What are the best cash crops to grow in Illinois?
Finding the best cash crops to grow in Illinois was not as easy as I thought. Some require extensive care, others are prone to pests, and lots are just not simple & quick enough to make money.
That’s why I created a list of the 10 Best Cash Crops to Grow in Illinois!
This ultimate guide will give you the best cash crops to grow, why you should grow them, and even how much money you can make from them.
Read THIS Before Growing Cash Crops in Illinois
Knowing what hardiness zone Illinois is in is critical to understanding the best cash crops that can be grown.
It can be the difference between your crops thriving and providing a bountiful yield and money or producing nothing.
Illinois is mostly considered Hardiness Zone 5, while some of the lower-level regions are Hardiness Zone 6.
10 Best Cash Crops to Grow in Illinois
Popular Varieties: Yellow, Green, Black
Why Grow Soybeans in Illinois?
- Soybeans thrive in Illinois’s cold spring and cooler fall months. Unlike other vegetables, this means you can grow this plant longer, get more than one harvest, and make more money on this cash crop.
- Soybeans may be the easiest vegetable to grow. You do not need to fertilize it, you rarely need to water it, and it can be planted in any soil making it an incredibly profitable crop to grow.
Perfect for ANY Soil:
- Unlike other vegetables, soybeans don’t need the perfect soil to grow. That is why it is grown almost all over the world and makes it an incredibly profitable cash crop.
Lots of Vegetables in One Area:
- Why do most gardeners, farmers, and homesteaders grow soybeans? It’s because you can plant of soybeans per square foot making it perfect for a cash crop.
THESE Could Harm Your Soybeans
- Deer, Rabbits, & Squirrels LOVE Soybeans. If left unprotected these pests will eat your vegetable before it can even grow.
- While you don’t need to fertilize soybeans you should apply a pesticide or herbicide to your soybean plants. This will help prevent deadly insects from killing your cash crop.
- While rare in Illinois, this can cause your soybeans to become stunted and slowly grow, produce little yield, and may even die.
Did you know Soybeans are the most profitable cash crop in not only Illinois but most of the United States?
Popular Varieties: Dent, Flint, Flour, Waxy
Why Grow Corn in Illinois?
- Corn is one of the hardiest vegetables when it comes to heat in Illinois. Actually, the hotter it is the more corn and more you’ll make!
Lots of Plant Per Square Feet:
- Like Soybeans, one of the best things about growing corn is that you can fit lots of plants in small square feet. And when you are done harvesting you can sell the stalks or even create corn mazes that will provide even more income.
- You need to plant corn because it is one of the most versatile vegetables to grow. It can be sold to eat, for livestock feed, for a subsidy from the government, and so much more!
THESE Could Harm Your Corn
- Corn does not do well when there is a late spring frost or a mild summer. The colder the weather the longer corn will take to develop and the less yield you will receive.
- Corn needs water to grow. But too much water can destroy seeds, stunt plant growth, and even kill your mature corn plant.
Did you know that not only can corn be used for food and feed, but is used to create certain types of sugar and even oil?
Popular Varieties: Hard Red Winter, Soft Red Winter, Hard White, Soft White, Durum
Why Grow Wheat in Illinois?
- Wheat is unlike any other cash crop on this list. You can grow it in cold weather, warm weather, droughts, and during lots of rain. It is the most versatile plant to grow on this list.
- Out of all the cash crops on this list wheat provides one of the largest yields per square foot. No matter how much or little space you have this makes it a great option.
- If you want to grow a plant that isn’t a vegetable, herb, or fruit to diversify your cash crop portfolio then grow Wheat. When other plants thrive or struggle wheat will provide you with a steady stream of revenue.
THESE Could Harm Your Wheat
- Very few things will actually harm your wheat. Humans, though may accidentally cut down wheat or try to overcare for this crop when it isn’t necessarily causing harm or even death.
Did you know that wheat has more uses than any other crop on this list?
Popular Varieties: Cherry, Beefsteak, Brandywine
Why Grow Tomatoes in Illinois?
Thrives in the heat:
- As the summers get warmer tomatoes continue to get bigger and more plentiful. Look no further for a low-maintenance vegetable.
Great for Vertical Gardening:
- Tomatoes are considered a vine vegetable. Because of this, you can train them to grow vertically, which is perfect for gardeners who have little space.
Perfect in All Types of Garden:
- Some vegetables only do well in the ground. Not tomatoes. You can grow them in containers, window boxes, raised garden beds, and even in poor soil.
THESE Could Harm Your Tomatoes
- Tomatoes are one of the most insect-prone vegetables. Aphids, fruit worms, and even stinkbugs love eating them. If you wait too long to harvest expect all of these insects to become a problem.,
- Tomatoes are also one of the most disease-prone vegetables, especially heirloom variants. Expect blight, fungus, and buckeye rot to affect your plant in the later summer months (even if you properly care for them).
Learn How to Grow Tomatoes HERE
Popular Varieties: Zucchini, Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti
Why Grow Squash in Illinois?
Thrives in the heat & cold:
- Squash is one of the most versatile vegetables. Some varieties can be grown in cold weather, some can be grown in warmer weather, and some are perfect to be grown in both types of weather.
Provides All-Summer Harvest:
- Squash is one of the few vegetables that you will harvest from as early as May to as late as November if planted right. This means you will be able to enjoy or store it all year long.
