Fava Beans

Oh, the poor fava bean (Vicia faba). Long appreciated elsewhere in the world this oversized legume has been slow to make it to the table in the United States.

Fava beans are delicious and full of good things like fiber and low-fat protein. So what’s the hold-up? Well, they are somewhat of a pain in the buns to prepare. The cook must shell, parboil and then remove the beans from a waxy, bitter-tasting pod before they can be used. However, the buttery consistency and nutty flavor make fava beans well worth the effort.

Also known as broad beans, Windsor beans or English beans, favas prefer cool temperatures and take 80 days to mature. Here in central Arkansas the time to plant is mid- to late-February and I always seem to miss my window of opportunity. This is the first year I finally remembered to get some planted. In regions like Southern California where winters are mild beans can also be sown in fall.

The plant is bush forming so there is no need to stake, but give it some room because they can grow 4 to 7 feet tall. Sow the seeds 1-2 inches deep, 3-6 inches apart. Space the rows 12-30 inches apart. The beans are ready to harvest when the pods are plump, around 6 inches long and still green.

Since this is my first year to grow fava beans I don’t have a collection of fabulous recipes. I’ve been eating them sautéed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. They are a delicious addition to salad. How do you recommend preparing them?

ACCESS Preschool Teaching Through Gardening

People often say they were introduced to gardening as a child by a parent or grandparent. Even if they weren’t hooked immediately the love of gardening was instilled and by adulthood they had taken up the trowel.

ACCESS Schools in Little Rock, Arkansas has a special gardening program where students learn about many aspects of horticulture from growing to designing to selling plants. I have had the pleasure to work with the school helping with plant selection for their greenhouse as well as having the kids out to the farm for our Daffodil Days in spring.

I asked the preschool director Monika Garner-Smith to be a guest writer on my blog and share how the school uses gardening as a teaching tool.

Naptime, Snacktime and Gardening? How ACCESS Preschool Teaches Early Academic Skills Through Gardening

Gardening can start at any age, and here at ACCESS, we use our gardens to teach literature, science, math and more, even with our youngest learners.

Recently, the ACCESS PreK students read The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. In this book, a little boy plants a carrot seed, and everyone tells him it won’t come up. So, he cares for his garden, weeding and watering every day, and at the end of the book, a huge carrot comes up, just as he knew it would.

Just like the character in the book, the ACCESS PreK students planted carrot seeds, first in their classroom windowsill garden, and, later, once the seeds sprouted, the seedlings were transplanted to the ACCESS Gardens. They also planted beans, squash, okra, banana peppers and tomatoes.

In addition to learning basic principles of gardening, the students are practicing their early writing skills by creating plant markers for the garden and keeping a garden journal. They will also practice creative writing skills by imagining what they would do with giant carrots and describing and illustrating their plans in short stories.

Through close observation, the students practice their math and science skills, tracking seed germination times, learning the life cycles of different plants, measuring and charting plant growth, measuring rainfall, learning about different plant parts, and determining which parts of each plant are edible. Once the vegetables are ready for harvest, the students will practice additional early graphing skills by taste-testing each plant and charting whether plants are crunchy, sweet, bitter, yummy, yucky, etc…

PreK students at ACCESS Group, Inc. dig their classroom vegetable plot as party of a seasonal classroom project. Photo courtesy of ACCESS Group, Inc.

Each day for the next few weeks, the students will care for their vegetable garden by weeding it and giving it the proper amount of water. They will fertilize it with Don’s T, a worm compost tea made here at ACCESS Gardens. Finally, the classroom will present an end-of-the-year skit for their parents entitled The Carrot Seed.

As you can see, our gardens are an outdoor classroom, where students benefit from hands-on, multi-sensory learning. This example above pertains to our youngest gardeners, but gardening can benefit children at any age, at home or at school. Check out our Gardening with Kids handout for tips and projects designed to make gardening educational and fun. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up with an extra helper when it’s time to weed the beds again!

Special thanks to P. Allen for his gardening advice, sharing the Garden Home Retreat with our students and helping to spread awareness about ACCESS Gardens.

Monika Garner-Smith, M.Ed., ACCESS Group, Inc. preschool director, is one of the organization’s three founders and co-teaches the ACCESS PreK classroom.

