Growing tomatoes in short-season gardens poses a bit of a challenge, but that shouldn't stop you. Maybe you can't grow the biggest and juiciest beefsteak tomatoes in your garden, but you can grow flavorful tomatoes that will ripen on the vine.
I know. I've been growing tomatoes in my home garden in Maine for over 20 years. My area mimics Zone 4 and sometimes stretches into Zone 5 weather-but there are no guarantees. I've seen summers with as little as 60 days of frost-free weather, but most years stretch to 90 days or more.
I've tried a number of different tomatoes, but always come back to my favorites as they thrive in cool Maine summers and often ripen on the vine in late August.
Better Boy is available from Burpee Seed and is often available as seedlings in local greenhouses. This indeterminate tomato grows to a height of 36 to 40 inches and matures in 72 days from the time of transplanting. Fruit is bright red and well formed. These tomatoes are ideal for slicing for sandwiches or eaten right from the vine as flavor is sweet and tasty.
Early Girls produce smaller tomatoes than Better Boy, but make up for their size in flavor and abundance. These globe-shaped, red tomatoes can be eaten right from the vine, used in salads or sliced for sandwiches. They also can well. Maturing in as few as 54 days, Early Girls are my tomato of choice, as they nearly always begin to ripen well before the frost.
Celebrity tomatoes are often sold for short season gardens and are preferred by many gardeners in my area. These determinate plants grow to a height of 12 to 18 inches and mature in approximately 70 days. Labeled as a heavy yielder, this tomato should produce well in short season gardens. My experience has been less that positive. Flavor was good, but size and abundance were less than expected.
New Yorker is recommended for northern gardens and as it reportedly sets out well in cool weather. These determinate plants produce 7 oz fruit, mature in 70 days and are prized for canning, as they contain low acid and produce sweet, meaty fruit. Again, my experience with New Yorkers has been disappointing, as they do not produce as well as Early Girl or Better Boy in my garden. For container grown tomatoes, New Yorker may be a good choice
Early Girl is by far my first choice of tomatoes for my northern garden, but Better Boy is a close second. Other gardeners in my area report good luck with both Celebrity and New Yorker as they ripen early and do not require a lot of space.