Glossary of Commonly Used Gardening Terms

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In this page, the most commonly used gardening terms will be shown, with special emphasis on container gardening. Unsure what a word means, then check the list below:

Annual- A plant that completes its life cycle (germination, flowering, seed production and dying) in one growing season (e.g. French marigold).

Bare Root- Plants that have been field grown then dug up, where there are supplied to the customer in the dormant state. The soil is then removed and the roots are bounded, before being dispatched to the customer (e.g. fruit trees).

Biennial– A plant that completes its life cycle in two years. Growing its leaves in the first year, before flowering and dying in the second year (e.g. Sweet Williams).

Bolting– For a plant to produce flowers and then seeds prematurely. This is often undesired and the plant needs to be thrown away. Often affects vegetable plants such as spinach.

Broadcast Sowing– To scatter seeds evenly in a random fashion rather than in formal straight lines.

Breaking Bud– A stage in spring where the growth of buds bursts through the protective bud casing.

Bud Union/Bud Graft– This refers to the point of the plant where it has been grafted onto a different rootstock, which is close to compost level. The technique is known as ‘budding’ where the buds of one plant are grafted to the root system of another.

Bulb- An underground storage system where green leaves emerge from and are then followed by flowers. After this, the plant dies back and it returns to dormancy once more (e.g. Daffodils).

Cane– This is the stems of raspberry or blackberry plants that are normally supplied in the dormant stage.

Chitting– The process of encouraging seed potatoes to sprout stubby little green chits 6 weeks before planting. This is accomplished by placing seeds potatoes in a tray or egg box in a bright, cool, frost-free place.

Cloche– A structure that is placed over a plant to protect it from cold weather or to force an early crop. Normally made out of glass, plastic or horticultural fleece.

Cold Frame– A special unheated frame that is designed to allow plants to grow on. It is also used to acclimatizing hardy and half-hardy plants before planting outdoors.

Cordon– A plant that has been trained to grow on one stem, or occasionally two to three stems, by removing side shoots (e.g. in tomato plants).

Contact Weed Killer- A chemical that is designed to kill unwanted plants by direct contact with its flowers or leaves.

Corms- A rounded underground storage system, consisting of a stem base and a fibrous outer layer. It is normally replaced by the plant every year (e.g. begonias).

Crown- The growing point of a plant from which new shoots emerges every year, at or just below the soil surface (e.g. Rhubarb)

Cultivar- A plant that has been selectively bred by growers for uniquely coloured flowers, leaf colours, growing habits, etc. It is normally done to bring more uniform characteristics to the plant compared to the original species.

Cuttings- A method to propagate new plants by cutting stems from a plant and then rooting the stems in compost. This is due to increase your plant stock for free.

Deadhead– The process of removing spent blooms on plants to encourage further flowering and also to prevent prolific self-seeding.

Deciduous- A plant that sheds its leaves every year.

Direct Sow– To sow seed outdoors directly in its final position, where you will like them to flower or to crop.

Earth up- The process of drawing up soil or compost around a plant to exclude light, in order to protect the roots from frost damage or to encourage new roots to develop from the stem. Normally, carried out with potato crops.

Enrich– The process of adding more organic matter to compost to make it more nutrient rich. This is done to help hungry plant to develop quicker.

Ericaceous- Plants that prefer to be grown in acidic compost or soil, and will not tolerate alkaline growing conditions (e.g. Blueberries).

Evergreen– This describes plants that retain most of their leaves throughout the year.

F1 Hybrid– This is the first generation of plants derived by breeding two distinctive purebred lines, which are normally vigorous and uniform plants. Seeds produced from these F1 hybrids will not breed true and will revert back to one of its parent plants. F2 hybrids are made when two F1 plants are crossed.

Feathered Maiden– A one-year-old tree which has several side branches, which makes it look like a feather.

Foliage– Leaves.

Floricane- Raspberry and blackberry stems that grow the year before bearing flowers and fruits the following year (e.g. Summer-bearing raspberries)

Germination– This is the physical and chemical changes that take place once a seed starts to emerge from its seed casing, and develops into a plant.

Grafting– Where one plant (known as the scion) is artificially joined to the rootstock of another so that one functioning plant is produced (e.g. fruit trees).

Half-Hardy– A plant that has some protection to the weather and can take some light frosts, but cannot take long periods of hard frosts, as this will kill them.

