Growing Tomatoes In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know

You think about growing tomatoes in Illinois and want to know what to expect and what specific details you have to account for to make your tomato growing project in Illinois a real success?

Great! This article is exactly for you since I will show you everything you need to know to grow your tomato plants in Illinois in the best possible manner.

Not only will you get information on how to deal with specific climatic conditions but you will also learn how to water your plants in Illinois and much more.

After reading this article, you will be able to avoid many mistakes other people make when growing tomatoes in Illinois and may be able to get much better results due to that.

Enough talk, let’s get right into it!

Do tomatoes grow well in Illinois?

Since spring months can be pretty cold in many parts of Illinois, it may not be the best place to grow tomatoes and people growing tomatoes in California and other warmer regions may have an easier time in this regard.

However, you will still be able to grow decent tomato plants in Illinois as long as you follow the advice in my articles and are also willing to put in some work.

How long does it take to grow tomatoes in Illinois?

Since climatic conditions are often not perfect for growing tomato plants outdoors, it will often take you quite long to grow tomatoes in Illinois from seed to harvest.

You should expect your tomato growing project will take between 4 and 5 months, depending on your level of expertise and also on the tomato variety you want to grow.

How big do tomato plants grow in Illinois?

Depending on the tomato variety you want to grow in Illinois, you should give your plants at least 6 feet of space in the vertical so they will have enough space to grow in a proper manner and can produce decent harvests later in the year.

Can you expect great yields when growing tomatoes in Illinois?

While climatic conditions may not be perfect for growing tomatoes, you can still get pretty decent yields as a beginner as long as you optimize other factors that will affect the growth of your plants and the overall yield, including your watering and fertilizing behavior.

When to grow tomatoes in Illinois?

If you want to start growing tomato plants indoors, you can start as early as March, raise your plants to a certain height and transplant them outdoors once you no longer expect any frost.

However, if you directly want to start growing tomato plants in Illinois outdoors, you may want to wait until May when it may be warm enough so your sensitive tomato plants will not get shocked by extremely cold weather anymore and may also be able to germinate in a more efficient manner.

Can you grow tomatoes in Illinois in winter?

Since winters in Illinois are pretty cold, you would have to grow your tomato plants in a heated greenhouse with plenty of artificial lighting and this would be really expensive and also pretty bad for our environment and may therefore just not be worth it.

Can you grow tomatoes in Illinois multiple times per year?

Since winters in Illinois are often pretty long, it may be advisable to just grow one single batch of tomato plants per year during the main seasons since you would get much higher yields while your tomato growing projects during the off-season will often not be a real success.

What tomato varieties grow best in Illinois?

Since Illinois offers pretty cool climatic conditions early in the year, you should choose tomato varieties that are pretty resistant to the cold. For instance, you could use:

  • Zebra Tomatoes
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Early Girl Tomatoes
  • Celebrity Tomatoes
  • Husky Gold Tomatoes
  • Pixie Tomatoes
  • Nugget Tomatoes
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Mountain Pride Tomatoes
  • Supersonic Tomatoes

Is it better to grow tomatoes in Illinois from seeds or seedlings?

Since winters in Illinois can be pretty long, you may rather want to rely on seedlings instead of seeds for growing tomatoes in this region since you would just see results much quicker on average and may also be able to harvest more tomatoes at the end of the growing season.

Should you start growing tomatoes in Illinois indoors?

Due to rather cold spring weather and frost early in the year in many regions of Illinois, it makes sense to start growing tomato plants indoors and transplanting the seedlings outdoors later in the year.

How to water tomato plants in Illinois?

Since it is pretty cool in spring and your plants will also get lots of water from precipitation, you may not have to water your plants pretty often during those early months when they are also still pretty small.

However, things change pretty quickly once your plants get older and it gets hotter outdoors and you may therefore have to water your plants on a daily basis during summertime.

Do you have to protect tomatoes against the sun in Illinois?

Since sun intensity is not really serious in the early months of the year in most parts of Illinois, you also don’t have to actively protect your plants from excessive sunlight and can just let your tomato plants grow in a completely natural manner and once they get bigger, they will be able to deal with lots of radiation on their own.

Will wild animals feed on tomatoes in Illinois?

Rabbits, raccoons, deer and birds are just some of the animals you have to protect your tomato plants from in many parts of Illinois since in case you don’t, chances are your plants will just be gone sooner or later and your tomato growing project will be ruined.

Tomato pests & plant diseases in Illinois

Aphids, thrips, stink bugs and snails are just some of the annoying companions when it comes to growing tomato plants in Illinois.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to get rid of tomato pests and plant diseases.

When to harvest tomatoes in Illinois?

If you start growing your tomato plants indoors in March, you may be able to harvest them in August in most regions of Illinois.

Yet, don’t be discouraged if it takes you a little bit longer since this also greatly depends on overall climatic conditions in your region and the tomato variety you want to grow.

Additional Information for Growing Tomatoes at Home

I hope this article has been helpful to you and you now know most things you know to grow tomatoes in Illinois in a solid manner.

If you want to get even more information on growing tomatoes at home step-by-step, you should also have a look at my tomato grower’s guide.

Moreover, you may also want to check out my growing tomatoes FAQ section where you will get answers to all questions you might still have regarding growing tomatoes in general.


Own experience.

About the Author

My name is Andreas and I’m really passionate about our environment and also about growing plants. In fact, I have grown several different plants over many years. I love to see my own plants grow and also always try new things to improve my overall conditions at home.

In my blog posts, I want to share my experiences with you so that you can become successful in growing various different plants and improving your home as well, even though you might still be a beginner right now.

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