How to Grow Butter Beans on a Small Farm


Butter beans, also known as lima beans, are a staple of the American diet. They are high in protein and nutrition. Butter beans originated in the South and are most popular there. Like most beans, butter bean vines can thrive under the right conditions. Try your hand at growing butter beans for your table or to sell.

Step 1

Decide whether you want to grow bush butter beans (Fordhook, Henderson, Eastland, Thorogreen) or pole/climber butter beans (Yellow, Christmas, King of the Garden, Florida). Your set-up will change slightly depending on your choice. Bush beans are recommended for easiest start-up and maintenance.

Step 2

Plant butter beans after the last frost. Early May is the best time for planting in most areas. Nourish your soil by turning over the top six inches with compost. Your plot should end with 50 percent compost and 50 percent garden soil.

Step 3

Buy butter bean seeds or seedlings at a reputable nursery. Plant the seeds or seedlings an inch deep, two to four inches apart, in rows that are spaced 18 to 24 inches. Beans enjoy space and do not grow well when crowded.

Step 4

Water the area lightly after planting. Butter bean seeds will fail to germinate if they get too much moisture. Water only until the soil is moist and maintain that level of moisture throughout the growing season. Seeds should sprout and begin to show within two weeks.

Step 5

Clean the plot weekly with a hoe to keep weeds at bay. Butter beans have shallow root systems and do not thrive with competition or anything that disrupts their roots.

Step 6

Harvest butter beans in August when the pods are large and firm.

Tips and Warnings

  • Butter beans are cold sensitive and will suffer at temperatures under 55 degrees. Beans are prone to blights and bacterial problems if they're kept too wet.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Butter bean seeds/seedlings
  • Water
  • Hoe


  • Gardening Know How: Growing Butter Beans in Your Garden
  • University of Illinios Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow -- Beans
  • The Gardener's Network: How to Grow Beans
Keywords: growing beans, butter beans, lima beans

About this Author

Carrie Terry has been writing since 1999 and has published work for the "Daily Bruin," eHow, eHow Home & Garden and LIVESTRONG.COM. She now runs an independent publishing house. Terry received a Bachelor of Arts in English and film from the University of California Los Angeles.

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