Lima beans are an attractive crop that grows in the warm season and is harvested during fall. Native to Central America, but now grown worldwide, the very nutritious bean is considered a super food high in protein, thiamine, riboflavin and iron. Growth of the lima bean is simple and rapid. The seeds are easily sown, and the plants provide a bountiful harvest.
Lima bean seeds are soaked before planting to help the outer shell of the seed soften. The seed will then become more pliable, allowing the tender sprout the ability to develop. Lima beans are planted 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep in warm soil when there are no future signs of frost that may destroy tender foliage or new roots. Space rows 2 feet apart, and seeds 2 to 4 inches apart, within rows.
Signs of germination come within 14 to 16 days after planting. Weak sprouts are plucked from soil, allowing only the strongest plants to continue to grow. Spacing sprouts 4 to 6 inches apart will ensure a bountiful harvest.
The cream- or white-colored, 2- to 4-inch-long, bloom will develop at the end of a pedicel when the plant is preparing for bean pod production. The flowers will stay on the plant as the pod develops, and dry out when the pods are nearing maturity.
The 3-inch-long pod of the lima bean is flat, oblong, and slightly curved. The pod contains four to six flat kidney-shaped seeds. These seeds may be white, red or green and can be frozen, dried or eaten fresh from the pod.
Harvesting lima beans vary depending on the variety, with 65 to 75 days being the standard time necessary to create a healthy crop. Beans should be harvested when the pods are bright green and plump. Pods are snapped off the plant where the pod and stem connect, ensuring the plant does not become damaged or up-rooted. Lima bean plants must be harvested frequently once mature pods are formed, otherwise the plant will stop producing.
The most common disease affecting the lima bean plant is root rot. This disease presents itself as rust-colored cankers along the base and roots of the bean plant. The plant cannot develop and grow properly if the root rot is not controlled and stopped quickly. This disease can be fatal to the plant if not caught immediately. Prevention is a major key in preventing root rot from starting. Soil that is properly aerated and has ample drainage, will prove to be vital when trying to avoid any form of root rot. Also, rotating plants every two years will help the soil stay fresh and able to maintain new root structures and systems.