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?


  1. Aargh, purslane. I too am tormented by it. It loves my decomposed-granite paths, even though weedblock underlays them. The purslane is perfectly happy with the top four inches of hard-packed granite.

    My weekend gardening plans? Moving 8 1/2 yds of soil, along with other parent volunteers, in a school garden.

  2. You probably won't believe this, but I just came across a packet of purslane seeds, and I plan to plant some.

  3. The only thing I hate more than purslane is that morning glory like weed in my garden. Maybe we should all mail molly our purslane.

    My weekend gardening plans - finish removing sod from front gardens, dead-head roses, not sure what else...

  4. I'm going CAMPING! But I hope to get home early on Sunday in order to plant a few shrubs that have been sitting in their pots for the past few weeks.

  5. Good luck with getting all the little pieces, Carol!

    I will soon be working on a project with the Divas of the Dirt, pulling weeds and overgrown plants in someone else's garden. [And this Diva doesn't have purslane, thank heavens.]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  6. To quote William Wegman from his gardening classic "Farm Days," "Weeding, watering, waiting and whatever."

  7. Hi Carol,
    You don't have to bin your purslane - you can eat it. Google Purslane for recipes!

  8. I'm thankful I don't have any purslane, but I'll be mailing the link to this post to my mom, who feels quite defeated by it! I always tell her to eat it, but she's never taken me seriously.

  9. You can just make soup out of it!I do!:-)

  10. Carol, we used to have lots of purslane, but very little anymore. About a week before we plant the veggie garden, we work Preen into the soil. Oh my, what a difference it has made! The only thing it doesn't prevent is thistles, but last year, I spent a great deal of time digging those all out and had a nasty blister in the palm of my hand to show for it. I very seldom get a thistle now, though!

  11. I ate the purslane that showed up in my gardens, back when I had soil plots to garden in. (These days I live in a condo and have to grow in pots.)

    Since I eagerly yanked it out and made it into soup before it could set seed, the amount of new plants I got each season was less.

    Mulching unused areas in my garden with shredded newspaper also seemed to really reduce the amount of purslane that showed up. I think that's because its seeds need light to germinate.

    A friend who raised chickens, (and found her gardens produced purslane automatically), fed it to the birds because they LOVE to eat the stuff!


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