I love lima beans, actually I pretty much love all of the legume family. Unfortunately, legumes are usually problematic for me in the garden. In the past, I have carefully followed the directions on the package only to be disappointed with the results. This year I have thrown caution to the wind, gone rogue and done something completely different and guess what - success!
My package of Shantyboat Butter Beans arrived in California in March. Oh, the directions said the usual, direct sow because the roots do not transplant well. I have gone down that road before to find the birds and squirrels just love direct sown seeds. If a seed did germinate, then the pill bugs and their friends really enjoyed their tender new leaves and roots. So here it is, I decided to start these beautiful giant beans indoors and let them germinate under a grow light to give them the best possible chance.
I started one bean per cell in a seed starting tray with rich organic seed starting soil and put the tray close under a grow light to heat up the soil. Only the best for my beans. Well, they popped right up within the week. They had lovely strong leaves with good color. If you are going to go this route, you have to be willing to stay close to the process and not let the seedlings languish too long in the small cells and become root bound. Once they were a couple of inches high, I potted them up with some organic transplant soil and put them back under the grow light.
The new lima bean seedlings quickly shot up and produced their second and third leaves. These plants looked so healthy, it would be easy to think they could go right into the ground but you have to take the time to harden them off. They have been quite pampered, making the risk of shock great..A few days getting used to the California sun and wind and the Shantyboat seedlings were ready to face life outdoors.
Getting the young seedlings out of their pots and not damaging the root system at this point, can be tricky. I planned for this by using a pot that had a removable liner so the roots and dirt easily slipped out without trauma. On planting out day, I found all the beans had strong roots, requiring a good deep hole.
Lima Beans have turned out to be a fun and fast growing plant with new growth and tendrils coming almost every day. If beans have been a problem for you, consider giving this rule breaking method a try. The only difficult part is staying on top of the process and not letting the seedlings become root bound. Be prepared to check on your young plants daily before their final planting and make sure you have a trellis in place and ready for their fast growth. Sometimes it is good to break the rules!
Written by Sow True Seed Garden Ambassador for California, Carrie Bettencourt:
Carrie Bettencourt is an urban gardener living near Los Angeles, California. She writes and photographs her garden and garden inspired recipes on artichokesandokra.com and @artichokesandokra. .