Planting guide and Seed Saving Notes for Lima Beans
Lima Bean (Phaseolus lunatus)
Lima beans are often called butterpeas and butterbeans (depending on size) for good reason. Fresh harvested home grown lima beans are not the same horror of childhood. They are rich and creamy with just the right toothsomeness, and even better with a bit of real butter. Unlike many other beans, these germinate and set pods in hot weather, which only gives one more reason for the southern love affair with this bean. Harvest when the beans are young and tender for fresh shelling, or let dry on the plant for storage.
Nutrients: Protein, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C and Manganese.
How to Grow Lima Beans From Seed
Beans are frost sensitive annuals that prefer full sun and rich, well-drained soil. To lessen the chances of disease and pests, alternate the location of bean plantings with a different crop each year.
Beans should be direct seeded since they do not transplant well. Plant beans outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures are above 50˚ F. Sow seeds 1" deep and 2-4” apart. Seeds will sprout in 8-16 days. Pole bean and half runner beans will need trellising, while bush beans should support themselves.
For a longer harvest, plant successions of bush beans every 3 weeks until mid-summer.
Harvest bush beans in approximately 50-60 days; drying beans in 80-100 days; half runners in 75 days; pole beans in 60-80 days.
How to Save Lima Bean Seeds
Bean flowers are perfect, self-pollinating and quite beautiful. They also almost never cross-pollinate, making beans an easy and satisfying seed to save. When planning to save bean seed, maintain at least 20 feet between varieties, and be careful planting two white seeded varieties side-by-side, if you intend to save seed, because crossing may occur but not be visible. It is always best to save seed from plants that are free from disease; this will ensure healthy genetics. Allow seedpods to dry on the plant and harvest when the seeds rattle inside. If you have a very wet fall, you can pull up the entire plant roots and all, and allow the beans to finish ripening and drying on the vine hanging somewhere dry and with good circulation. To get the best germination and longest shelf life of your seeds, you'll want to separate the seed from the dry pods. This prevents disease from setting in, and eliminates places for bugs to hide. The best way to do this is by winnowing your beans. You can do this by hand, but it will take a long time if you have many beans to clean. To clean a lot of seed, crush your very dry beans in a cloth or burlap sack and winnow the seeds from the chaff. This is best done outside, and by pouring your crushed beans from one bucket into another in front of a box fan or on a very windy day. The heavy beans will fall into the second bucket, while the dry chaff will blow away. Repeat the process until completely clean, which will likely take 3 or 4 rounds of winnowing.