Growing Crops: Lima Beans

Lima beans are a prolific crop, nicknamed Butter Beans due to the buttery flavor and creamy texture of some varieties. The bush varieties include Baby Fordhook, Burpee’s Improved Bush, Fordhook 242, Henderson’s Bush, and White Dixie Butter. The vine or climbing varieties include Burpee’s Best, Carolina Red, King of the Garden, Prizetaker, and Sieva.

To order a packet or two of White Dixie Butter Bean seeds, click the link below:

Best Climate to Grow: Warm and relatively dry, with protection from the wind. They will not thrive in exceptionally cold, wet climates. They are less hardy than their regular “green bean” cousins and will not tolerate cold temperatures. Definitely a summer crop!

Light Requirements: Lots of sun. Grow lights if growing indoors without benefit of a sunny window.

Soil Requirements: Moist, fertile soil that has a neutral pH (as close to 7.0 as possible), so compost is the ideal soil amendment, if needed.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Compost will do great double-duty as fertilizer and moisture-saving mulch. Keep your beans watered; drip irrigation is highly recommended.

When to Plant:
Sow directly
into your garden outside once the temperature of the soil has reached about 75 degrees F and there is no longer a danger of frost. Do not sow them all at once; plant a portion of them once a week for a period of four weeks so that you are not stuck with a glut of beans to harvest all at once and then none later.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Generally you should plant the seeds, whether they are bush or vine beans, 1–1½ inches deep, two seeds per planting hole. You will keep the stronger seedling and remove the weaker to the compost pile once they have sprouted.

Plant the bush varieties 12 inches apart in double rows that are also 12 inches apart, and before you plant, be sure to place tall stakes at the end of each row with sturdy string or wire stretched between the stakes about 1 foot above the ground to help support the plants as they grow.

Plant the vine varieties 12 inches apart, with 3 feet between the rows – you have to be able to get in there to harvest them! Have your trellises in place before you plant the seeds.

Container Requirements: Your best bet for growing lima beans in a container would be to grow a bush variety. A medium-sized container about 1 foot deep on a sunny deck or in a sunny window should be sufficient. Make sure the soil is rich with compost and kept moist at all times.

Harvesting and Storage: Don’t wait for the pods to harden – they should be slightly immature when you harvest them, otherwise you will have tough beans. Snip regularly with garden shears (a few days a week) in order to encourage more beans to grow. Beans are best eaten fresh, but they do freeze and can very well. To freeze, remove the beans from the pods, rinse, and air dry before putting them in a container in the freezer. They can go straight from the freezer to the steamer, though it will take longer to steam them if steaming from frozen.

Harvesting Seeds: Stop irrigating the beans and allow them to dry up on the vine. When the pods are dry and leathery and shrunken around the beans inside, harvest them, remove the beans from the pods, and allow them to dry completely to the point of being as hard as small pebbles. Freezing the dried beans before storing them in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place should kill off any larvae from bean weevils.

Pests to Monitor: Blackfly, Greenfly, Mice, Slugs, Snails. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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