United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone 5 can be described as a moderate cooler climate with typical annual lows averaging between minus 20 and minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 5 encompasses much of the middle swath of the United States, including parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico, as well as portions of Oregon and Washington. Because of the shorter gardening season, which runs from April to mid-October, it can be challenging finding varieties of vegetables that do well. Some of the better choices for vegetable gardening in this region include early maturation varieties that allow for earlier and more successive harvesting.
Tomatoes and Peppers
Although the summer growing season is short, tomatoes and peppers still remain some of the easier vegetables to grow. Tomatoes and peppers are harvested throughout mid-June until early September in Zone 5. Plant crops next to each other for best results. Full sun with no less than six hours of direct sunlight per day is needed. Early-maturing varieties work well for this region. Tomatoes and peppers also make suitable container plants and are often planted in hanging trellises.
Lettuces and Leafy Greens
Several different types of lettuce and leafy greens can grow throughout the entire growing season in USDA Zone 5. Because of the area's moderate summer temperatures, bolting from excessive heat is rare. This allows the home gardener to harvest fresh salads consistently until the first frost. Salad mixes and standard romaine, leaf and crisphead are all suitable varieties to consider. Lettuce likes it cool, so spring and fall temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal.
Carrots and Root Crops
As with lettuces, carrots and root crops such as onions, radishes and turnips are all hardy to Zone 5. They are grown quite early in the spring, and some, such as carrots, can be continued throughout the summer as well. Carrots and other root crops enjoy loose, well-draining soil. Space seedlings adequately according to their package instructions to prevent overcrowding and ensure optimal growth. Light shade or partial sun is tolerated by most root crops, but full sun exposure is preferable.
Tips for Zone 5 Vegetable Gardening
Because of the drastic temperature fluctuations in Zone 5, it is best to start vegetable seeds indoors in the spring to help ensure a more successful harvest. Consider using cold frames in the early spring and fall to harden off seedlings begun indoors. This is particularly helpful if an unexpected late frost occurs, since the cold frame will help keep the seedlings and transplants warmer.
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