How To Grow Lima Beans

Lima beans are native to South and Central America and often grow best in temperatures from 15 to 20 degrees. In addition to being delicious and nutritious, lima beans are not challenging to grow. No matter if you are a beginner or not, it is simple to plant, take care, and harvest lima beans. Keep reading to learn how to grow lima beans and get the best results.

Choose lima bean seeds

Lima beans can be divided into two varieties: vine beans and bush beans, which are usually labeled indeterminate and determinate, respectively. They are annuals that only grow in a single season of the year. You can easily find the seeds at any garden supply or nursery store. Bush beans typically mature quickly and are called determinate since they yield all of the beans at the same time. The bushes can grow up to 30 to 90 cm in height. If you grow lima beans in a pot, it is better to go for bush varieties like Fordhook or Henderson. Vine beans grow more slowly, but they can produce more yield. Also, they can ensure diseases and pests better. With a height of around 2 to 4 meters, vines are ideal for small gardens.

Prepare the seedlings

After purchasing lima bean seeds, you should germinate them by wrapping in a wet paper towel and seal in an airtight bag. Wait for a few days before they sprout small roots and stems. If you are living in an area with short growing seasons, start bean seedlings in pots roughly 3 to 4 weeks before the final spring frost. Bury each seed under 1 to 2 inches of loose soil and keep them in a moist, warm environment. Consider using paper or biodegradable peat pots. Lima bean seedlings could be delicate and hard to transplant, so you should use one which you could directly plant to the ground. Avoid planting a plastic or clay pot because it would limit the growth of your plants.

Sow

Sow the seedlings or seeds in the mid-spring. Since Lima beans are native South and Central America, they often thrive in warm climates where the temperatures range from 15 to 20 degrees during the growing period. Start planting the seeds 2 to 4 weeks after the last spring frost when the weather gets warm. If you start them indoors, then just sow the seeds or seedlings. Avoid planting the seeds too early because they might rot in moist and cool soil. However, if you grow them too late, high temperatures might interfere with their growth.

Grow

Plant the lima beans 1 or 2 inches deep in the ground. Set bush varieties 4 to 6 inches apart, while vine beans will need a space of around 8 to 10 inches. Make sure the eye faces downward to the soil. In case you are growing multiple rows, keep in mind leave sufficient space, from 24 to 36 inches, between each row for unrestricted growth and easy access. The perfect site for growing lima beans is moderately fertile, well-drained, and sunny. Choose an area with acidic soil, with a pH of 6 to 6.8. Avoid planting in high-nitrogen soil or using a fertilizer which has been mixed with extra nitrogen, which can limit the growth of your beans. That’s why it is essential to test the soil for pH levels before starting.

Set up support structures

For vine varieties, you need to set up some support structures such as a trellis or a pole for them to reach the full growth potential. Make sure to build them as soon as you grow the seeds to avoid damaging their delicate roots. A metal or wooden pole should be at least 5 feet tall, and less than 1 inch in diameter. Also, you need to stake the support securely in the ground near the plant. When the beans grow, you will have to guide the vine patiently so that it starts to wrap around the structure.

Water regularly

Make sure the soil is always damp. However, avoid watering too frequently or heavily because it can drown your seedlings. Ideally, you should provide around 1 inch of water per week, from irrigation or rain, during the pod development and blossoming stages. Pour the water at the plants’ base rather than the top because mildew and disease could develop in wet foliage. To conserve moisture, especially during the summer, you can spread mulch at the base. This can also help prevent weeds.

Pest control

Inspect your lima beans regularly to look for signs of insects and bugs or their damage. If you see nonbeneficial bugs or their damage, try to identify the exact species so that you could find the best method to eliminate them. Some common types of pests on lima beans include mites, aphids, and flea beetles. In some cases, you can control the pests just by spraying with a water hose, which will knock them off the lima bean plants. But if it doesn’t work, you can use diatomaceous earth or insecticidal soap.

Harvest

Bush beans often mature in 60 to 70 days, while vines varieties can be harvested after 85 to 90 days of planting. At that time, the plants will flower, then the flowers die, and pods appear. You should harvest only when the pods are filled-out and bright green. Thus, make sure to be patient, but don’t wait too long because the beans would dry out, making them tough and inedible. You can test by gently tugging a pod. If the beans come off easily, then it is ready. Ideally, you can suck the beans out of the seed pods by pulling the string. Though this method can be time-consuming, it will ensure the quality of your beans.

Dry and store

Lima beans can be dried out for storage in the long term or prepared to cook immediately. In most cases, freshly-picked beans can last for around 2 weeks in the fridge. But you should blanch and freeze them first to ensure the overall quality and freshness. For long-term storage, consider shelling and drying the beans thoroughly. Keep them in a dry and cool airtight container that is carefully cleaned and sanitized so that they can last for around 8 to 10 months.

