A number of my heirloom tomato plants in my south garden have developed a condition known as “end rot.” I’d amended the soil with lime and kept each plant well-watered, but these efforts weren’t enough to combat other factors at play: poor soil, despite the addition of springtime compost (which I’d discovered was mixed with too much sand to retain water); a cool micro-climate pocket given the presence of woods below; and a sloping plot that resulted in continual irrigation run-off. At this point, there’s no way to salvage the tomatoes. I can only improve my existing infrastructure – leveling beds once my harvest is over, putting in those drip hoses that are long overdue, and continuing to research quality compost sources in the community.
We are not unlike our gardens – whether you’re living on a piece of farmland, or growing food in containers on your front stoop or deck. Each of us, born with a certain genetic blueprint and into a set of environmental conditions; some we can alter, some we can not. Because of this, I ask new clients to complete assessments such as the ACES quiz and the Mindful Self-Compassion test when we start our work together. Even if we can’t change our early life experiences, particularly if our history included trauma (individual or cultural), we can learn to identify the amendments we need in order to facilitate growth in later life. Sometimes it’s an infrastructure change – a move, an ending of a relationship or job, or going back to school. Other times we need to cultivate our internal landscape, by strengthening coping strategies, or maybe our ability to acknowledge and accept difficult emotions.
I am disappointed that my tomato yield is so poor this season. But I’ve been gardening, quite imperfectly, for nearly eighteen years (and working as a psychotherapist for nearly that long as well). I’ve learned that mistakes, setbacks, and failures are a normal part of growth.
Next year will be better. My faith is grounded not in blind optimism, but the deep-rooted wisdom that accumulates with each new experience.