A green space for urban gardeners

Tomato rites of passage: hoops and hoopla as first fruit emerge


DSC00565The proudest moment for an heirloom tomato parent arrived in recent days with much pomp and circumstance: my plants had graduated to the point where it was time for the ceremonial “presentation of the hoops.”

Hoops being those wire support systems that, when inverted, look like the framework beneath all those crinoline skirts of a century ago.

I’ve learned the hard way that if you wait too long to slip them over the tender stems of your tomatoes you can damage the plants trying to squeeze them in later.

If you haven’t been following the evolution of my heirloom tomatoes, here’s a synopsis:

  • I started six varieties of small-fruited heirlooms from seed: sun-sugar hybrid, black plum, Dr. Carolyn, wild cherry, Rosalita, isis candy
  • All sprouted quickly and were eventually transferred to their permanent clay pots and moved outside
  • Work on my building necessitated bringing them back indoors for approximately two weeks, delaying their growth a bit
  • When I moved them back outside the temps had soared into the 90s, a drastic change from the cool interior temps and the mild 60s temps that reigned when they were last outdoors
  • My two favorites — the sun-sugar hybrid and black plum — got fried in the heat
  • So now I’m down to just four types of heirloom tomatoes — and all look healthy

Another rite of passage: the first fruit have appeared on the largest of the tomato plants. Unfortunately, I never got around to writing the names on the little copper stakes for the tomatoes, so I’ve lost track of which is which. (Actually, I couldn’t find my grease pencil.)

Ironically, since the sun-sugar and the black plum were returning favorites, I kept track of them by placing them in the same corner spots as in previous years. So, I can absolutely tell you what those two huge pots with the dead stuff in them are.

The others, however… I did put a stake leftover from last year marked “black cherry” in one of the pots, and I’m pretty sure that is the wild cherry. My intent was to edit out the one word later. (But, I never did find that grease pencil.)

If the system I was attempting to employ works out, then the unidentified plant with fruit should be either rosalita or wild cherry, because, according to the suppliers they mature the fastest.

Since (as explained above) I think I know which plant is the wild cherry, that means the fruit you see here should be rosalita. Isis candy purportedly matures  just a week behind them, while Dr. Carolyn should follow two weeks later.

So, it’ll be fun to see if this schedule holds and more fun to be surprised when the fruit go from green to their true colors: rosalita is a red grape, Dr. Carolyn is an ivory cherry, wild cherry is a deep red, and isis candy is a yellow-orange cherry with red veins.

[Do your tomatoes follow the supplier’s prediction for number of days? Share it in your comment!]


  Stephanie wrote @

Hello Avis, I have not planted tomato before. So can’t comment on your question. The portulaca seeds I sowed the other day did not follow the growth prediction. The seeds did germinate fast but only a few little plants are left in the container now. Most of them got fried. The few that are left grow really slow. Much slower that the prediction on the packet ;-( Btw, the pictures of ixora blooms I put up… it only took about 3 weeks from first to last photo 😉 Happy Monday!

  City Diggity wrote @

We’ll see how reliable the supplier packets are with the tomatoes. I wonder how they come up with those timetables, considering that there are so many variables like temperature, sunlight, etc., that could impact how fast something will flower.

  linda wrote @

I’d have to say my tomatoes usually take longer than the suppliers’ predictions, and attribute it to:

1. I’ve never had a truly full-sun vegetable garden. I’ve still had pretty good luck, but harvests are later (and smaller) than in full sun gardens.

2. Our climate is cooler than other areas of the country. It seems logical that tomatoes (and other warm-season veggies,) mature faster in warmer climates. Possibly even in the same area, different microclimates in different gardens can make a difference in how quickly vegetables mature. Seed packets’ estimates just give one number without accounting for variables.

I suspect this year about everyone’s tomatoes in the Chicago area have been or will be later than usual due to the unusually cool summer.

  City Diggity wrote @

So right. And you’re right about the cool Chicago summer, too. I usually have tomatoes by now.

and Jo,
I can’t wait to see the tomatoes ripen. Wonder if the suppliers use a mean or “best case scenario” for the seed packet info…

and Miss Daisy,
Congrats on becoming a I’ll check it out and others can too by clicking on your comment link.

  Jo wrote @

At least you will be able to determine which are which when the fruit is produced.
I never really follow the suppliers predictions for my tomatoes. They just get planted up and put in the greenhouse, and when they’re ready, they’re ready.

  Miss Daisy wrote @

Sounds like you’ve got some great varieties going. I just staked my tomato plants, too, that are in containers. I hope you get some good fruit sprouting soon. BTW, I changed my website and am now a dot com! Come visit me at

  Tatiana wrote @

I started about five varieties of heirloom tomatoes back in late March. Two were cherries and three large slicers. All were bought from a local supplier, presumably good for the local climate.

All sprouted quickly and made it to adulthood. All were delayed in going outside due to crazy weather. (Snow in June). NOT ONE has fruited yet. All have flowers, so I assume it should be soon?

Since it’s been a very weird year weather wise, I have no idea what to expect – will I even see ripe tomatoes before fall? This is my first garden, and I have no idea how long they take from flower to fruit to ripe.

  City Diggity wrote @

The weather has delayed a lot of tomatoes this year, so I think lots of us are waiting with fingers crossed. I can say for sure, though that if you have flowers, you’ll see them replaced with tomatoes shortly. It’s extra exciting for you as a first-timer, eh? I’ll keep checking your blog for your first harvest. Cheers!

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