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Gardening Terms 101

Okay everyone, class is in session! As a gardener, there are a number terms you should understand in order for your plants to survive in a specific location. Often plants are tagged at the nursery with important information as to the type of plant it is, what type of soil it will do best in, etc. Here is an abbreviated glossary of basic gardening terms to help you make the best selections for your garden.

  • Annual: A plant that grows and blooms for one season.
  • Biennial: A plant that has two growing seasons. It produces leaves in the first and bears fruit or flowers in the second.
  • Bolt: A term used to describe a plant that has gone to seed prematurely.
  • Companion Planting: Laying out a garden so that the plants with characteristics that benefit each are placed in close proximity.
  • Cover Crop: Vegetation grown for the purpose of improving (or maintaining) the health of the soil during a dormant time.
  • Cutting: Taking a piece of a plant (leaf, stem, root or bud) and planting it in a growing medium to propagate a new plant.
  • Deep Shade: A plant requiring less than 2 hours of partial sun a day.
  • Direct Seed: To seed directly into the soil rather than starting the seeds indoors.
  • Frost Date: This is the average day of frost for your area. Frost dates determine your gardening zone.
  • Germinate: When a seed sprouts above the soil.
  • Heavy Soil: A soil that contains a high proportion of clay and is poorly drained.
  • Mulch: Any organic material, such as wood chips, grass clippings, compost, straw, or leaves that is spread over the soil surface (around plants) to hold in moisture and help control weeds.
  • Perennial: A plant that grows and flowers for years. They are either evergreens or may die back to the ground but will grow again the following season.
  • pH: A scale from 0-14 that describes the acidity or alkalinity of the soil, with 7 being neutral. Acidic or “sour” soil has a pH lower than 7. Alkaline or “sweet” soil has a pH that is higher than 7.
  • Succession Planting: Planting several seeds at once and again at one or two week intervals.
  • Tilth: Describes a soil condition based on its balance of nutrients, air and water. A healthy soil is in “good tilth”.
  • Transplant: To move a plant from one area to another or from container into the ground.

Photo by Salvadonica, Chianti, Tuscany


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