Tag Archives: cover crops

Have You Ever Grown a Fava Bean? Would You?

What the heck is a Fava Bean?  For the last several years I have added this delicious legume to my garden.  Not only is it great to add nitrogen to the soil, very cold hardy, but it is very nutritious as well.  Fava beans are one of the oldest plants under cultivation, and they were eaten in ancient Greece and Rome.  Fava beans are in the pea family, even though their name suggest they are a bean.  This is why they are cold hardy unlike other true beans.  They are popular in Mediterranean cuisine with a distinct creamy flavor.  You can eat them fresh or dry.  Dried they store well and can be added to soups or any bean dish.  Fresh, they can be added to salads and pasta dishes.  Fava beans are great steamed and served with olive oil, salt, and lemon.

Fava beans do not tolerate hot temperatures, therefore plant them as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring or in my case in USDA zone 8,  late winter, January to be exact.  Fava bean can be planted in heavy soil as long as there is good drainage and the soil has been amended with compost and a well-balanced fertilizer.  Fava beans will improve your soil, so it’s a good idea to plant them in less than perfect spots in the garden.  Soak the seeds a few hours before planting to help with germination.  Plant 1 1/2 – 2″ deep 6-9 inches apart.  I like to stake my fava beans with some old branches 2-3 ft tall stuck into the soil on either side of the plant.  Usually this is enough unless we have high winds, then a little hemp twine around the plants and stakes will do.  Fava beans are usually ready in 4-6 months to harvest.  You will be surprised how neat they look in the garden.  The beans grow on bushy plants with tapering leaves, yielding anywhere from 25 to 50 pods per plant. The pods resemble pea pods in shape, although they are much larger and lined with a pillowy white material that protects the seeds inside.  Give plenty of water throughout the growing season.  Pinch off the tops of the plants when the first pods have begun to form.  This aids pod formation and discourages blackfly.  Pick the pods when they have become swollen.  You can see a slight definition of each bean inside the pod.  Do not allow the pods to be too mature because they will become leathery and tough.  Continuous harvesting will extend the crop season.  Broad beans (another name for fava) are beast picked and used fresh.  Any extras can be frozen or dried.

Once your plants are tired, retire them back into the soil.  You may need to chop them up a bit, but you can just till them in or add them to your compost pile.  Whatever you choose, don’t toss them into the trash.  These guys are valuable!  The smaller the pieces the faster they will decompose.  Favas are commonly used as a cover crop. They are big nitrogen fixers.   Now why wouldn’t you grow these beauties? 

Try this:

Quinoa, Avocado and Fava Been Salad

1 cup quinoa, 1 lb shelled fresh or frozen fava beans, 2 med. lemons, 2 ripe avocado, 2 garlic cloves, 2 bunches of breakfast radishes halved lengthwise, 1 cup purple basil leaves chopped, 1 T ground cumin, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook quinoa and rinse with cold water and leave to dry.  Toss fava beans into a pan of boiling water and boil for 30 seconds and immediately drain in colander and leave to dry, then press each bean with your fingers to remove the skins and discard these.  Take the lemons and use a small sharp knife to slice off the top and base.  Stand on long end and cut down the sides, following the curve to remove the skin and white pith.  Over a large mixing bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the individual segments into the bowl.  Squeeze the juice from the membrane into the bowl with the segments.  Peel and stone avocados.  Slice thinly, then add to the bowl and toss to cover in the lemon juice.  Once the quinoa is dry, transfer it to the bowl.  Add the fava beans, garlic, radishes, half the basil, cumin, olive oil, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently and garnish with remaining basil.  Great Healthy Spring Recipe!

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Not Growing a Fall Garden? Plant Cover Crops!

Cover Crop Seeds & Beneficial Bacteria

Cover crops, green manure, whatever you call it, fall is such a choice time to plant them.  Cover crops add nutrients, tilth, organic matter, suppress weeds, improve soil, prevent erosion, break up compacted soil and add microbial activity.  With all that, why wouldn’t you plant a cover crop this fall?  Besides, it sure is more appealing to look a lush patch of green than fallow ground.  Oh did I mention the beneficials it attracts?  Cover crops can be a mix of plants or just one variety.  Common crops are vetch, alfalfa, cow pes, fava beans, oats, clovers,  and field peas not to mention so many others.  I personally like a mix and always include legumes.   Legumes “fix nitrogen” from the air.  The roots of legumes basically pull nitrogen gas out of the air and store it in their plant tissues.  How easy it that?  Some cover crops suppress weeds chemically sort a speak, by relaxing compounds that help prevent the germination or growth of weed seeds.  Some of these crops are wheat, barley, hairy vetch, red clover and sorghum.  Deep rooted cover crops also bring up nutrients from the subsoil, making them more available in the top 12 inches of soil surface to succeeding crops.  Clover is known for this.   Cover crops can add to an acre of soil the equivalent of 10 tons of fresh manure matter.  WOW!  Maybe you only have a small garden and think cover crops are only for large farmers….Not so.  Cover crops will do the same thing to small gardens that they do to large farms.  Now have I convinced you to plant a cover crop yet? 

Planting cover crops is a one of the easiest crops you can plant.  

Cover Crops Emerging From The Soil After Just 4 Days

I like fall because that is the only time I have space in my garden for them.  Spring works great too!  Clear out old debris, toss diseased plants in the trash and compost the rest.  To give your cover crop seeds a boost, add a Beneficial Bacteria with your seeds just before planting.  Rake your area over and broadcast your seeds.  Work them in with a rake, hoe or your hand and tamp down (not by walking on them).  I like to cover mine with a layer of compost.   Water in.  Keep soil moist till seeds have germinated.  This is critical!  Then cut back on watering with fewer waterings as the season get cooler.  If your area is dry and no rainfall is in the forecast check the soil to see if you will need to give them a drink to keep them lush and green through the fall and winter. 

Legumes "Fix Nitrogen" in the soil.

Let the crops grow throughout the season.  Depending on where you live will depend on how long before your crop is ready.  Once flowers have emerged, it’s time to cut them down.  This is when they have the largest amounts of nutrients in them.  If you have a large area, you can use a mower or weed whacker.  Leave your cover crops sit for a week or so to dry out and then work them into the soil.  Now you are adding all those nutrients into the ground that your plants worked so hard to get for you!  Wait a month before planting.  This gives them some time to break down and feed your soil!   Microbial life is going crazy in your soil now.  Oh happy day! Every year you plant cover crops the better your soil will get.  One year is great, but if you continue these practices, each year you will see more and more amazing results!  Remember…………..Feed the Earth, That Feeds the Plants, That Feed YOU!  Do it organically!  Just do it!

Beneficial Bacteria

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