I experimented with lima beans in my small kitchen garden this summer. I’d never grown lima beans, and I didn’t want to commit a lot of space to them, so I decided to plant some in a container garden—or in containers on my deck. Climbing beans on the deck make sense because balusters can serve as a trellis and if the vines grow above the handrail, I can tie twine to overhead rain gutters and train the bean plants upward.
Lima Bean Garden
I chose a modest window sill planter to hold my bean plants. With dimensions of 24” x 8” wide x 6.5” deep, the container could hold nearly 5.5 gallons of soil. However, I left about 3/4 inch from the soil line to the top of the planter, so it held about 4.8 gallons. I recovered potting soil from dozens of containers that held last season’s vegetables, and mixed in an equal amount of compost. I filled the planter and poked 8 lima bean seeds into the soil—evenly spaced around the perimeter of the planter. Then I watered and waited.
Harvesting Lima Beans
My lima bean plants grew as quickly as the string beans in my planting bed. However, it seemed to take forever for pods to form. By the time there were enough pods to harvest, bean vines had nearly concealed about seven feet of the balusters on one side of the deck’s handrail. Vines had grown above the handrail repeatedly, but each time, I had gently bent them downward and encouraged them to wrap around the balusters. I harvested only about 36 pods in a single event. Another ten or so pods ripened, but not all at once; I could have had two or three lima beans every five days had I continued to harvest.
Lima Bean Chow
Producing two to four beans each, 36 pods could provide a vegetable side dish in a dinner for four. I got four meals out of my pods because no one else in my family will eat lima beans. These homegrown beans had an intense nutty flavor unlike any vegetable I’d ever eaten. For that flavor I’d gladly dedicate garden space every year. This year’s experience demonstrated that lima beans don’t need a lot of root space—jamming eight plants into a five gallon container didn’t stress them at all. I might try 10 plants in the same planter next year… but I won’t stop there. I plan to increase my container lima bean crop. Perhaps I can produce lima beans for 12 or more meals and grow a sun shade for the entire deck while I’m at it.
Daniel Gasteiger gardens in hardiness zone 6 in central Pennsylvania. He’s a great fan of Kerry’s Container Gardening and he writes two blogs of his own: Your Small Kitchen Garden and Your Home Kitchen Garden.