When to Plant Vegetables in Chicago, Illinois

Your vegetable planning guide for
Chicago, Illinois

On average, your frost-free growing season starts Apr 20 and ends Oct 24, totalling 187 days. You will find both Spring and Fall planting guides on this page.

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For the Spring:
Your planting strategy:
Cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be direct seeded into your garden around March 9, assuming the ground can be worked, but it's better to start them indoors around February 10 and then transplant them into the garden around March 31. Do the same with lettuce and spinach.

Plant onion starts and potatoes around February 20. Sow the seeds of peas (sugar snap and english) at the same time. If the ground is still frozen, then plant these as soon as the ground thaws.

Do you want to grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants? Start these indoors around February 10. Then, around April 16 you should start watching the weather forecast and, as soon as no frost is forecast, go ahead and transplant those into the ground.

Now, for all the summer vegetables like beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds and sunflowers, you should plant those seeds directly into the ground around April 20, or if your soil is still very cold, once the soil is near 60° F in temperature.

Okay, now here are the cold, hard numbers, along with specific plants:

Crop Sow seeds indoors Transplant seedlings into the garden Direct sow seeds
Asparagus n/a Mar 6 - Mar 21 n/a
Beans n/a n/a Apr 20 - May 18
Beets n/a n/a Feb 24 - Mar 9
Broccoli Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Brussel Sprouts Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Cabbage Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Cantaloupe n/a n/a Apr 6 - Apr 20
Carrots n/a n/a Mar 9 - Apr 6
Cauliflower Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Chard n/a n/a Mar 9 - Mar 23
Collards Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Corn n/a n/a Apr 20 - May 4
Cucumbers n/a n/a Apr 20 - May 4
Eggplants Feb 10 - Feb 24 Apr 20 - May 4 n/a
Gourds, Squash and Pumpkins n/a n/a Apr 20 - May 4
Kale Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Kohlrabi Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Lettuce Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 9 - Apr 6 Mar 9 - Apr 6
Mustard Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 n/a
Okra n/a n/a Apr 20 - May 4
Onions Feb 3 - Feb 10 Feb 20 - Mar 21 n/a
Peas (English) n/a n/a Feb 20 - Mar 21
Peas (Southern) n/a n/a Apr 20 - May 18
Peas (Sugar Snap) n/a n/a Feb 20 - Mar 21
Peppers Feb 10 - Feb 24 Apr 20 - May 4 n/a
Potatoes n/a n/a Feb 20 - Mar 21
Radishes n/a n/a Mar 6 - May 4
Spinach Feb 10 - Feb 24 Mar 23 - Apr 6 Mar 6 - Apr 6
Sweet Potatoes n/a Apr 20 - May 11 n/a
Tomatoes Feb 10 - Feb 24 Apr 20 - May 4 n/a
Watermelon n/a n/a Apr 20 - May 4

For the Fall:
Your fall planting strategy:
Gardening in the fall can be much more challenging than spring planting, because you are in a race to get your crops mature and harvested before the winter frosts begin, around October 24. This means you need to consider how much time each variety needs between planting and picking. Those numbers vary widely between different varieties of the same kinds of plants! Usually the "Days to Harvest" are present on the seed packet.

Most tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, for example, require around 100 days to harvest, therefore you'd want to transplant those into the ground around July 16. Anyway, it's important to remember that the numbers in this fall planting guide are only a starting point for you! Good luck and good gardening to you.

Fall is the time to plant garlic. Around September 9, take your cloves apart and plant the toes about 3 to 4 inches deep. This may not be accurate! Garlic dates vary wildly around the country. The way to be sure is to use a soil thermometer. When the soil temperature is 60° at a depth of 4 inches, then plant your garlic.

Cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be direct seeded into your garden around August 15, but because of the heat during that time of year, it's better to start them indoors around June 26 and then transplant them into the garden around August 5. Do the same with lettuce and spinach.

Sow peas directly around August 10.

Now, for all the usual hot weather veggies like beans, cowpeas, corn, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, gourds and sunflowers, you should plant those seeds directly into the ground around July 11.

Okay, now here are the cold, hard numbers, along with specific plants:

Crop Sow seeds indoors Transplant seedlings into the garden Direct sow seeds
Beans n/a n/a Jul 11 - Aug 10
Beets n/a n/a Aug 10 - Sep 24
Broccoli May 30 - Jul 14 Jul 11 - Aug 25 n/a
Brussel Sprouts May 30 - Jul 14 Jul 11 - Aug 25 n/a
Cabbage May 30 - Jul 14 Jul 11 - Aug 25 n/a
Cantaloupe n/a n/a Jun 26 - Jul 11
Carrots n/a n/a Jul 26 - Sep 24
Cauliflower May 30 - Jul 14 Jul 11 - Aug 25 n/a
Chard n/a n/a Jul 11 - Sep 24
Collards Jun 26 - Aug 10 Jul 26 - Sep 9 n/a
Corn n/a n/a Jul 11 - Jul 26
Cucumbers n/a n/a Jul 11 - Jul 26
Eggplants May 15 - May 30 Jun 26 - Jul 11 n/a
Garlic n/a n/a Aug 10 - Sep 24
Gourds, Squash and Pumpkins n/a n/a Jun 11 - Jul 11
Kale May 30 - Jul 14 Jul 11 - Aug 25 n/a
Kohlrabi May 30 - Jul 14 Jul 11 - Aug 25 n/a
Lettuce Jul 26 - Aug 25 Aug 25 - Sep 24 Aug 25 - Sep 24
Mustard n/a n/a Aug 25 - Sep 24
Okra n/a n/a Jun 11 - Jul 11
Onions n/a n/a Sep 24 - Oct 4
Parsley Jun 11 - Jul 26 Jul 26 - Sep 9 n/a
Peas (English) n/a n/a Jul 26 - Aug 25
Peas (Southern) n/a n/a Jun 11 - Jul 11
Peas (Sugar Snap) n/a n/a Jul 26 - Aug 25
Peppers May 20 - Jun 4 Jul 1 - Jul 16 n/a
Potatoes n/a n/a Jul 26 - Aug 25
Radishes n/a n/a Aug 25 - Sep 24
Spinach Jul 11 - Aug 25 Aug 10 - Sep 24 Aug 10 - Sep 24
Tomatoes May 20 - Jun 4 Jul 1 - Jul 16 n/a
Turnips n/a n/a Sep 9 - Oct 9
Watermelon n/a n/a Jun 11 - Jul 11

How accurate is all this? For nearly all locations, we are confident in the dates. There are, however, some difficult areas of the world that don't match up perfectly with the dates we have given. For that reason, we recommend you use this guide as a very good starting place, but don't interpret the dates as absolutely perfect for every location.

Did you find this useful? Garden.org has a vast array of useful features. May we recommend that you take a look at our excellent food gardening guide?
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