Baby lima beans are one of two distinct varieties of limas. They are plump, pale green beans with a buttery, creamy flavor, slightly smaller and milder than the larger "Fordhook" lima bean, also referred to as "butter bean" (baby lima beans are a separate variety). Like most beans, baby lima beans aren't difficult to grow in the home garden. Plant the seeds when the days are warm and all danger of frost has passed--baby lima beans won't germinate in cold soil.
Prepare the soil in a sunny spot one to two weeks before planting the baby lima beans. Work the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches using a hoe or shovel. Add 2 to 3 inches of organic material such as manure or compost, along with a granular fertilizer at the rate of one cup per every foot of row. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-10. Water the soil.
Hoe shallow rows 2 feet apart. Plant the lima beans 2 to 3 inches apart in the rows, and 1 1/2 inches deep.
Water the baby lima beans immediately after planting. Through the season, be sure the lima beans get an inch of water every week. Water the plants in the morning so moisture can evaporate before the cool of evening.
Thin the baby lima beans to one plant every 4 to 6 inches when the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, leaving only the sturdiest seedlings. Pinch off the weaker, smaller seedlings at ground level with your fingernails or a pair of scissors. Don't pull the small seedlings from the soil, as you may accidentally damage the roots of the larger seedlings that you want to keep.
Hoe weeds from the lima bean patch as they appear; they will compete with the baby limas for nutrients, air and moisture. Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch such as shredded bark or straw around the plants once the daytime temperature has warmed to about 70 degrees F. Mulch will deter weeds, keep the soil moist and warm and provide nutrients as the mulch decomposes.
Harvest the baby lima beans when the pods are plump and bright green. Shell the baby limas by squeezing the seam on the pod with your thumb. The bean will easily pop out. Eat the beans immediately, or preserve them by drying, canning or freezing.