- Squash may be the best vegetable on this list to help to cross-pollinate other vegetables. Plant squash next to tomatoes, beans, carrots, and cucumbers for even more vegetables.
THESE Could Harm Your Squash
Birds, Squirrels, Rabbits, & Chipmunks:
- These pests will generally not harm your actual squash vegetables. What they will do though is immediately eat squash flowers if you do not protect them with netting or rodent spray.
- This is a little different than other vegetables. Squash requires lots of room to grow. If you try growing it in gardening pots, raised garden beds, or small gardens there is a chance that it will take over other vegetables or just not produce the harvest you want.
Learn How to Grow squash HERE
Popular Varieties: Pickling, Armenian, Persian, English
Why Grow Cucumbers in Illinois?
Thrives in the heat & cold:
- Cucumbers are another hardy vegetable. Some varieties can be grown in cold weather and some can be grown in warmer weather.
Lots & Lots of Harvest:
- Cucumbers are one of the few vegetables that you can harvest from late spring to late fall. This means you will be able to enjoy it all year long.
- Cucumbers are another vegetable to help to cross-pollinate other vegetables. Plant cucumbers next to tomatoes, beans, carrots, and squash for even more vegetables.
THESE Could Harm Your Cucumbers
Birds & Rodents:
- These pests will generally not harm your actual cucumber vegetables. What they will do though is immediately eat cucumber flowers if you do not protect them with netting or rodent spray.
- Cucumbers require lots of room to grow. If you try growing it in gardening pots, raised garden beds, or small gardens there is a chance that it will take over other vegetables or just not produce the harvest you want.
Learn How to Grow Cucumbers HERE
Popular Varieties: Bell, Jalapeno, Habanero
Why Grow Peppers in Illinois?
- These low-maintenance vegetables love the heat. The hotter the summer the better they do. And the longer summer goes on the more peppers you will have.
Perfect for Vertical Gardening:
- Peppers are one of the vegetables you may not think of when it comes to vertical gardening, but they do just as great as others. This makes it perfect for small spaces and even in pots.
Fits in ALL Gardens:
- Regardless of whether you live in northern or southern Illinois peppers grow great in all types of gardens. I especially love growing them in raised garden beds and garden containers.
- If you have trouble with insects infecting your vegetables in Illinois then you should plant Peppers. This vegetable is one of the few in Illinois that you won’t have to worry about insect infestation all year.
THESE Could Harm Your Peppers
- Peppers can be prone to diseases in late summer. Expect blight, fungus, and rot to affect your plant later in the season near the time you will harvest your peppers.
Learn How to Grow Peppers HERE
Popular Varieties: Reins, Saddle, Rushmore, Sumo
Why Grow Oats in Illinois?
Thrives in Droughts:
- Like Wheat, Oats thrive in droughts, lots of wetness, heat, and even cold climates. This makes it a perfect cash crop to grow anywhere in Illinois
- Oats are a cash crop that is incredibly easy to plant, grow, maintain, and harvest. This is just another reason why you will want to grow oats.
THESE Could Harm Your Oats
- While not very common, insects have been known to feast on oat plants which could hinder or harm the amount of yield you will have during your harvest.
- Horses and livestock love oats and oat plants. So do a lot of other animals. This means there is a slight chance that pests will attack and destroy your oat plants.
Out of all the cash crops on this list oats are the most nutritional to humans and livestock alike.
Popular Varieties: Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Granny
Why Grow Apples in Illinois?
Thrives in Cooler Weather:
- Apple Trees are one of the best cash crops to grow in Illinois’s cooler weather regions. The best part about this is you will typically have revenue coming in during the fall when other cash crops have already been harvested and sold.
- Apple Trees produce some of the largest yields out of all fruit trees. The best part about apple trees is that you can set up You-Pick farms that will greatly reduce the time and work needed to harvest your apples.
THESE Could Harm Your Apples
- Insects have been known to wreak havoc on your apple trees and fruit. If not properly sprayed in the spring and throughout the summer expect your apples to have a high chance of becoming destroyed by insects.
- Cold weather and wet conditions can cause fungus that will not only hurt your trees and fruit short-term, but also stunt or even kill them long-term.
Learn more about why Apples are one of the BEST Fruit Trees to Grow in Illinois HERE.
Popular Varieties: Pepo, Moschata, Maxima
Why Grow Pumpkins in Illinois?
Great Ground Cover:
- Not only are pumpkins great plants to sell, but they are perfect ground cover. This means less maintenance and works for you and more time working on making more money selling your vegetables.
- Pumpkins are a form of squash. There are orange, white, and green pumpkins you can sell. Not only this, but you can sell other forms of squash, including spaghetti, acorn, and so much more!
THESE Could Harm Your Pumpkins
People love pumpkins. Pests do too. While your pumpkin plant is growing and flowering the biggest threat is pests. Rabbits, Deer, and other small animals can quickly destroy your crop they eat all the flowers.
Learn why Pumpkins are one of the BEST Vegetables to Grow in Illinois HERE.
Common Growing Factors of Illinois’s Best Cash Crops
As a reminder, the below factors are common for the Best Cash Crops to Grow in Illinois:
- Thrives in Heat & Drought
- Thrives in Cold
- Can Grow in Vertical Gardens
- Hardy against Pests & Insects
- Can be planted in ALL Types of Garden
- Great Cross-Pollinator