The lima bean is a tender annual. Sow lima beans in the garden 3 to 4 weeks after the average date of the last frost in spring when the soil temperature has warmed to 65° or more for at least 5 days and daytime temperatures are consistently warm. Start lima beans indoors as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring for transplanting into the garden. Lima beans require 60 to more than 90 warm, frost-free days to reach harvest depending upon type and variety.
Description. Lima beans are tender annuals grown for their flat, crescent-oval-shaped seeds. There are two types of lima beans: bush and pole or vine varieties. Bush types grow to about 2 feet tall and tend to have smaller seeds; they bear more quickly than pole lima bean varieties. Pole lima beans have large seeds and can grow 10 to 12 feet high. Small-seeded limas, usually bush types, are also called butter beans, sieva beans, Burma beans, Madagascar beans, Carolina beans, and "baby limas." Large-seeded lima beans are sometimes called potato limas. Large-seeded limas are often sold as dry beans. Lima beans have pale green pods that vary from 3 to 4 inches long to 5 to 8 inches long depending upon variety. Lima bean seeds are eaten, not the pods. Leaves are commonly composed of three leaflets and the flowers are white. Bush lima bean varieties are ready for harvest from 60 to 80 days from sowing; pole bean varieties are ready for harvest in 85 to 90 days.
Yield. Grow 4 to 8 lima bean plants per each household member.
Site. Grow lima beans in full sun; they will grow in partial shade but the harvest will not be full. Lima beans prefer loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Beans prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Prepare planting beds in advance by working in plenty of aged compost. Avoid planting beans where soil nitrogen is high or where green manure crops have just grown; these beans will produce green foliage but few beans.