A quick look through a seed catalog or plant care manual is likely to come across at least a few descriptions. So here’s a cheat sheet to help you navigate the offerings – and perhaps impress your gardening friends.
Aeration: Poke holes in the compacted soil with a garden fork or aeration machine to facilitate oxygen flow to the plant roots.
Modification: Organic matter such as compost or manure added to soil to improve fertility, drainage, water retention or structure.
Annual: Plants that complete their life cycle in one year, regardless of climate.
Bare root: a plant, usually a rose, tree or shrub, dug up from the ground and sold without soil or container.
Biennial: A plant that completes its life cycle in two years.
Bolting: Premature flowering of crops such as lettuce and beets causes them to become bitter or of poor quality.
Botanical name: Name assigned to plants using Latin-based terminology developed by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus in the 1700s. Using the botanical scientific name (also called “scientific name”) eliminates the risk of confusion with other plants.
Broadcasting: Hand or mechanical sowing of seeds over a large area rather than in a single line.
Cloche: A traditional bell-shaped item placed over plants to protect them from insects and frost damage.
Cold Frame: An enclosure placed around plants to create a greenhouse effect and extend the growing season.
Common Name: A nickname used to describe a plant in a particular circle or geographical area. Their use can confuse gardeners, as different plants may share common names, and one plant may have multiple names.
Companion planting: The grouping of certain plants based on the benefits they offer each other. These benefits include attracting pollinators, deterring pests, and acting as a living trellis.
Deadheading: By removing spent or dead flowers from your plants, you can encourage repeated flowering, prevent self-seeding, or simply keep your plants tidy.
Deciduous: A plant, tree or shrub that loses its leaves in autumn or winter.
Direct Sowing: Seeds are planted directly into the garden rather than starting in containers indoors and later being transplanted outdoors.
Ephemeral: A plant that emerges and declines relatively quickly, often in spring.
Evergreen: A plant, tree or shrub that does not lose its leaves in autumn or winter and remains green all year round.
Foliar feeding: Apply liquid fertilizer directly to the leaves instead of the soil.
Germination: Initial growth of sprouts from seeds.
Curing: The process of gradually acclimatizing plants from indoors to another, usually harsher, climate, such as outdoors, in order to increase their resilience.
Heirloom: A plant in its original form that has not been crossed or cross-pollinated with other species or varieties. Heirloom seeds ensure that they produce plants that retain the same characteristics as the plant from which they were harvested, or that are “true growing.”
Hill: The practice of heaping soil against new above-ground growth, as is done with potato plants.
hybrids: plants deliberately grown in controlled environments, usually by cross-pollination, to acquire new desirable traits such as flower color, disease resistance, aroma, size, hardiness, taste, and shelf life Breed.
Naturalization: A method of dispersing seeds or bulbs in such a way that they appear to have spread naturally, or in such a way that they are allowed to spread without borders in areas such as lawns.
Organic Matter: Non-synthetic substances such as decomposed plants and animals, fertilizers, compost, and leaf molds used to improve soil fertility, structure, and other attributes.
Perennial: A plant with a life cycle of two years or more. Perennials return to the ground during the winter and die off, returning each year or remaining evergreen throughout their life.
pH: In gardening, the pH scale determines the acidity or alkalinity of soil, manure, and water. The lower the reading, the more acidic the soil. The higher the reading, the more alkaline. A reading of 7.0 is considered neutral.
Pinch: The practice of using your thumb and forefinger to remove small buds or stems, usually encouraging lateral bud growth.
Scarification: Scratching, cutting, chopping or otherwise lightly damaging the hard surface of a seed to facilitate germination.
Self-seeding: A term used to describe plants that spread by dropping seeds into the surrounding soil. Those seeds germinate, take root, and grow into more plants. Also called “self-seeding”.
Side Dressing: The application of granular, powdered or pelletized fertilizer (or other amendment) in a line along a row of plants rather than incorporating it into the soil or planting holes.
stratification: the process of exposing seeds or bulbs to cold temperatures, usually in a refrigerator or freezer, to emulate the outdoor winter conditions necessary for successful spring germination.
Topdressing: Applying fertilizers and amendments, such as compost and compost, directly to the soil on and around the plants.
Wet feet: Wet roots. It is usually caused by poorly drained or oversaturated soils.
Xeriscaping: Conserving water by using drought-tolerant plants in the landscape. Also known as “water gardening”.
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