Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Horse Purslane Mulch

horse purslane provides living and dry mulch for our yard 

You might remember how our yard transformed into a "glorious habitat for pollinators" after the abundant rain this summer. While some people might call them weeds, we were delighted to have this patch of horse purslane as living mulch to slow down the water (preventing erosion) and allow the water to sink in while nourishing the soil. Our edible forest flourished. Our moringa trees grew crazy big and our jujube produced more fruit than we could eat! 

I pulled out the purslane along our path so it would look intentional.  It's super easy to pull!  

Neighbors complimented us on how lovely our yard looked. 

pile of pulled purslane 

If you pull it before it goes to seed, it makes good compost too - especially if you have a hot compost pile that kills any remaining seeds.  

When the pile started to get brown I broke it up into small pieces to replace the wood chip mulch that was decomposing in our basin. Free mulch! 

The rest of the purslane morphed to burgundy with the season.  

Instead of seeing the beauty in the new shade, I worried what the neighbors might think about it -  especially the purslane that the ants got to. It looked pretty weird without its leaves. So I decided to cut it up into mulch too.

In retrospect, I may have jumped the gun.  I heard that some farmers in Wilcox were using purslane as a cover crop. So I googled, "What does purslane add to the soil?

Purslane grows close to the ground and spreads out to create a thick mat that suppresses other weeds and helps to keep the soil cool and moist. This living mulch can be a great benefit to the garden but also it must be managed.

I guess it would have been better for the soil to leave it in until the roots decomposed into organic matter. After learning that, I waited until the purslane dried up before breaking it into smaller pieces.

Notice the red horse purslane in the foreground and the dried straw-like mulch in the background...

At one Master Gardeners presentation, they mentioned that we don't have a lot of organic matter in our desert soil. Is it any wonder when we dig out all the native plants (weeds), rake up the leaves, and even use Roundup that kills the weeds, the soil, the insects and microbes in it. I hope that one day we learn to value our health and healthy soil above superficial "appearances."

A few years ago, I spent weeks pulling Bermuda grass and invasive Russian Thistle out of the alleyway to make room for edible weeds. I dubbed it my "Alleyway Buffet." So I was happy with the patch of horse purslane that become a habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. I watched in awe as the birds swept down to nosh on the purslane seeds. 

alleyway and the area of our future 3 Sisters Garden

Imagine my shock when I caught a neighbor spraying Roundup in the alleyway behind his house - right across from the children's playground and our 3 Sisters Garden. If he had just waited, it would have dried on it's own in a week or so. I would have been happy to use it as mulch! Instead it's going into the landfill.   

Here I am raking up the poisoned horse purslane (including some in our 3 Sisters Garden where the Roundup had spread when it rained... ) We asked the neighbor if we could spread some gravel that was under our eucalyptus tree behind his yard as a natural weed repellent.

Meanwhile, our front yard basin is covered with a bed of free organic horse purslane mulch. I can't wait to see how it keeps the moisture in the ground when it rains and then breaks up into organic matter for the soil. 

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