Related References

Legumes – Beans as protein

Beans are a good source of protein, especially, when combined with other foods.  Furthermore, beans are readily available commercially and can also be grown in the garden in most areas of the world with a modicum of care.

As A Protein Source

Beans can be worked into most dietary patterns.  This is especially true of a person wanted to go on reduced meat or vegetarian diet pattern.  For those who follow the Paley of diet, try Tepary beans, they are wild native form of beans.  Tepary beans are commercially available and will be one of the non-domesticated forms of beans.

Style of bean

Beans can be eaten in many forms, which can include

  • As Pulses (dried beans) – which can be cooked from a grounded the flour, and canned
  • As Vegetable (green bean, salad garnish); including been britches
  • As Greens – eaten raw or cooked with other vegetables

 Versatility

Beans can be incorporated into your meals in many ways, some always are shown below:

  • As Kettle beans; for example, ham hock beans
  • In chowders, soups, stews, and chilies
  • In salads as greens, green beans, fresh bean seeds, or as cooked beans
  • As a side dish; for example, refried beans
  • Deep fried for example, breaded and fried as finger food
  • In cakes and bread as an amendment; by adding cooked bean paste or bean flour to increase protein levels

Long-term Food Storage

Bean store well and depending on the storage method can be stored for years.  Among the storage methods possible are:

As dried beans

  • If properly stored, dried beans are a long storing method, which can be stored for up to five years or more
  • Bean Britches, which are a dried form of green beans, may also be stored for a couple years

As canned beans

Hold canning beans can be stored for two to three years, as well, and maybes canned in a number of ways, including canned:

  • As part of another dish; for example, white bean chowder, stews, and/or relishes
  • As bean dishes; for example, Boston baked beans pork and beans, refried beans, or simply as precooked canned beans (season are otherwise)
  • As canned or pickled green beans

As frozen beans

In much the same way as canned beans, beans can be cooked and frozen or frozen as fresh vegetables for a few months.  Among the ways you can accomplish this are:

  • As part of another dish; for example, white bean chowder or soups
  • As bean dishes; for example, Boston baked beans pork and beans, refried beans, or simply as pre-cooked canned beans (season are otherwise)
  • Has frozen green beans or fresh bean seeds

Related References

What Beans to Save as Seed?

When planning your garden, and planning to save your own seed, crossbreeding is always a concern.  All beans will cross, even between bush and pole varieties within their respective subgroups (e.g. common, Lima, Runner, Fava).  Planting more than one variety of the same subgroup is not recommended.  Beans do not generally cross the subgroup boundaries, so, planting a variety of beans from different subgroups in close proximity is not a problem.

Seed savers should plant an additional ten feet or more of dry bean row and then select the best non-hybrid dry bean as seeds for next years’ garden and a few extra as reserve seed in case of crop failure.  As a general rule bean seed, should be chosen for:

  • Seed quality: seed should be mature, air dried, and not be moldy or have started to sprout
  • Size: the larger seed is generally considered to have been an indication of healthy growth.
  • Shape: choose seed that has a shape consistent with the norm for the variety of bean.
  • Color and Pattern: seed that has the color and pattern consistent with the norm for the variety of bean.

How many beans to grow in the Garden?

With the gardening season nearing, it’s time to consider what to plant and how much to plant. When considering how many beans to plant, follow these general rules.

As a rule, when planning for how many beans to plant in a season, you will need:

  • fifty feet of row per person for bush beans, or
  • thirty-five feet of row per person of pole beans.

Many gardeners make a distinction for planting amounts between varieties (e.g. common Vs. lima) or usage (snap Vs. dry), but this is not necessary, the rules hold up.

If you plan to dual-purpose your beans, to use and consume them both as snap and dry beans, then double your row footage per a person.  Additionally, mark which rows will be used as snap or dry beans is recommended to ensure the best possible quality and sufficient quantity for each use.  Keep in mind that snap beans are harvested while young tender and dry beans need time to mature and dry on the vine.

Seed savers should plant an additional ten feet of dry bean row and then select the best dry bean as seeds for next year’s garden and a few extra as reserve seed in case of crop failure.

Related References

What are Lima Beans?

Lima Beans (Phaseolus lunatus)

Originally thought to originate from Brazil, a wild, primitive form of lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus) (also, known as butter beans) has been recently discovered in Guatemala, leading scientists to believe that the bean’s origins may actually lie there. The name “lima bean” originated from the discovery of the bean by European explorers in Lima, Peru. Its development includes three main courses of travel:

  • First, through Mexico into our Southwest, then over to Florida and up toward Virginia.
  • Second, down through Central America into Peru (this is where larger pods developed rather than typical lima beans of North America).
  • Ans, finally, eastward through the West Indies and Southward toward South America.

Lima beans are one of those foods I have always eaten but did not really appreciate, until, I started living in Texas where these heat-loving drought-tolerant beans thrived.  This hearty bean, despite their reputation, can be very flavorful and bountiful.