the garden.

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