Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fava beans for the winter garden


I have been told fava beans are good for the soil. So I grow fava beans every winter. These are planted where the Sungold stood as I like to rotate crops with different families (Sungold is Solanaceae; Fava is Fabaceae).

The seeds came from last year's fava beans. And last year's fava beans were from the previous years. Somewhere along the way, someone gave me a pod of beans which were planted. I soak the beans overnight before planting. As they grow somewhat tall, I always provided some support for them.

The roots of the fava bean apparently fix nitrogen, thus, benefitting the soil.

Fava beans are commonly planted to improve soil. Like all legumes, they have nodules on the roots, containing rhizobium bacteria, which “fix” airborne nitrogen, allowing it to replenish usable nitrogen in the soil. In addition, the sturdy plant deters erosion, and protects topsoil from wind and impaction by rain. After harvesting the beans (or without harvesting if you are using the plant simply as a cover crop), the bushy foliage chops up well as green biomass for the compost pile. The large, fragrant blossoms attract pollinators. Fava beans are an integral part of my rotation and fertilization plan throughout my kitchen garden beds and half-barrel containers. I dedicate a portion of my crop for kitchen use, another portion for compost biomass, and yet another to grow out as seed for next year’s planting.

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