Growing broad beans with children
Gardening with children is wonderful and chaotic! It’s the very best place for them to learn about and connect with nature, wildlife, biodiversity, sustainability and growing food. It’s important to allow them to have a go, and broad beans are one of the best things to grow with children.
Why? The beans are big and easy for little hands to handle, and because of this, they can cope with that rough and ready approach that children tend to have. They will also germinate and grow quickly which is the ultimate quick reward that children need! Here is our guide for how to sow them with your children!
Start with a selection of different trays for your child to choose from. Children love to decide things! Explain that the tray must have drainage holes in the bottom as otherwise, it can get too wet and then the seeds will rot instead of growing. If the tray has not got any drainage holes then cut the corners off. This is best done by an adult! Let your child fill up the tray with compost and explain that it’s best to make the surface flat, so that the seeds are at the same depth. Doing so like this means they will start to grow at the same time. Plus, germination is a funny word that can be discussed!
Next up, give them the seed packet. Let them open it, feel the seeds and be in-charge. Decide together if you are growing the broad beans for shoots or for the beans. The shoots will be ready to eat in a few weeks time whilst the beans will take a few months after being planted out. Why not do a combination of both? Broad beans for shoots can be planted closely together whilst plants for beans should be at least 5cm apart so that they can easily be separated when planting them out.
Explain to your child that when sowing broad beans it is best to sow them on their side rather than flat, as this reduces the risk of rotting and increases the likelihood of success! Let’s guess how many we can fit in the tray. Let your child stand the seeds on their sides by pressing them down slightly. Who was the closest at guessing the right number?
Cover the seeds with a bit of soil. Around 3cm is good but it isn’t that important! Explain that slightly pressing down the compost helps the seeds make good contact with it. This helps them to wake up and germinate well!
Now on to what most children think is the best part…watering! Let them water on their own. The beauty of broad bean seeds is that it doesn’t really matter if they get drenched. The seeds can take it!
Broad beans must be protected from mice and your Harvst Sprout is the perfect place for it! Let your child carry the tray and open the greenhouse. These seemingly small things mean a lot to them.
Remember to close the door to keep them protected. Talk about how long you think they might take to germinate and what you need to do to take care of them. As they germinate at low temperatures, it’s only really the watering you need to keep an eye on!
If you are growing them for shoots, harvest when the shoots are 6-12cm tall by pinching or cutting with scissors just above the bottom leaf. By leaving the bottom leaves they will often regrow once. Let your child harvest and if they happen to pull the whole plant up, so be it! There’s plenty of time to sow again.
If you are planning to plant them out then wait till they’re about 10cm high. Plant them out 20-25cm apart and let your child dig each hole and drop the plant in. Talk about how we must be gentle with the plants so that they don’t snap. Build a support frame with bamboo canes or other twigs and some twine. Put the canes on the outside of the rows and then put the twine around rather than tying in each plant. This is fun for the children to do!
Broad beans have surprisingly gorgeous flowers. On a sunny day you can watch the bees fly from flower to flower.
Harvest when you can clearly feel the beans inside the pod. Let your child lightly squeeze each pod to check if the beans are big enough before pulling the pod off the plants. Teach them to use two hands, one on the plant and one on the pod. Guess how many beans there are in each pod! Remember that broad beans should be cooked before eating.
We hope that you will have a fantastic time growing broad beans with your children. Let us know how it goes!