Pulling Back the Covers

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Maturing Fava Bean PlantsDid my cover crops have to come up so beautiful and strong? When it’s grass growing up along the edges of the mulch, I have no problem ripping it out and tossing it into the compost heap, but fava beans you could actually eat.

I have to remind myself that there were other reasons we put them in as a cover crop. In addition to beans, favas make nice big plants that give a lot of ‘biomass’ for the compost pile. They also fix nitrogen, hold the soil through the winter rains and do a great job breaking up the adobe clay our garden is sitting on. I have also read that legumes develop microbial relationships around their roots that help the following crops, especially greens and heavy feeders like tomatoes.

Fava Bean FlowersI’ve also seen a lot of activity around the flowers. I can’t identify most of what seems to be benefitting from the nectar, but I have read that favas provide winter habitat and food for insect populations that are good for the garden.

I have three different varieties of favas growing this year. The ‘Broad Winsor’ you see flowering, the ‘Negreta’ which makes a dark brown bean with an ‘earthier’ flavor I am waiting to try. And the fava beans that have been handed down in my mother-in-law’s Santa Cruz vegetable growing family that we are calling ‘Grandma Susan’s’ fava. This fava grew in Santa Cruz for at least two generations and since then has been acclimating to this specific part of Santa Clara County for over 35 years now. I am thrilled to be able to grow it in the Dirt to Dinner garden.

Fava Bean PatchesIf we save the ‘Grandma Susan’s’ and the ‘Negreta’ to grow to maturity to make us fava beans to eat. That means the spaces growing ‘Broad Winsors’ are the ones headed to the chopping block–ahem, Compost Heaven. It’s time to give the space over to other cool-season crops like the beets, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and lettuces all waiting to grow.

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