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I have this wacky idea to plant Purslane instead of grass in my desert yard (zone 7a, 9 inches of rain annually). I'm not keen on having high-maintenance turf; the only grass in the running against the Purslane idea is Curly Mesquite grass, which I've read can grow on 5 inches. But I like the idea of Purslane instead because since it's a weed, it will more or less grow on its own, and it's edible! I think it's delicious and love the idea of being able to graze on my own lawn. The seeds are also available dirt cheap.

But Purslane is an annual and I worry about how the yard will look after it dies and before it re-grows the next year. Is this a legitimate worry? And if I carpet a whole area with it, will it reliably re-seed itself for the next year?

  • An alternative to purslane, though not edible, is clover. I have a clover backyard lawn in Phoenix, AZ. It's growing great, and is green year round. It also tolerates foot traffic pretty well. Two negatives I've found with it are related to mowing: left alone, it gets tall so you need to stay on top of the mowing. If you don't, it will flower and you'll have a yard full of flowering clover, which bees LOVE. Granted, I have a garden too so I say "bring on the bees"... gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/9225/… – Fondor1 Feb 2 '15 at 20:09
  • @Fondor1 it will flower if you mow, also... and It can be edible. However, I like clover as it is a legume, and can fix a lot of nitrogen in the soil. – J. Musser Feb 3 '15 at 21:28
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It is a succulent and won't take much foot traffic at all, compared with grass. If you plan to walk through your yard often, I wouldn't recommend you do this. Also, it will shade and cool the soil, and so will encourage the germination and establishment of weeds where they otherwise would be getting baked.

Other than that, it could look good while green. I've had it come up as monocultures where I left land go fallow, and it would usually thin out after a few years of that and other weeds would come in. Of course, this is a totally different area, so that may not be the case where you are.

Also, over the dormant months, you won't have anything out there at all. About grazing it, that's a nice thought, but when it's dry, there'll be a lot of dust buildup, and you'll want to wash it off before consumption unless you don't mind crunching dirt.

In short, I think it's possible, but I see more cons than pros. If you see it differently, then by all means go for it. No better way to learn than direct experience imo.

  • I read about a variety of purslane that does well with foot traffic, and forms mats. I think it grows near the ocean. I'll have to look it up. – Shule Jan 31 '15 at 3:09
  • I don't know if this is the variety I had found, but it also mentions a tolerance to foot traffic: nativeplants.hawaii.edu/plant/view/Sesuvium_portulacastrum – Shule Jan 31 '15 at 21:40
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    @Shule ah, a different genus. Also a perennial. Interesting plant, though... – J. Musser Jan 31 '15 at 21:41
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    Sadly it gets too cold here for that stuff. – iLikeDirt Feb 2 '15 at 20:35
  • @iLikeDirt As a perennial, anyway. Finding seeds would probably be pretty difficult, too. – Shule Feb 4 '15 at 22:16
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You mentioned that one of the attractions of Purslane is that it's a weed.

I've been experimenting with Kikuyu grass in Phoenix AZ with moderate success so far. I'm hopeful that it will take over my Bermuda Grass lawn which it is competing with and so far it's showing signs that it will. It is classified as a noxious weed in all parts of the US except Southern California, Arizona and Hawaii where it may be planted. If you live in one of these areas then it might be an option.

I have two patches of my lawn where the Kikuyu has taken over that remained green all winter. Granted some of the parts that are Kikuyu also went brown over the winter so those patches had other factors like frost shelter that protected them as well.

If your objective is not to be able to eat your lawn but rather have (1) a year round green lawn, (2) a "weed" lawn that will kill other weeds, and (3) you live in a permitted area, then Kikuyu might be an option.

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    Interesting. How much water does it need? – iLikeDirt Feb 4 '15 at 17:24
  • From what I've experienced so far about 80% of what Bermuda needs - but that's anecdotal. – Guy Feb 5 '15 at 0:21
  • Oh okay, that's still way more than I have available without irrigation--about 9 inches a year. – iLikeDirt Feb 5 '15 at 1:14
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The problem with purslane where I live is that it doesn't germinate until June or July... So it isn't dominant enough to out compete other weeds.

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