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Growing Fava beans in Northeast Arkansas

16 years ago

I'm forever experimenting with new crops and trying to push the boundries on planting times. Most of the world loves Fava beans, and they have a 6000 year history as a food crop. When Wikipedia said they were a vetch, I was sure I could succeed with them. Among my most hated over-wintering weeds are introduced forage vetches!

I invested in 2 pkts of Aquadulce and 1 pkt Broad Windsor -- winter over intended -- but too little rain in September and other committments in October cancelled out the planned fall planting. Germination is supposed to require 65 degrees plus soil temps, and I won't see that again until corn planting time!

I decided 1st week of January to try to grow them anyway for this spring. I presoaked a pkt of the Aquadulce, used fresh innoculant, and potted 2 each in 12 oz styrofoam coffee cups, plus direct planted the remaining few seeds in garden where row was planned. Germination in cups sitting in my kitchen was really irregular (4 days to nearly 2 weeks!), but 23 of 24 seeds came up, When soaked, the smallest seeds showed sprouting first. To me, the irregular germination is acting like a wild species, in spite of 6000 years of domestication???

I took plants outside in south-of-carport sun each day when temps got above 35 degrees, and I finally conditioned them for transplanting by leaving them outside round the clock for a few warmer days, then set them out. They had gotten stretchy-necked due to irregular sun, so I cut them back to 2 leaf joints each to force new shoots to grow.

Soil had warmed enough to germinate spinach and turnips by the time I set them out last week. Root systems were amazing... broad lateral spread instead of taproots (reminded me of cup-hatched cotton!). I untangled roots and watered them in as I would a tomato, then caged them so deer and rabbits can't get them. The foliage of this plant is eaten in some countries, and one broken shoot was far more tasty than any bean sprout!

Most of them are happily making base shoots, but a frost to 27 degrees did damage the original leaves from their inside days. New growth is fine. The direct-planted seeds have yet to be heard from.... I didn't dig to see, just overplanted area with lettuce mixture to make some use of soil.

Research on favas turns up such conflicting reports. Theoretically Aquadulce is hardy to at least 20 degrees, but another source says they will winter over above zone 6. Broad Windsor (not yet planted) is listed as hardy to at least 12 degrees by one source. All references agree that it's MANDATORY to get them in soon enough that they mature their pods before hot weather.

Does anyone else in zone 7 (or 6) have experience in growing favas as a winter-over, a transplanted, or a spring crop?

I will hunt down this thread and post occasional progress reports... regardless of outcome.


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