Hardy– This is when plants are able to withstand year-round climate changes without the need of any special protection.

Harden-off– To get the young plants used to the growing conditions outside in a protective environment, so that they can get acclimatized to the cooler conditions outdoors. Normally achieved by leaving plants outside during the day and bringing them indoors at night, until they are used to the climate outdoors. This usually takes 1 to 2 weeks.

Haulms– The stems and leaves of the potato plants.

Herbaceous Perennial– A non-woody perennial that dies back in winter, becomes dormant by means of an underground rootstock and a woody base. New growth will begin once again in spring.

Lime- Calcium compound that is often added to compost to make it less acidic. Really useful when growing brassicas, as this will avoid the fatal clubroot disease.

Maiden Tree- A young tree that is often less than one-year-old. It can be trained into any shape and form you prefer,

Medium-The growing mixture in which plants are placed in and from which they will grow.

Mulch- A layer of material placed on top of the soil/compost, and around the plants to retain moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil structure. Materials include wood chipping, cocoa shells, gravel, aggregates, glass, pebbles, well-rotted manure or other materials.

Multipurpose Compost– A mixture of various organic matter such as rotten wood, peat, coir, green waste, which is normally mixed with lime to ‘sweeten’ the mixture. Ericaceous compost has no lime added.

Organic Matter- Organic substance of animals or plant origin that is used to improve soil or compost structure, and to supply nutrient to plants. This is normally compost, leaf mould or animal manure.

Perennial- A plant that lives for more than two years, and keeps coming back year after year. Some perennials are long-lived, which short-lived perennial will only produce for a couple of years before permanently dying.

PH– How acidic or alkaline the soil or compost is. A pH Lower than 7 is acidic, whilst a pH greater than 7 is seen as alkaline. A pH of 7 is seen as neutral.

Pinching Out- Removing the growing points of young plants to encourage them to form new side shoots. This will make the plant bushier and to encourage more flowers to be produced.

Pollination- The act of transferring pollen from one flower to another. This can be carried out by either by hand, by insects or by the wind.

Pot on- To remove a plant from its own containers and to place it into a new container, to encourage new growth.

Pot Up- To place seedling and cuttings into containers to grow further before potting on or planting outside.

Prick Out/Transplant– To move and transfer seedling from a seed tray into individual pots or into cell trays. This will encourage them to grow bigger and stronger.

Propagate– To grow plants from either seed, or by taking cuttings, or from grafting.

Rhizome– A horizontal fleshy stem that grows at or below ground level. Looks like a tuber.

Rootstock- The underground section of a plant containing the roots. In grafting a plant called the scion is joined to a rootstock. This is often done to promote a dwarfing habit of the trees.

Root Ball- The roots with its accompanying soil when a plant is removed from a container, or lifted from the ground.

Rosette– A cluster of leaves that radiates from the same point, often at ground level (giving an appearance of a rose).

Runner- A trailing stem growing above ground and rooting at the nodes, wherever it touches the ground. From these nodes, small plantlets are produced, as seen by strawberry plants. With some plants, the runners are produced underground, and new plants are made wherever it emerges from underground. This is often seen with couch grass.

Seedling– A young plant that develops when it emerges from a seed.

Self-fertile– A plant that does not need pollen from a second plant in order to be fertilized or to set fruit.

Semi-evergreen- A plant that can retain some of its leaves throughout the year, but not necessarily all of them.

Soil-Based Compost- Similar to multipurpose compost but a proportion of it is replaced with inorganic material, such as crushed rock or sand. This means it drains better, is more free flowing and will be heavier in containers.

Specimen Plant– A tree or shrub that is grown in a prominent position, where it can be admired from a different angle.

Standard– A tree or shrub that has been specifically trained to grow into a certain height, with a long bare stem, and foliage at top.

Sub-Shrub– A perennial that has a tendency to behave like a shrub.

Systematic Weed Killer- A weed killer that is absorbed through its leaves when applied to that area.

Tender- A plant that will die if the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius for any period of time.

Thin– This is when you remove a number of buds, flowers, seedlings, shoots, or fruits to improve the growth and quality of those remaining.

Tree/Shrub- Woody plants that have a permanent framework throughout the year. Shrubs tend to be shorter, whilst trees tend to grow higher.

Trellis- A structure in which plants are freely supported.

Tuber– A swollen root or a large underground stem that is a storage tissue (e.g. a potato).

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