USDA Hardiness Zones tell you what plants will grow best in your particular climate, focusing mainly on how cold winters get in the area. In Zone 5, the coldest weather is -10 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. This zone includes such diverse cities as Des Moines, Iowa; Providence, Rhode Island; Cleveland, Ohio; and Columbia, Missouri. But vegetable gardening in this zone is also tricky because of the shortened summers. Yes, the temperatures can get incredibly hot, but the growing period is not as long as in many areas of the country. State cooperative extension offices recommend specific tomato varieties for Zone 5 that can thrive in this zone.
Early tomatoes are for the gardeners who don't want to wait until late summer for their crop to come in. Generally, an early tomato comes to harvest in 65 days or less. Suggested varieties for Zone 5 include Pilgrim, determinate with 7-oz. crack-resistant fruit (68); Jetsetter, indeterminate with 8-oz. rich-flavored fruit (64); and Cold Set, extremely cold-hardy, determinate with 7-oz.. fruits (65). The number in parentheses is how many days until you can harvest your crop.
Main Season Tomatoes
Main season tomatoes are know for bearing medium-to-large fruit that are crack-resistant, high quality and plentiful. Varieties for Zone 5 include Celebrity, determinate with high yields of firm 8-oz. fruit (70 days); Mountain Fresh Plus, determinate with 12-oz. disease-resistant fruit (77); Sanibel, determinate with 12-oz firm fruit (75); and Heinz 1350, determinate with 6-oz. fruit favored for canning (70).
Late Season Tomatoes
Late-season tomatoes are ready for picking at the end of the summer, but they're always worth the wait. While you are risking the chance of frost decimating your final harvest, you can always pick the green tomatoes (if you've listened to the weather report) before the cold sets in. Varieties for Zone 5 include Supersonic, indeterminate with 12-oz fruit especially popular in the Northeast (79); Super Beefsteak, indeterminate with 1-lb. hefty, flavorful fruit (80); and Beefmaster, indeterminate with enormous 2-lb., deep-red fruit (80).
Yellow or orange varieties include Sunray, indeterminate with golden-orange 10-oz. fruit (72); and Lemon Boy, indeterminate with lemon-yellow 8-oz. fruit (72). For a paste tomato, try Roma, determinate with 3-inch-long, plum-shaped fruit bearing very few seeds (75). Cherry varieties include Juliet, Red Pear, Small Fry, Sweet 100 and Patio.