Books on My Design Desk

Xa and I chat before planting a tree together.A gift from garden designer Xa Tollemache during her recent visit to the farm prompted me to rummage through my library looking for my favorite books on garden design. Lady Tollemache gave me Andrew Wilson’s book The Garden of Giubbilei. Xa takes her inspiration from many sources including her own garden at Helmingham Hall, but certainly the work of Luciano Giubbilei has influenced her award-winning designs and exhibitions at the Chelsea Flower Show. Thumbing through the book inspired me to go back to some of my old standbys.

Colour in Your Garden

Colour in Your Garden
Penelope Hobhouse
Frances Lincoln (March 6, 2003)
ISBN: 9780711220584

This is the definitive book on color, or colour. I also love Penny Hobhouse’s book Gardening Through the Ages. A must for history buffs.

The Garden in Winter

The Garden in Winter
Rosemary Verey
Frances Lincoln (July 10, 2006)
ISBN: 0711220204

There is a line in this book that I just love. “If our gardens are to be more than graves commemorating summer’s beauty, we must start by using our eyes.”

Designing with Plants

Designing with Plants
Piet Oudolf and Noël Kingsbury
Timber Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2008)
ISBN: 0881929530

I had the opportunity to visit with Piet at his garden in Holland. He is a master of texture, form and the use of native plants.

My Knod of Garden

My Kind of Garden
David Hicks
Antique Collectors Club Dist (November 15, 2009)
ISBN: 9781870673594

This garden design book reveals how the late Mr. Hicks’ sense of style extended far beyond his famous interiors. Lovely photographs and insightful commentary.

Tomorrow's Garden

Tomorrow’s Garden
Stephen Orr
Rodale Books (February 15, 2011)
ISBN: 1605294683

I’m currently reading my friend Stephen Orr’s book Tomorrow’s Garden. It takes on the topic of designing a garden with sustainability in mind.

Up to Our Elbows in Lambs

There are lambs galore at the farm! The little cuties romp around so much we can hardly count them. I think there might be thirty or so. Adorable!

Spring lambs at the Moss Mountain Garden Home.

This little one’s mother died Saturday for no apparent reason. She’s only about a week old so we are bottle feeding her.

Bottle feeding an orphaned lamb.


For the Love of Roses

My love affair with roses began at Arley Hall, so I guess you could say that Lady Elizabeth Ashbrook was my matchmaker. She curated such a wonderful collection of roses, most of them old-fashioned varieties. She was truly an inspiration to me.

One of the many things I find fascinating about roses is their heritage—it’s so interesting to me to look at the evolution of this most-famous flower, particularly how American roses have evolved. The first American class of roses was the Noisettes, bred in Charleston during the early 19th century. And it just so happens that my passion for roses also introduced me to one of my dearest friends, rosarian Ruth Knopf. Also of Charleston, she and I share a particular affinity for the Noisettes.

Now, fast forward to 2000 when another breakthrough rose was about to be introduced to America—The Knock Out® Rose. It was created by William Radler to be disease resistant, cold hardy, heat tolerant and incredibly floriferous. And indeed it is—along with the six other varieties that have since been introduced— as it produces a bevy of blooms every five weeks or so from spring until the first frost.

So what do Noisette roses and The Knock Out® Family of Roses have in common? Well for one thing, they’re all going to be showcased in the new rose garden we’ve installed at the Garden Home Retreat. The Knock Out® Family of Roses will be planted in multiples, with like colors and varieties being grouped together for what I think will be an absolute visual treat.

I’m looking forward to when we officially open the rose garden on Saturday May 14 at the Tale of Two Farms Herb & Roses Festival. Peggy Cornett, curator of plants at Monticello, will be on hand for the festivities. She’ll also be giving a free lecture at the Clinton School of Public Service at noon on May 13, and the topic is one I’m especially looking forward to—“Historic Roses at Monticello.” I hope to see you there!

Plot plan of the rose garden.

The entry gates were constructed by Stuart Schild. He designed them around a gate bonnet I found in a junk shop ages ago.


The pavillions are inspired by outbuildings I saw at the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston.

The Double Knock Out Rose looks lovely paired with The Pink Double Knock Out Rose.


The Pink Double Knock Out Rose planted en masse.


The Double Knock Out Rose