Gardening Basics: Gardening Terms

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Here are a few of the gardening terms that I hear and / or use on a regular basis. There are tons more, but these really are the basics.

Annual – A plant that completes its life cycle in one year.

Bare Root – Plants offered for sale which have had all of the soil removed from their roots.

Biennial – A plant that completes its life cycle in two years.

Bud – Early stages of development of a flower or plant growth.

Bulb – The thickened underground storage organ of the group of perennials (i.e. daffodils and tulips)

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Clay Soil – Soil composed of many tiny plate-like soil particles that can compact with time to form a hard, solid mass that makes shoveling difficult, digging holes more laborious, and often results in poor drainage.

Complete Fertilizer – Also known as a 3 in 1. A plant food which contains all three of the primary elements – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Deadhead – to remove spent flowers by either pulling or cutting them off. Deadheading promotes the growth of more flowers because the spent flowers are removed and makes room for the plant to produce more.

Dormancy – The yearly cycle in a plants life when growth slows and the plant rests. Fertilizing should be withheld when a plant is in dormancy.

Fertilizer – Organic or inorganic plant foods which may either liquid or granular used to amend the soil in order to improve the quality or quantity of plant growth.

Filler – Plants that fill in the middle area of a container connecting the spillers and fillers and making the container look full.

Full Shade – less than 4 hours of direct sun a day.

Full Sun – If a plant requires “full sun” then it needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day to thrive.

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Germinate – The beginning of growth in a seed; to sprout.

Ground Cover – A group of plants usually to cover bare earth and create a uniform appearance.

Growing Season – The number of days between the average date of the last killing frost in spring and the first killing frost in fall.

Hardiness – The ability of a plan to withstand low temperatures without artificial protection.

Hardiness Zone – A geographically defined zone determined by temperature that categorizes which plants can thrive where; hardiness zones are designated by a number (1-11), such as zone 7. Gardening books and websites can help you determine your hardiness zone.

Heat Tolerant – Plants that flourish despite hot temperatures.

Herbicide – A substance that destroys plants or inhibits their growth.

Horticulture – The art and science of cultivating plants.

Lath – In gardening, an overhead structure of evenly spaced slats of wood or other materials used to create shade.

Loam – A rich soil composed of clay, sand, and organic matter.

Manure – Organic matter, excreted by animals, used as a soil amendment and fertilizer.

Mulch – Any loose material placed over the soil to control weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Native Plant – Any plant that occurs and grows naturally in a specific region or locality.

Organic – A fertilizer, pesticide, or plant food that is of animal or vegetable origin; plants grown without the use of synthetic chemicals.

Ornamental – Plants grown for aesthetics, not consumption or economic use.

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Partial Sun or Partial Shade – 4 to 6 hours of direct sun a day

Perennial – Plants that live for multiple growing seasons.

Pesticide – Any substance used to control or kill pests such as insects, weeds, animals, or microbes; may be organic or synthetic.

Pruning – The process of cutting off leaves or branches within limits in order to remove dead, injured or diseased foliage or branches.

Raised bed – An elevated garden bed offering better drainage, aeration and warmer soil than a conventional bed.

Rootbound – A condition which exists when a potted plant has outgrown its container. The growth of the plant becomes stunted because the roots become entangled.

Seedling – A plant that has just emerged from its seed with its first root, stem and leaves.

Soil pH – pH is a measurement of the amount of lime (calcium) contained in your soil. A pH lower than 7.0 is an acidic soil, and a soil with a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline soil. An inexpensive test kit can be purchased to test the soil and there are lots of products that can help remedy soil that is too far one way or the other.

Staking – The practice of driving a support into the ground next to a plant to support it in its growth.

Systemic – A chemical that is absorbed directly into a plants system to either kill feeding insects on the plant, or to kill the plant itself.

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Thinning – To reduce the number of excess seedlings (discarding the weakest ones) to allow freer air circulation and increase the light for foliage, thereby, encouraging remaining plants to thrive.

Time Release Fertilizer – Also called Controlled Release Fertilizer.  Fertilizer comes in pellets and is an improved version of Slow Release Fertilizer.  Fertilizer is released based on soil temperature itself and tends to be more exact than Slow Release Fertilizer.

Transplant – To remove plants from one place and replant them in another (or from a container into the ground).

Trellis – Latticework used to support climbing plants.

Waterlogged – Soil that is saturated with water.

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