A most rewarding crop to sow this month are broad beans. The only overwintering variety is Aquadulce, which will give you a good crop sometime in June.
The plants don’t want to be too big as they overwinter, so November is a good time to sow. Using your own seed gives a stronger
germination, and so long as it doesn’t rain too much just after sowing the seeds won’t rot in the soil. As always, lots of organic matter will help prevent waterlogging. With Spring sown crops you often have to cover your planted beans, but in the autumn mice, rooks and badgers have plenty else to eat and usually leave your seeds alone.
Broads take up a lot of room and if planted too close, although the plants look healthy, they will set few seed. 6” spacings with at least 24” between rows does well: this year a single row with lots of light around it yielded almost as much as a double row. The plants tiller out from March, and all these new stems fully fill the space.
The plants flower profusely and look really pretty from April. Like apples, only as many fruit will set seed as the plant can support, so plenty of space and muck on your soil are good. The pods grow slowly and when they get heavy the plants may need support to avoid collapse. We put twine around the row, stout stakes at the end and the occasional bamboo along the sides to hold everything in.
Blackfly can be a serious pest, normally from late June, affecting spring sown crops rather than the earlier Aquadulce. But this year was good for the beast and they hit the Aquadulce in late May. They establish on the soft growing tip, so pinch out the tops as soon as you see the fly.
Brinkmanship follows: we find that by using no slug pellets or insecticides the ants, earwigs, ladybirds and all soon start eating the fly, and a week later the plants only have skeletons on them. When the soil is dry and the plant is under stress, watering helps. You can also spray the plants with soapy water which duffs up the fly: this needs doing on a regular basis.
To lengthen harvesting times, we start eating the beans when small although prefer them meaty and full a few weeks later. And how do you stop a skunk from smelling? Hold its nose.
What to sow this month
With short and cold days, not much can be sown this month. Garlic and overwintering onions can be sown if you haven’t already and, as above, Aquadulce.