November 3, 2020

Garden Terminology

Garden Terminology:

It can be daunting for experienced gardeners and garden newcomers alike when it comes to terminology. A brief overview of the most common terms are available to help through the maze of new and old terms alike.

Acidic: A soil, compost, or liquid with a pH between 0 and 7.0 (on a scale of 0.0-14.0). Often referred to as “sour” soil by gardeners.

Aeration: Any method of loosening soil or compost to allow air to circulate.

Aerobic: Describes organisms living or occurring only when oxygen is present.

Alkaline: A soil with a pH between 7.0 and 14 (on a scale of 0.0-14.0). Often referred to as “sweet” soil by gardeners.

Anaerobic: Describes organisms living or occurring where there is no oxygen.

Annual: A plant that blooms, produces seed, and dies in one year.

Beneficial Insect: An insect that benefits your garden by eating or laying its eggs in other insects, thereby controlling their population.

Biennial: A plant that completes its full life-cycle in two growing seasons. It produces leaves in the first and flowers in the second.

Biodegradable: Able to decompose or break down through natural bacterial or fungal action. Substances made of organic matter are biodegradable.

Biological Pest Control: Using living organisms such as beneficial insects or parasites to destroy garden pests.

Bolt: A term used to describe a plant that has gone to seed prematurely.

Bone Meal: Finely ground fertilizer composed of white or light gray bone that adds phosphorus to the soil.

Calcitic Limestone: A common material used for “liming” soil that has an acid level that is too high. This type is most commonly used and contains calcium carbonate.

Chelation: The formation of bonds between organic compounds and metals, some of which are insoluble, as in humus. Soluble chelates are used in fertilizers to help keep nutrient metals, such as iron, mobile in the soil, and thus available to plants rather than locked up in insoluble mineral salts.

Chlorosis: A yellowing or blanching of the leaves due to lack of chlorophyll, nutrient deficiencies, or disease.

Cold Frame: An unheated structure usually made of wood and covered with glass or plastic. Cold frames are used to protect plants from frost and are helpful season extenders.

Companion Planting: The sowing of seeds in the garden in such a way that plants help each other grow instead of competing against each other.

Compost: Completely decayed organic matter used for conditioning soil. It is dark, odorless, and rich in nutrients.

Cover Crop: Vegetation grown to protect and build the soil during an interval when the area would otherwise lie fallow.

Crop Rotation: The planting of a specific crop in a site different from the previous year.

Cutting: A vegetative method of plant propagation whereby a piece of a plant leaf, stem, root, or bud is cut from a parent plant. It is then inserted into a growing medium to form roots, thus developing a new plant.

Damping Off: Decay of young seedlings at ground level following a fungal attack. Often the result of soil-borne diseases and over watering.

Dead Heading: The act of removing spent flowers or flowerheads for aesthetics, to prolong bloom for up to several weeks or promote re-bloom, or to prevent seeding.

Deep Shade: A plant requiring less than 2 hours of dappled sun a day.

Desiccate: Cause to dry up. Insecticidal soap desiccates its victims.

Direct Seed: To seed directly into the soil instead of starting your seeds indoors.

Double Digging: A method of preparing the soil by digging a trench then putting the soil from one row into the next row.

Fertilizer: An organic or synthetic material added to the soil or the plant, that is important for its nutrient value.

Foliar Fertilizing: A technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to plant leaves.

Frost Date: This is the average expected last frost date for your area. Frost dates are important to know for your gardening zone or planting area.

Fungicides: Compounds used to prevent the spread of fungi in gardens and crops, which can cause serious damage to plants.

Germinate: The beginning of growth in seeds, the action of sprouting, budding, or shooting, above the soil. This occurs whenever a plant or seed begins to vegetate into leafy young plants. The breaking of dormancy in seeds or the sprouting of pollen grains deposited on a stigma.

Green Manure: A crop that is grown and then incorporated into the soil to increase soil fertility or organic matter content. Usually turned over into the soil a few weeks before new planting begins.

Hardening Off: The process of acclimatizing plants grown under protection, in the greenhouse for example, to cooler conditions outdoors.

Heavy Soil: A soil that contains a high proportion of clay and is poorly drained.

Humus: A fairly stable, complex group of nutrient-storing molecules created by microbes and other forces of decomposition by the conversion of organic matter. Typically its dark loamy earth.

Inoculate: Is the practice of covering the seed surface with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium or Bradyrhizobium) prior to planting. The bacterias penetrate the root, resulting in the formation of root nodules that fix nitrogen from the air and make it readily available to the plant.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM): A pest control strategy that uses an array of complementary methods: natural predators and parasites, pest-resistant varieties, cultural practices, biological controls, various physical techniques, and pesticides as a last resort. It is an ecological approach that can significantly reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides.

Micro-Nutrients: Some mineral elements are needed by plants in very small quantities. If the plants you are growing require specific “trace elements” and they are not getting them through the soil, they must be added.

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