Lazy Ox Farm

  (Alton, Missouri)
Tomato variety trial notes, etc.
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So many tomato varieties, so little space and time...

What is a gardener to do? There are as many choices in heirloom tomatoes to grow as there are shampoo varieties on a supermarket aisle. I don't know about you, but when confronted with that many choices my mind gets a little overwhelmed, my eyes get a little glazed, and I either just grab the cheapest or stick with the tried and true. I'll discuss cheap seeds in a future blog, and tried and true is always a sure bet. But, what am I missing? Maybe something phenomenal. So...

When choosing tomato varieties to grow, there are several things to consider. First and foremost is your climate. Most varieties do best in particular climates, but some are more widely adapted. A tomato that does well in Georgia probably won't do well in Montana. So keep your climate foremost in your mind. How can you know which varieties do well in your climate? Ask other local gardeners, check with your university extension, and read between the lines in catalog descriptions. If you are looking at our seeds or plants, shoot us an e-mail and ask. We hear from many gardeners all over the country about our varieties, so we have a pretty good idea of what does well where. One thing to always consider about climate is your night time temperatures. We farmed in a northern Idaho zone 6 and we are currently farming in a southern Missouri zone 6. The difference in what we can grow is astronomical. Idaho had cold nights, and we struggled to ripen any tomato outside of a greenhouse. Here in Missouri the nights are balmy and we are in tomato heaven!

Another important consideration is how experienced you are and how much you are willing to fuss with your plants. Some varieties take much abuse/neglect and still put on a good, tasty crop. Others are picky and need high fertility, or get diseases easily, or are just generally spoiled babies.

Here is a list of easy, widely adapted varieties:

Cherry tomatoes: Sun Gold F1, Peacevine Cherry, Juliet F1, Black Cherry, Honeydrop, Black Plum, Rosalita Grape.

Medium/ saladette size: Green Zebra, Juan Flamme, Nyagous, Garden Peach.  

Larger fruited: Japanese Black Trifelle,  Anna Russian, Arkansas Traveler, German Johnson, Legend, Rose de Berne, Stupice.

Huge: Well, honestly, few of the huge fruited varieties are easy to grow and widely adapted. I would say that in the North, and intermountain West, try Brandywine and Pineapple. In the South try Virginia Sweets and Brandywine. In the middle latitudes with warm nights and warm/hot (but not blazing all summer) days, try Orange Russian 117, Big Bill's, Joe's Pink, Giant Belgium, Goliath, Aunt Ruby's German Green, well, just about anything because you have an awesome tomato growing climate, if you can stay on top of the bugs and diseases! 

Paste types:  Orange Banana, Roma. In warmer areas, San Marzano is wonderful, as is Aminsh Paste. In the North, try Heinz 2653.

That's a good start in narrowing your choices down. Now you just need to consider color and flavor! Good luck, and have fun!


Spring is Just Around the Corner. Really!

The days are getting longer. There is a little more strength in the sun. So, there's snow on the ground. It won't last! What do groundhogs know about the weather, anyway? They stay underground and out of touch all winter. Spring will make its long awaited appearance before too long. I can feel my mood lifting with the lengthening days. Time to plan that garden!

Gardeners are an optimistic lot. Every year is a new start and a chance to grow our best garden ever. What new varieities will you grow this year? Our early seed sales are slanted towards black tomatoes. I think they are very "in" this year. If you haven't tried them, you should. They have fantastic flavor. We have a great selection of them. Our favorite from our trials last year is Japanese Black Trifele. It is a must grow if you like black tomatoes. Our best selling tomato of all the many varieties we sell is Black Cherry. By the way, "Black" tomatoes aren't truly black. They are deep reddish brown with varying amounts purple/brown in them. So if the idea of eating a black food is unappealing, don't worry. They have a very rich, deep, sweet flavor that is extremely satisfying. They are fantastic in salsa, and for fresh eating, or sliced on a pasta dish, or gobbled up in the garden before you make it back to the house so you don't have to share.

It already feels like spring in our greenhouse on sunny days. I highly recommend greenhouses for folks who don't like winter, like me. You can play in the dirt long before your neighbors or just sit in the warm sun, soak up some Vitamin D, plan your garden, and start seeds. We are starting seeds and getting ready to start shipping plants in late March. So, for those of you without greenhouses to start seeds in, check out our selection of heirloom veggie plants. No greenhouse required. We ship ready to plant starts to you at planting time for your area. We start taking orders in early March. Spring will be here before you know it!


Seed Saving Time

     Being a small, family farm, our business works its way into our house on a depressingly regular basis, and never more so than at seed saving time. There are plates of tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds, bowls of melon, squash, and cucumber, seeds, baskets of corn still on the ear, and bags of dried beans, cowpeas, limas, and okra pods drying where ever I can fit them.  It is a busy, but very satisfying time. If all the seeds that are currently drying in our house were planted, they could probably keep an entire city in veggies for a year.
     Most of the seeds we save are just pulled out of the fruits and dried. Tomato seeds, however, need to be fermented for three days in some juice from the tomato. This does not smell good. This does attract fruit flies. We have discoverd that fruit flies are fond of Merlot wine. Not Chardonnay. Not Cabernet. They like Merlot. (We experimented.) Fortunately, so do we. We pop open a bottle, and then have the difficult job of drinking most of it. Once that is accomplished we leave about an inch of wine in the bottom of the bottle and set it on the counter next to the jars of fermenting tomatoes. The little buggers fly into the bottle and drown trying to get a drink. Silly little lushes!
    Another hazard of seed saving is working with hot pepper seeds. I try to be careful, but working with Habaneros, Scotch Bonnets, etc, is very painful. I somehow manage to get the juice on towels, sponges, cutting board, tablecloth, and myself. Everyone in the house ends up suffering sooner or later. One time my wonderful husband decided to shop vac the dust off of the ceiling fan (good hubby!) in the dining room, where I just happened to have many little plates of carefully labeled hot pepper seeds drying (bad hubby!). You can guess what happened. The seeds went everywhere and were a total loss. Plus, we all sneezed for days!

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