Friday, September 28, 2007
Fall Crops, Fall Chores
The garden essayists tell us, and tell us again, that fall is the time to get busy in the garden.
“… but fall--not spring—is the great planting season for woody things. If, in other words, you had thought of lolling in the warm weekends admiring the chrysanthemums and the dogwoods turning red, congratulating yourself perhaps that the weeds are losing heart, let me cheerfully remind you that you should be exhausted (not lolling) since this is the busiest of all the garden seasons. When you are not planting bulbs, digging up bindweed roots, rooting out pokeweed, soaking bamboo, there are still other tasks. Thousands of them. You are terribly behind. The very idea of just sitting about in the sun!” Henry Mitchell
And Eleanor Perényi wrote “As the natural world prepares to shut up shop, the gardener may be inclined to do the same. But as most of us know, fall is the busiest season of the year.”
In my own garden, I’ve discovered that while I was focused on planting new shrubs in the foundation beds on the east side of my house, the purslane was working overtime in the vegetable garden to cover my recently cleared raised beds. It’s a great crop of purslane, through no effort that I put forth, unless you count my effort to clear the bed of the squash plants that used to grow there. Apparently, the purslane took this clearing of the land as a sign that they should grow anew!
I know from experience that if I don’t pull this purslane now and throw it away in the trash, not the compost bin, I will have even more work to do in the spring. And in the spring I want to plant the garden, not weed it.
For new gardeners, or those unfamiliar with purslane, it is a pernicious weed of the worst sort, one that has tormented gardeners for generations. Once you have it, it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. Normally, I'd recommend a good hoeing, but not with this weed! You can not hoe it under, as every little piece of stem or leaf left in contact with the soil will root and grow again. The only way to control it is to pull it out by hand, put it in a trash bag and put it out at the curb for the trash collector.
Even pulling it all out by hand, you will not completely get rid of purslane. Once you have it, you will thereafter and for ever more just need to accept that it will always be there,and plan to deal with it in the spring, in the summer, and in the fall.
But if by chance you have had purslane in your garden and can now claim that you have it no more, please leave a comment or email me about how you did it and offer proof! We'll join forces to publicize your method and rid the garden community of this weed once and for all.
This weekend I'll be weeding out the purslane, and thistle and rogue perennial seedlings that seem to be every where in the garden. After all, fall is the time to be working in the garden. And I know a weed pulled now is a weed I don't have to pull this spring.
But once the weeding is done, I mean under control as we know weeding is never done, and the leaves really start to change, I’m going to follow the advice of Elizabeth Lawrence.
“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.”
What are your weekend gardening plans?