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Lima beans are a popular warm season, tender annual crop. They are protein rich and also contain other essential minerals and vitamins. Growing lima beans involves some specific cultural differences from many other beans. A soil temperature no lower than 65 degrees F is absolutely essential.
They can be direct seeded about 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep 3 to 4 weeks after the average last spring frost date, soil temperature should be at least 65 degrees F to ensure germination. Space seeds 2 to 4 inches apart and space rows about 2 feet apart. Covering lima bean seeds with a mix of peat moss-vermiculite or a sand and vermiculite mix is a good idea, although not absolutely necessary. It will make it easier for the beans to push through the soil , as some larger lima bean seed has a hard time pushing through.
After sprouting you might need to thin out some of the weaker plants to achieve an optimal spacing of about 3 to 5 inches apart. They will require 60 - 90 warm, frost-free days to reach full maturity, this of course varies slightly depending upon cultivar.
Like most beans ,lima beans come in both pole and bush varieties.
Bush type lima beans grow to about 2 feet in height , they bear faster but tend to have smaller seeds. The smaller varieties are frequently referred to as butter beans or baby limas. Bush lima beans are ready for harvest in 60 to 80 days.
Pole lima beans can grow 10 to 12 feet high and produce larger seeds. Larger lima beans are more often as dry beans. The Lima beans themselves grow within pale green pods that vary in size anywhere from 3 to 8 inches long depending upon variety. Pole Lima beans are ready for harvest in 85 to 90 days. Plant supports such as trellises, poles or stakes should be in place before planting pole beans, when placed properly the beans will generally do the work of climbing right up the pole or trellis. Be sure to use supports that are tall enough for the variety being grown.
Sun ~ Soil
Full sun is best , but they will tolerate partial shade with a diminished harvest. Non compacted, loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter is best.
Before planting work in aged compost. Avoid High nitrogen fertilizers , Lima Beans will provide their own nitrogen and excessive nitrogen will produce a lush foliage at the expense of the harvestable beans. Potassium and phosphorus fertilizers are best. Optimal pH range is 6.0 to 6.8 [See Tracking and Adjusting Soil pH ]
You can also start lima beans indoors in peat pots a few weeks weeks prior to transplanting outdoors, which should be 2 or 3 weeks before the average last frost. They frequently suffer from transplant shock - so hardening off is recommended , as well as taking care not to damage the root system when transplanting them.
You can start lima beans indoors as early as 2 or 3 weeks before the average last spring frost date for transplanting into the garden 3 or 4 weeks after the last frost. Starting them indoors in peat pots is advisable so that they can be set whole into the garden without disturbing the root system.
If you plan on using a lot of Lima beans you can plant a succession crop of lima beans every two weeks [bush lima beans] or you can also plant pole lima beans, which need more time to mature after the bush lima beans .
In regions with mild winters lima beans can also be sown in early autumn for an early winter harvest.
The soil should be uniformly moist, well drained, loose and non compacted. Seeds will frequently rot, crack or have a low germination rate if there is excessive soil moisture, particularly when sowing. Do not soak Lima Bean seeds before planting , do not over-water after sowing as is the practice with many other seeds, just maintain an evenly moist soil during flowering and pod formation. Overhead irrigation during flowering can cause flowers and small pods to fall off. Once the soil temperature averages greater than 60 degrees F, mulch to conserve moisture. Do not handle the beans when they are wet, as this may spread fungus spores.
Good Companion plants: Bush beans, cucumbers, Corn, celery, potatoes, Pole beans, sunflowers. Do not plant beans with onions, garlic, beets, or kohlrabi. Rotate Lima beans to spaces where lettuce, squash, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach or collards have been grown in the preceding year or two.
See - Companion Planting
They are susceptible to anthracnose, blight, and mosaic. Plant disease-resistant varieties. Keep the garden clean and free of debris. Avoid handling plants when they are wet so as not to spread fungal spores. If any of these have been a problem in the past plant disease resistant varieties. Proper sanitary practices are vital to the health of your garden. Proper sanitation can help to ensure disease-free and productive plants.
Common pests are Aphids, beetles, Leaf Hoppers and mites.
Harvest lima beans when pods are plump and firm. Continue to pick pods as soon as they become plump to encourage more flowering and lima bean production. When seeds mature, the plant will die. Pods left on the plant too long will be tough and mealy.
Lima bean pods, unlike some other beans are not eaten - yuck! I tried it -I didn't like it.