When to Plant Tomatoes in Illinois

Thinking of growing tomatoes in your garden? You’ll want to know when the best time to plant them is in order to enjoy the fruits of your labor come harvest time.

If you’re asking, ‘when to plant tomatoes in Illinois?’ The answer is any day after the danger of frost has passed. Specifically, you can start planting them around the middle of May until the first of June.

When Should I Plant Tomatoes in Illinois?

When to Plant Tomatoes in Illinois

Tomatoes are definitely a gardener’s favorite, and they can be used in a number of dishes for you to enjoy. With a bit of coaxing and the right timing you could grow them for a few years and consistently get ripe and juicy vegetables.

The best time to plant tomatoes in Illinois will be around mid-May. It’s considered a warm-season crop as the plants require warm soil and nights that are free of frost. To be sure your tomatoes survive until harvest time it’s best to begin only when all risks of frost dates have passed.

Tomato plants love the warmth and getting the full amount of sun each day. They can’t tolerate drought for long periods of time and prefer the soil to be consistently moist and rich. Sometimes you’ll need to water more often depending on the days- if it’s windy or particularly sunny you might need to reach for that watering can again.

The trick to keeping tomatoes happy is to choose a location that gets full sunlight and organic mulch, which will keep the soil moist and relatively cool. You’ll also need plenty of organically rich soil so you won’t have to rely on fertilizers for a plentiful harvest.

It’s worthy to note that there are several species of tomato you can grow in Illinois. It’s recommended that you get ones that have a shorter growth and ripening period since the region has a limited growing season. Also, you can choose between indeterminate tomatoes (which grow long and require staking) and determinate tomatoes (which are shorter and compact and do not require staking) depending on your yard or garden setup.

Illinois Hardiness Zone and First and Last Frost Date

When to Plant Tomatoes in Illinois

Frost usually spells death for tomatoes. With this in mind, you should plan ahead of time and only act come May to June.

Illinois lies within the USDA hardiness zone of 5 to 7. Risk of frost is mostly absolute starting October 28 through April 1, while frost could be earlier or extend to a later time, starting October 13 until April 25. This means for tomato growers the best chance to grow plants will be the first week of May.

Frost dates can vary, but one way to check is to read or watch your local channel for news about possible cold weather. Alternatively, you can ask reputable nurseries on which species of tomatoes are best for your climate and the right time to plant them.

The Best Tomato Species to Grow in Illinois

If you live in the midwestern Illinois area then it’s imperative that you choose a tomato variety that will produce fruit in the shortest possible time.

The same can be said for the rest of the state, give or take a week or so. Heirloom tomatoes are perhaps the most popular type but they do take longer to bear fruit.

When considering tomato species you can choose either determinate or indeterminate. Generally speaking, you can pick indeterminate species if you have a big enough space and can accommodate vines. If not, then determinate species should be your top choice.

You might be surprised to find that some tomato plants produce pink, yellow or black fruits, and in different shapes too. These plants will also have unique characteristics, such as vigorous growth and continuous fruiting, to name a few.

Some of the best tomato species in Illinois include Wapsipinicon Peach, Sunsugar, Red Robin, Pineapple, Opalka, Mr. Stripey, Mortgage Lifter, Juliet, Gold Medal, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Black Cherry and Beam’s Yellow Pear. Some of them are heirloom types, others are indeterminate and the rest are determinate. Plant-to-fruit days are also different, with some of the earliest needing only 55 days while others need around 85 days to produce a cluster of juicy tomatoes.

​​​​​​Related Article: What Planting Zone is Illinois in?