Gardening Terminology


Gardening Terminology

Acid soil: Soil that has a ph lower than 7.0 is acidic, whereas soil with a ph higher than 7.4 is considered to be alkaline.

Actual: This term is generally used by farmers and scientists, but is also useful for small scale gardeners. The term “actual” refers to the actual amount/portion of a given nutrient in fertilizer.  For example, a 50 pound bag of fertilizer that has 22% nitrogen will yield 11 pounds of “actual” nitrogen (50 pounds x .22 = 10).

Annual: Annual refers to a plant that completes it’s entire life cycle in one year. For example, a tomato plant will germinate, mature, produce seeds, and die in one year.

Biennial: A plant thats life cycle takes 2 years.

Beneficial Insect: Insects such as lady bugs and Fly Killers that kill other insects that are undesirable.

Bone Meal: Finely ground bone that is used to add phosphorous to the soil.

Chlorosis: A plant disease caused poor nutrition or compromised roots that prevent the plant from producing chlorophyll. Identifiable in plants with yellow or white leaves.

Cold Frame: An unheated frame generally made of wood and plastic. Cold frames are used to protect plants from frost. They are a useful trick for extending the growing season.

Companion planting: Growing plants together that will benefit each other rather than compete for resources.

Compost: Nutrient rich soil made from organic matter that has completely decayed. Used for conditioning soil and adding nutrients.

Crop Rotation: Repeatedly growing the same crop on the same land can/will deplete the soil of certain nutrients. Some plants take in more specific minerals and nutrients than others. For example, some plants such as potatoes use a lot of nitrogen, whereas plants such as peas will actually help add nitrogen to the soil. As such, many farmers will rotate their crops as to not deplete the soil.

Cutting:  Cutting refers to the process of cutting off a stem, root, or bud from a parent plant and then planting it in the ground where the cutting will form roots and grow into a new plant. Many herbs such as sage, thyme, and lavender can be propagated from cuttings.

Damping Off: Damping Off refers to the decay of seeds that have been planted. The most common reason for Damping Off is over watering and soil born diseases.

Dead Heading: Dead Heading refers to the act of cutting mature flowers in order to promote blooming, prolong blooming, or to prevent seeding.

Direct Seeding: The act of planing a seed directly into the ground as opposed to starting it off indoors and then transplanting it outside after it has germinated and started growing.

Fertilizer: Organic or synthetic material that is added to the soil in order to add nutrients that may be lacking. Fertilizers often contain several different ingredients contributing different vitamins and minerals to the soil.

Floating Row Cover: A cover that is put over plants in order to protect them from insect, disease, and unfavorable weather conditions. Also used to increase growing season.

Foliar Fertilizing: Foliar Fertalizing refers to the method of fertilizing where liquid fertilizer is utilized by being applied directly to the plants leaves.

Frost Date:  The “frost date” refers to the last day of the year that frost is expected. It is important to know your areas frost date in order to determine your areas gardening zone and when you should scheduled your garden planting.

Fungicides: Fungicides are used on plants and gardens to prevent or limit a fungus outbreak.

Germinate: The action of a seed sprouting or budding above soil.

Grafting: Grafting refers to the process of joining the tissue from two different plants so that they grow together. This is commonly done in orchards. For example, an orchardist may take a branch from one type of apple tree and “graft” it onto the trunk of a different kind of apple tree. In doing so, they can grow several different types of apples on one tree.

Growing Season: The period of a year in which conditions are suitable for growing plants. The growing season varies from area to area. These areas are usually classified as “Zones.”

Hardening Off: The process of slowly introducing young plants that have been started off indoors (such as a green house), to the conditions of the outdoors. Plants that have been started indoors are not accustomed to cold nights and hot days of the outdoors.

Heavy Soil: Soil that has a high clay content and does not drain well.

Humus: The natural organic component of soil that has been formed by the decomposition of organic material.

Hybrid: The offspring of two different plant species or varieties.

Hydroponics: The method of growing plants without soil. This is usually done using a mineral rich liquid. Sand or gravel may also be used, but not soil.

Micro-Nutrients: Nutrients that are only needed in small trace amounts.

Mulch: Material such as bark, leaves, or compost that is used to help insulate the soil.

Node: The point on a stem where either branches, leaves, or flowers start to grow.

Perennial: A plant that lives for two of more years such as lavender or sage.

pH: A scale of 0-14 that is used to measure the degree to which soil is either acidic or alkaline. The soils “pH” helps determine the availability of nutrients to plants, as well as, the activity and abundance of microorganisms in the soil.

Scarification: Scratching a seeds shell in order to help facilitate germination.

Topsoil: The first couple of inches of soil. Topsoil usually has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms. It is also used in reference to good quality soil being sold in nurseries.  Tilth: The word “Tilth” is used in reference to the condition of soil. For example, soil with “good tilth” has large pore spaces that contribute to good air infiltration and water movement. Soil with “bad tilth” would be compacted soil with poor drainage.

Transplanting: The process of moving a plant from one area to another. For example, removing a plant from a pot and “transplanting” it in a garden.

Vermicomposting: The process of composing with the aid of worms (usually red worms). Using worms can greatly decrease the amount of time it takes to turn organic matter into compost.

Worm Casting: Soil and organic matter that passed through a worms body.

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