When should I plant my fava beans?
In Southern California, fava beans are considered a cool season crop.
A good time to plant them is early to mid-November while the days still have a bit more sunlight and before the rains and before night time temperatures drop.
What are ideal soil and air temperatures for planting favas?
The ideal air temperature for planting favas is between 65° F and 85° F. Why? Because fava seeds won’t germinate if the air temperature is above 76° F or much below 40° F.
The idea soil temperature for planting favas is between 60° F and 65° F. Want to get a little geeky? Get an inexpensive soil thermometer and keep track of the soil in your own garden ecosystem.
Or look local CIMS data, run by the California Department of Water Resources. Find your nearest station here. The website takes a little getting used to, but you can learn a lot about local weather, soil moisture and temperature, solar, irrigation and other growing conditions.
What kind of soil is best?
Although favas grow in a wide range of soil, they grow best in well-drained clay and silt soils. They will also grow in sandy soils with adequate moisture. The pH range for favas is between 6.5 and 9. Try these fun DIY tests for testing soil pH.
How do I plant the seeds?
There is no need to pre-soak the seeds. If growing as a cover crop, plant your fava seeds 1-2 inches down and 6-8 inches apart. If you are growing them to eat, space the seeds a bit wider apart. Space rows 2-3 feet apart. A rough guide: 14 plants per square yard for large fava seeds and 28 plants per square yard for smaller ones. NOTE: Favas like full sun.
What diseases and pests are favas vulnerable to?
Depending on your location, favas can get rust, chocolate spots and root knot nematodes. They can easily get infested with aphids. Aphids can also attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings. [Source: NRCS, Smither-Kopperl, 2020]
Basically, all plants fall prey to pests and disease when they are vulnerable. The best cure is prevention. Water your plants regularly. Ask yourself if the plants previously growing there were diseased. Get to know - and love - your fava plants. Watch them grow. Keep an eye out for trouble signs, then act fast, if possible, to address any problems.
What crops can I rotate with favas?
Favas are great nitrogen fixers. Plant them after corn, tomatoes or other heavy nitrogen feeders. However, beware of soil infested by root knot nematodes, bacteria or fungus.
How much water do favas need?
Favas don’t require a lot of water. Keep the soil moist until the baby plants emerge (between 5-10 days) then decrease watering until plants flower and pods form at which point you should increase watering again.
NRCS: Fava Bean Plant Guide
Cal State Chico: Fava Bean Research
Western SARE: Cover Crops in Organic Systems
Fava beans growing at Cal Poly Pomona in a field study led by Cal State Chico. Funded by SARE.