Growing Broad Beans in Containers: How Deep are Broad Bean Roots?

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My name is Stevo and I’ve been a keen gardener for many years. Over time have grown plenty of different fruit and veg varieties, but this year I decided to do something new and am trying my hand at growing broad beans in containers for the first time.

The first thing I had to think about was how to create the best growing environment for the beans to ensure a strong and healthy crop. Here is what I have learned about the conditions that broad beans growing in containers need in order to thrive!

One of the best varieties of broad bean to grow in containers is a dwarf variety called “The Sutton”, which has roots that can reach depths of around 20 – 30cm. It is important that containers are sized correctly to adequately accommodate the root system of the plant.

Lets go into some more detail and look at the pros and cons of container gardening, and how you can create the optimum conditions to give your container grown broad beans the very best chance of success.

What are the Advantages of Growing Broad Beans in Containers?

I opted to grow my broad beans in containers instead of directly in the ground. There are a number of reasons why you may choose growing in containers over growing directly in the ground:

Containers are ideal for small spaces – Only having a small yard or balcony is no barrier to growing your own veg!
Containers are portable – It is easy to move containers around to achieve optimum shade and sunlight, or position them for convenience.
Containers improve accessibility – Containers can be placed at virtually any height and location to allow for easy access.
Containers give you complete control over soil type – They will also tend to be more free draining than in-ground beds.
Containers help with pest control – You are likely to have less problems with snails and slugs, especially if you place copper tape around the container edge as a deterrent.

What are the Disadvantages of Growing Broad Beans in Containers?

But of course there are a few drawbacks to container gardening to be aware of too:

Containers can dry out quickly – Frequent watering is required
Nutrient levels can be lower – The smaller volume of soil / compost held in containers can mean lower nutrient levels – something that can be further exacerbated by frequent watering. This can often necessitate extra feeding to ensure enough nutrients are available.
Soil temperatures will fluctuate more – fluctuations in soil temperatures will be more extreme in containers than in the ground.

Which Variety of Broad Bean am I Growing?

The variety of broad bean that I am growing is a dwarf variety called “The Sutton”. I specifically chose this variety because its reduced height makes it great for growing in containers. It has a growing time of around 12 weeks and will produce high yields.

How Tall do Broad Beans Grow?

Dwarf varieties of broad beans will typically reach a maximum height of around 40 – 45cm, compared to around 130cm for non dwarf varieties.

How Deep are Broad Bean Roots?

The dwarf example below measures 35cm in height. Broad beans are all deep rooted and the longest part of the roots on this dwarf plant (“The Sutton”) extend to nearly 30cm below ground.

The roots of non dwarf varieties will be even longer. If you are growing in containers then dwarf varieties are recommended.

Dwarf broad bean including roots

What Depth Container do I Need for Growing Broad Beans?

When growing broad beans in containers, you will need to make sure that there is enough space for the beans to fully develop. As already mentioned, the roots of dwarf broad beans can grow up to 30cm, and there needs to be enough growing space to accommodate them if the plant is to reach its full potential – the container used should therefore have a minimum depth of 30cm.

What Soil Conditions and Aspect do Broad Beans Prefer?

Broad beans need a rich, well draining, well fertilised soil. You could try mixing in some grit into the soil to help with drainage if needed.

A sheltered position is best as broad beans, especially the taller varieties, are very susceptible to wind damage. Dwarf varieties will tolerate slightly more exposed positions because of their reduced height. They prefer being in full sun.

It is important, especially when growing in containers, to keep broad beans well watered during the growing season.

When is the Best Time to sow Broad Beans?

October / November and March are generally good times to sow broad beans, although this does depend somewhat on the variety.

Certain varieties of broad beans are hardy and therefore have the ability to survive frosts. This means that, as well as being sown in the spring, they can be sown outdoors from October to November. They will then germinate within around 2 – 3 weeks, survive the winter and resume growing in the following spring, giving an earlier crop. If the winter is particularly harsh then you will need to consider protecting the seeds by using a cloche.

Non hardy varieties of broad beans that cannot survive through winter can only be sown outdoors from March to June and will therefore give a later crop.

Sowing SummaryBroad Bean
Sow indoors for an earlier cropFebruary to April
Move from indoors to outdoorsApril onwards (avoiding frost)
Sow outdoorsOctober to November (will crop early spring)

March to June
Broad beans growing in a container

Do Broad Beans Require Support?

Broad beans are not climbers. Non dwarf varieties will therefore require support once the reach a certain height. Unless they are in a particularly windy and exposed position, support is not usually needed for dwarf varieties as they typically will not grow over 45cm in height.

When Will Broad Beans be Ready for Harvest?

So when can you expect to be enjoying the fruits of your labour?

Harvest SummaryBroad Bean
Time from planting to harvestWinter sown crops – approx 25 weeks

Spring sown crops – approx 12 weeks