Cover Crop (For When You’re Weary)


“Give me a lightning strike and a dusting of spring snow,” the girl at the blueberry stand tells me as we load flats of plump berries onto my tailgate.

She runs the farm, now that her granddad’s gone: five weedy acres. No sprays. No chemicals. Hand-picked. I have just asked her how she fertilizes.

Lightning? Snow?”I buy a year’s worth of berries and look at her, doubtful.

“Nitrogen fixers.” She hoists the last box of perfect Bluecrops. “Lightning’s energy splits the air’s nitrogen atoms. Rain brings them to earth, where they mix with soil minerals to form nitrogen-filled nitrates, which my bushes absorb.”

I feel like I’m in a classroom, but I believe her, so I push the issue.  “Uh-huh. But snow? Really?”

“Snow traps atmospheric nitrogen, too—not much, but it still leaches nutrients into the soil as it melts.”

One can learn stuff in the most unusual places. I open the driver’s door to go, but she isn’t done.

“Clippings are best. Gotta have those.”

That part I understand. Her green manure cover crop—ryegrass, clover—has fed those bushes for decades.

I think of her science lesson as we clean up the garden a month and a half later, stripping bare the soil that weeks before hosted a riot of produce. Now only a few plants remain: a row of strawberries, kale and broccoli (they’ll overwinter), sunflowers for the birds, and asparagus ferns, but only until frost yellows and brittles them.

The garden looks downright naked. Tired. Exposed. I shiver involuntarily and zip my sweater. Then I glance at Mt. Baker and see fresh snow.

My husband retrieves a bag of seeds: CCT Triticale. Gulf Annual Ryegrass. Walken Oats. I pour them into a large bowl and stir, read the label and try to identify more. I recognize the nitrogen fixers: Common Vetch. Winter Peas. Crimson Clover.

Our garden’s cover crop.


I cradle the bowl in the crook of my arm and walk through the dirt, back and forth, casting handfuls of the mixture across the soil until the bare ground is peppered with the promise of roots and vegetation. With the promise of cover. I retrace my steps, dragging a rake behind me to settle the seeds.

Before the snow flies, the garden will be blanketed, its nakedness covered with a nourishing, symbiotic greenery. If we’re fortunate, maybe a thunderstorm will blow through.

What’s my cover crop? I wonder, as I stow the rake in the barn. When winter’s coming and I’m weary from producing, when I’m fragile and depleted, who or what will protect and replenish and nourish me? When I’m wrong and hurt someone I love, who will give me a new season? Who do I want to cover me?

Who or what will cover you?


“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

“He who dwells in the shelter or the Most High will rest in the shadow or the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust . . .’ He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge . . . ” Psalm 91: 1, 2, 4.


#CoverCrops #watchingnatureseeinglife #viewfromgooseridge #Godandnature #Godsprotection #forgiveness

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Love the outdoors? I can take you there. Rural & wild PNW posts and photos from a naturalist, faith writer, and author of three books, including the award-winning novel Sugar Birds. Member of Redbud Writers Guild.

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