You might be familiar with fava beans as an edible crop, but this legume is more than just that: It's also a natural, organic fertilizer (called a green manure) that fixes nitrogen in the soil for other plants to use.

By planting fava beans in your garden, you can improve soil fertility at the same time without needing to add other fertilizers and amendments.

Here's how you do it.

How to plant fava beans in fall

They’re cool-weather plants that should be sown directly in the garden in fall to enrich the soil for the following spring.

Sow the seeds about 6 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Sprouts will appear that first week, and grow into 6-inch seedlings within a couple of weeks.

Once they reach that height, add 2 to 3 inches of straw (or another organic mulch) around the plants, being careful not to pile the mulch against the stems (which could lead to rotting).

Fava beans are tall, thin, and top-heavy plants that require minimal staking as they mature so they don’t flop over under their own weight. They’re well suited for those conical wire tomato cages that, ironically, don’t do a super job of supporting indeterminate tomato plants. But they’re fantastic for fava beans!

You can also support them with bamboo teepees, or a combination of both for an aesthetically pleasing grouping.

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