We know, we should have started sowing in the Autumn or, at the very least, over the Christmas holidays, but we didn't. We started this weekend. We also started with our favourite (possibly becasue its also usually our most successful) crop. Broad Beans. We put in two varieties this year - twenty Superaquadulce and thirty Supersimonia (because that's what we had left over from last year).
We have always sown our Broad Beans indoors - we had to this year since we haven't dug any of the garden yet - but in previous years its usually been too wet to think of sowing outside at this time of year. Last year (or, to be exact, November 2008), we did an autumn sowing. This is very handy to get an early crop, but should still be followed up with at least one spring sowing to extend the season.
Broad Bean seedlings develop fairly long roots, so if sowing indoors, a deep pot is required. Being mean (or thrifty? Financially cautious perhaps?) we don't bother with proper long pots but use old cardboard tubes instead (can't remember where we got this idea, but its a cracker). Toilet-roll tubes are favourite (everyone has these don't they?), but cutting a kitchen-roll tube in half works just as well (still don't see why you can't just use bog-roll though). Pack the bottom half of the tube firmly with compost, on a hard, flat surface; fill the rest of tube up; poke the broad bean in about an inch; top with some more soil and place in a tray. Keep the trays well watered (the water will soak up the tube and compost from below). Its probably not too good an idea to fiddle with the pots too much, lest the cardboard decides to fall to bits. When it comes to planting out (which we'll probably blog at the time), the whole thing (plant, compost and pot) goes into the bed, meaning the roots don't get disturbed while the pot decomposes to nothing in the soil.
Sorry to say that the compost used for the Broad Beans this year came from a bag via a garden centre, organic and peat free of course but not our own, home-made compost. Also we can never remember which way up the beans go when being sown. As a result, we tend to just push them in to the pots however they come to hand, so many may be upside-down or sideways. Can someone out there can advise on the orientation of sowing these seeds (please?). In our ignorance, and because we generally get good germination rates, we are of the opinion that it doesn't matter that much! Better news is that the beans themselves came from the The Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim, from whom we still need to order the rest of the vegetable seeds for the year...