Friday, August 14, 2009
Growing Lima Beans, one of my favorites
When summer temperatures warms the soil beans can go from seed to table in about 60 days. Of the many types of beans, the two most frequently grown by home gardeners are snap beans and lima beans. Each of these can be divided into two types. Low growing plants and tall growing plants. The legume family also contains many delicious vegetables that have beanlike seeds but that only remotely resemble the familiar type of beans.
Both the bush and pole types of lima beans have larger and more spreading vines than their snap bean counter parts. Lima beans do best in areas where summers are long and rather warm. Limas are panted like snap beans except they need more space. Plant them 4 to 6 inches apart in a row. In clay soils plant them on edge to improve the chance of germination.
Plant beans from seeds sown in the ground as soon as the soil has warmed up. Beans are frost tender and require a soil temperature of 65 degrees to sprout reliably. Either check the soil temperature with a soil thermometer or wait until late leafing trees (oaks, hickories, and pecans) uncurl new spring foliage. Successive crops can be planted until midsummer. Plant seeds of bush beans 3 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Pole bean plants are much larger, requiring 3 feet between rows and 9 to 12 inches between plants. If you want to run the vines up tepee shaped supports, dig holes in the corners of a 3 foot square and plant three pole bean seeds in each. Cover seeds 1 inch deep in clay soils, 1 ½ inches in sandy soils.
To avoid the spread of diseases from plant to plant, cultivate shallowly and only when the foliage is dry. Water frequently by soaking the soil instead of sprinkling. Moist foliage invites bacterial disease in humid areas. High nitrogen fertilizers and heavy application of compost will encourage more foliage growth than vegetable production. Use a fertilizer with a nitrogen phosphorus potassium ratio of 1:2:2, applying it every three to four weeks in a shallow furrow about 6 inches away from the plants. Cover the fertilizer band with soil. If you furrow irrigate apply the fertilizer in the furrows so water can carry it into the root zone of the bean plants.