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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.