This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The Broad Bean is an annual supposed to have been introduced originally from Egypt. According to the Standard Cyclopaedia of Modern Agriculture, nearly 600,000 ac. of land were devoted to Bean culture in 1873 in the British Islands. In 1897, however, the area had dropped to 230,000 ac. Ten years later, in 1907, the figures rose to 311,000 ac. Beans are grown but very little in Ireland or in Wales, and only 12,000 ac. are returned for Scotland. England, with 296,000 ac, therefore grows about 95 per cent of the total Bean crop. Of this more than three-fourths (76 per cent) is grown on the eastern side of the country, the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Lincoln alone accounting for over 100,000 ac. The average yield of seeds of a Bean crop is quoted as 29 1/2 bus. to the acre.
The Broad Bean is a crop that is favoured both by farmers and market gardeners - the latter chiefly growing the plants for the pods, the former for the corn or stems and the ripened seeds. Owing to the fact that the Broad Bean is a strong grower, and, like other leguminous plants, possesses the remarkable power of securing free nitrogen from the atmosphere and storing it up in the bacterial nodules on the roots, it may be grown to advantage in comparatively poor soil. This will be rendered richer in nitrates for a crop of a different nature. If the stems and leaves are dug in they will act as a very excellent manure when decomposed, and yield up a supply of nitrates, potash, lime, and phosphoric acid. Indeed, the estimated value of manure obtained by the consumption of 1 ton of Bean stems of average composition amounts to about 15s. at current unit prices. The ash contains 30 to 35 per cent of potash, 20 to 25 per cent of lime, 5 to 8 per cent of phosphoric acid, and 2 to 4 per cent of silica.
There are no published figures as to the yield of pods from Broad Beans, but the following notes made by the writer may be useful. Taking 50 plants, 1 ft. apart every way, the average number of pods to each was 20, and each pod average 4 seeds, making 80 for each plant. In a fresh state 70 of these seeds weighed 8 oz. without the pods. As these would weigh at least another 8 oz., it may be taken that the average yield from each plant would be 1 lb. Reckoning 30,000 plants to 1 ac, the gross yield would be about 13 tons of pods to the acre, and as many more for stems and leaves. An average crop under market-garden culture, however, is from 7 to 8 tons of pods per acre. The average prices for Broad Beans in July and August vary from 2s. to 3s. a bushel, but drop down later on to 1s., although in exceptional cases the prices occasionally rule much higher and lower. [J. W].
For market-garden purposes the first to consider is the Long Pod, which can be planted in early November on warm soil. If shelter is available it will help; if not, it is a good plan to put the land up in balks or ridges running east and west, and to plant the Broad Beans along the south side halfway between the bottom and the top. The distance between the rows should be 21 in. or 2 ft., and between the plants 4 or 5 in. The best sort for this work is the Seville Long Pod, and care should be taken to have seed that has been saved in Spain, for it is a strange thing that none other does so well. In spring the balks or ridges can be hoed down around the plants, and provides a useful shanking up to them - in other words, a support to the stems. In February small sowings of other Long Pod Beans can be made on the flat in rows 2 ft. apart, and for the main crop the Windsor Broad Bean will give satisfaction. As the Broad Bean does not require the land in a high state of cultivation, it may be regarded by some as a farmer's crop, yet it is grown by market gardeners too. [w. G. L].
Fig. 460. - Broad Bean germinating.
Fig. 461. - Broad Bean in Flower and Fruit.