Broad beans and homemade seaweed brew

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Broad beans can be sown in April or May in temperate Australia. They’ll grow through winter and form pods in spring. A few plants produce loads of beans, cased in large green pods lined with soft white fluff. My son doesn’t eat them yet, but he’s helped me shell them every spring for the last three years. They are really easy to grow, and the large seeds mean they’re easy for children (or a L-plate gardener) to plant.

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I pulled most of the kikuyu out before planting, but I’m not too fussed because this area will be returned to lawn after cropping. I regularly weed out the kikuyu next to the fence, so it wasn’t too thick to start with. I left the dandelions and a large feverfew plant, because these are both herbs that I use.

I sowed my broad beans against a garden fence for support. By spring they’ll be flopping all over the place. If mine hang too low, the guinea pigs drag them down and eat all the leaves and pods. I surrounded them with a makeshift low fence to keep the guinea pigs out and deter rabbits. I’ll tie a loose piece of higher twine around the plants when they grow over the low fence, to hold them up away from the guinea pigs.
One year I grew them through an old wooden clothes horse as a support. This worked well for a small patch, although they need frequent tucking in before the stems get too long and brittle to bend.

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Broad beans will fix their own nitrogen and don’t need a super rich soil, so I didn’t add any fertiliser. Too much nitrogen will make the tops over-lush and disease prone. The only thing I added, after planting, was a sprinkle of (rather wet) wood ash and a scatter of comfrey leaves. These both provide potassium, which helps to prevent chocolate spot on the broad bean leaves later.

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Lastly, I watered the seeds in with homemade seaweed extract. In this picture, I’m pouring seaweed solution into another bucket for sloshing over the newly planted broad beans. It’s running out of a hole in the big bucket (I got this bucket from the tip shop). I’ll let the large bucket fill up with rainwater again, and it will make more nutrient rich brew.
Seaweed brew is super easy to make, and gives you a good excuse to go to the beach. Fill a bucket with seaweed, trying not to take home too much beach sand. If you’re concerned about salt, hose the seaweed off on the lawn when you get home. Then plop it back into the bucket, fill it with water and leave it until the water turns dark. Dilute to the colour of weak tea before sprinkling over lawn, seedlings, trees, vegetables, orchard, ornamentals, natives – seaweed solution is suitable and beneficial for all garden plants. It provides minerals that are absent in land-based compost and fertilisers, and it helps boost the plant’s resistance to disease and insects as well as reducing stress and transplant shock.

Now I can stand back and watch the broad beans grow. The only things to do between now and harvest are monitoring the guinea-pig-proof-fence, a bit of weeding, and stringing up a piece of twine to contain the plants in a few months’ time.

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