The purpose of a cover crop is to increase fertility of the soil, to decrease weeds and pests, and to create biodiversity. Cover crops are called green manure because farmers plow these nitrogen-rich crops into the ground where they improve the soil.
Most cover crops are in the legume family (alfalfa, vetch, clover) or in the grasses family (rye, oats, wheat, or buckwheat), but they also include mustard and arugula of the Brassica family.
Every spring, my vegetable garden and the nearby strip beds are covered in Johnny-jump-ups. They're cute, and to me, they're a weed. But now, i've decided i'm using Johnny-jump-ups as my cover crop. Here's why:
- Jju's don't prevent weeds exactly, but each plant covers half a square foot, and nothing grows in the shade of a Jju.
- The bloom profusely in April and May and are a joy to behold.
- In late June, they become leggy, so i'm pulling them out wholesale now.
- One compost bin is completely full of Jju's. Although they don't fix nitrogen, they're adding a lot of "green" manure to my compost bins.
This is a win-win situation. Beautiful flowering beds in April and May and an overflowing green compost bin in June to really get that compost working.
By this age, we have learned innumerable ways to cover up our authentic selves. Psychologists call these strategies* "defense mechanisms," and some of them are quite cute and socially acceptable. For women, one common strategy is self-sacrifice--being sensitive to others' pain and tending to hide our own needs so that we're not a bother. That's our cover crop.
One of these days, it will be time to compost that strategy and practice more kindness toward ourself.
Acting from a base of kindness toward ourselves, we can truly be of service to others.
*Review the following schemas and identify the ones that relate to you most closely. Sometimes two or three schemas exist together:
My close relationships will end because people are unstable and unpredictable.
I expect to get hurt or be taken advantage of by others.
I can’t seem to get what I need from others, like understanding, support, and attention.
I’m defective, bad, or inferior in some way that makes me unlovable.
I’m basically alone in this world and different from others.
I’m not capable of taking care of myself without help on simple tasks and decisions.
Vulnerability to Harm and Illness:
Danger is lurking around every corner, and I can’t prevent these things from happening.
I feel empty and lost without guidance from others, especially from people like my parents.
I’m fundamentally inadequate (stupid, inept) compared to my peers and will inevitably fail.
I deserve whatever I get, even if it bothers others.
I tend to suppress my needs and emotions because of how others will react. Insufficient Self-Control/Self-Discipline:
I have a hard time tolerating even small frustrations, which make me act up or shut down.
I’m very sensitive to others’ pain and tend to hide my own needs so that I’m not a bother.
Getting attention and admiration are often more important than what is truly satisfying to me.
I tend to focus on what will go wrong and mistakes I’ll probably make.
I avoid showing feelings, good and bad, and I tend to take a more rational approach.
Unrelenting Standards/Hyper criticalness:
I’m a perfectionist, am focused on time and efficiency, and find it hard to slow down.
I tend to be angry and impatient, and I feel people should be punished for their mistakes.
This list is from The Mindful Guide to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer.