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Glossary Of Garden Terms – Jargon Busting

Learning the terms gardeners use can seem a little daunting. So we have put together some of the language that threw us when we first started gardening.

Learning the short-hand for gardening terms can really help you with garden planning and help you get the right plants for the right spot in your garden! If you are a new beginner gardener or a seasoned expert there is always more to learn. Hopefully this will be helpful and we have linked to examples for many of these terms as well!

  • Acclimatize or Acclimatization is the process of gradually getting a tender young seedling used to the outside temperature. We can do this by moving it to a sunny spot in the day, but bring it in at night until the fear of frost has passed. In terms of speed which we should do this it is determined by how hardy the plant is and how confident we are that the last frost has passed.
  • Annual plants will only grow happily for one year. Often you will find annuals that go to seed and act in a way that looks like a perennial. Something like borage would be a good example of a herb that is an annual, but will self seed.
  • Beds of flower beds are often raised and are set aside to grow plants in. Choosing edible beds as well as ornamental beds can help to keep potentially toxic plants away from those intended for your dinner plate.
  • Biennial plants like parsley will grow for two years before dying back.
  • Biodegradable Plant Pots allow your seedlings to get started under cover and then be transplanted without disturbing the roots. This is great for delicate plants like lovage.
Basil that has bolted is still quite tasty!
  • Bolting is the response that a plant has to extremes. Either too hot, too dry or too windy. By bolting the plant will prematurely produce flowers with the intention of creating seeds, so that they will have a next generation of plant. We have a useful article about how to avoid this happening in your garden!
  • Bone Meal is made of finely ground animal bones and can be used to add phosphorous to the soil. Plants that are annuals often need high levels of phosphorous to get started.
  • Chitting is quite a hot topic in the gardening world as some of us swear by it, whereas others avoid it and feel it unnecessary. Chitting is where we rest potatoes on egg boxes away from direct sunlight but with some daylight and wait for sprouts to appear. We then plant them, gently making sure not to harm these new roots.
  • Cloche is a bell shaped cover to protect plants from frosts. They are great for moving around the garden as and when you need them to look after tender plants you may be hardening off.
  • Cold Frame is a simple protective covering for younger plants. You can dig your cold frame into the ground to help maximise the warming effects. It will give about 5-10 degrees in difference.
  • Compost can be made at home and is suitable as a way to dispose of green waste. No meats or cooked foods should be added as these can attract vermin. Also it is good to avoid pernicious weeds like bindweed or Japanese knot weed as they will survive and lie dormant ready to invade any new beds.
  • Cross pollination is when one plant can pollinate another. This can only happen when the genetic make up of each plant are compatible. Cross pollination is used intentionally to create new varieties that can share the best qualities of the parent plants.
  • Dead Head and dead heading are the terms used when we remove the blooms of a plant that have gone over. Meaning that they have died back. By removing them we can encourage new flowers to form and the plant will put more energy into this. Sometimes dead heading can remove the seed heads and this will stop your plant from self seeding. Calendula is a good example of a plant that responds well to being dead headed.
  • Deciduous plants are perennials that shed their leaves each year. So are not evergreen.
  • Dibber is a rounded stick, often with measurements along the side to show you depths of holes. They allow you to make holes in dug over soil that can then have a seed or clove popped in to. See drills below.
My dibber and knee pad, highly recommended.
  • Drills or Drilling is posh speak for making a hole. Often with a dibber, which to be frank I was given one and now wouldn’t be without it! Perfect for cloves of garlic or dropping seeds to a specific depth.
  • Edibles and Edible Flowers are not just terms for a fruit and veg garden but also for herbs and flowers that can be added to salads or cooking.
  • Evergreen trees or shrubs hold their foliage all year round. In the UK we can grow Bay trees as evergreen.
  • Foliage refers to the leaves of a plant, sometimes edible. We talk a lot about how the foliage is a good indicator of a plants overall health. From yellow spots to curling around the edges.
  • Germinate or germination refers to the stage at which the germ of the seed has sprouted from the seed kernel. Sometimes this process will require stratification to have occurred first. It is also how we eat sprouting seeds.
  • Green Manure is a plant that you grow to fix nitrogen to your soil. Harvest it by chopping down and leaving to wilt, then cutting in to the soil.
  • Half-Hardy
    • Half-hardy annuals will need some degree of protection but will still only live for one year.
    • Half-hardy biennial if over-wintered and looked after they should survive a second year, herbs like Parsley are half-hardy biennials.
    • Half-hardy perennial is the term used for plants that will need overwintering to make it through the frost and heavy rainfall.
  • Harden Off is a lot like acclimatization as you are getting your plant ready for it’s outdoors growing position. Be that one where there is extremes of cold or sunlight. You do this in stages so as to reduce the shock level to the plant.
  • Hardy plants will survive those extremes that would cause other plants to bolt. Heavy frosts, rainfall, drought or strong winds.
  • Heated Propagator is ideal for using with seeds or cuttings that need a base level of heat to germinate or propagate correctly.
  • Hot Frames are heated artificially and will be ideal for very tender annual plants.
  • Hydroponic system uses a growing medium like vermiculite to hold the plants roots. IT allows for adequate oxygen and water to flow around the roots without the need for soil. This can significantly reduce the mount of over watering issues whilst at the same time increase yield. It is possible to have a home kit for your kitchen, we have more here.
  • Loam Soil is equal parts sand, silt and clay soil. Making great growing conditions for more tropical plants like cardamom.
  • Liquid fertilizer can be made up of nitrogen rich plants like comfrey or borage and will smell like the worst thing you could imagine. To make it you will need to soak the leaves and stems for two weeks. This liquid is then mixed with water to be applied to plants sparingly during the growing or fruiting season.
  • Manure is animal dung used for fertilizing. We have chickens and they produce nitrogen rich waste, which because they free range they sort of spread themselves. Horse manure should be used with caution as it can contain seeds etc that have not been fully digested. Adding manure to your compost heap is a good way to avoid this.
  • Micro Greens are when germination has taken place and the seed has put forward it’s first leaves. Usually this timescale is around 14-21 days and it means we can harvest and eat a nutrient rich and flavor packed version of the main plant. It will be eaten before the true leaves have had a chance to grow.
  • Mulch is the term used for organic matter that will be used on the surface around a tender plant. It helps to keep the roots warmer in colder months but also in hot Summer months it reduces water loss due to evaporation. Using green manure as a mulch is ideal.
  • No Dig Method uses mulch and cardboard to suppress weeds and create a micro-organism soil to grow plants in.
  • Nitrogen Fixing is used in conjunction with other terms like tap roots or green manure. A plant that is a good nitrogen fixer can pull nitrogen and other nutrients form the soil and when rotted down, release them in a soluble manner. Many plants are unable to take much needed nitrogen directly from the soil so these plants are perfect in rotation.
  • Organic Gardening is when we feed the soil and build up the nutrients present. We use no chemicals to do this and encourage a healthy mixture of micro-organisms as well as worms. This will mean that our plants can thrive and grow well without the need for harmful pesticides which may kill off other life.
  • Over Wintering will need to take place for tender perennials or half hardy perennials. They need fleece wrapping around or a mulch to be added. Sometimes growing in pots can really help as you can physically remove the plants from the worst of the winter months.
  • Peat-free compost is the term given to compost which does not rely on mining peat. It is important to not use peat in our gardening as we destroy one eco-system to try and boost our own.
  • Perennial plants will grow each year, some may lose leaves or die back, but they plant will thrive again come growing season. Adequate pruning often required.
  • Permaculture is one of those terms that can be used in many different ways. It is a process of looking at our environment in a holistic manner, applying regenerative processes to getting the most from nature, without harming nature. Instead of using pesticides to kill slugs, introducing ducks for a few days to eat the slugs, would be a prime example.
  • Pests and bugs are naturally occurring in your garden, however some aid your plants, whereas others may destroy them.
  • Pesticides are used to kill of harmful pests and bugs in our gardens. However caution must be taken as they will not discriminate between helpful pests and bugs and those that are destroying your crop. Biodiversity if often lost and we will not be able to create a natural habitat for wildlife.
  • Pinching Out is the term used for removing side shoots. This allows us to get a bushier shrub, thinking about supermarket bought basil, you wold repot and pinch out to encourage a healthier herb plant.
  • Plugs can be useful to buy. They are older seedlings that are pretty much ready to be planted out and thrive
  • Pollinate and pollinators are terms that go together. A plant will need to reproduce by pollination and pollinators like bees help to do this by taking pollen on their legs from flower to flower. Taking from the male part or the stamen and leaving the pollen on the female parts or stigma.
  • Propagate or ‘to propagate’ are terms used when we grow new plants from cuttings of larger, more established plants. We sometimes use a propagator for starting off seeds as well.
  • Rhizomes are like chunky roots that grow continuously and will put out roots occasionally and shoots to the surface. Ginger is a good example of a plant that grows from rhizomes.
  • Self Seed Or Self Sow is a term used for plants that will grow flowers to quickly release seeds. Dill and fennel are both prolific self seeders and can cross pollinate to create some rather dull results. To avoid seeds flying away, remove dying flower heads – dead head the plants.
  • Stamen and Stigma are terms for the parts of the flower that will produce fruit or seeds. The stamen is the male part which produces pollen. It is then carried to another plant by pollinators where it mixes with the female part of the stigma. It then produces seeds from this area.
  • Stratification is a way that some seeds like to be forced into germinating. It replicates the cold, hard frost and then the dawning of Spring. This then wakes the seed up from its dormancy and the kernel of the seed will crack to reveal the germ.
  • Sunlight hours and terms around sun refer to the amount of daylight a certain plant will require for ideal growing conditions.
Sunshine hours terms
Sunshine Hours Needed
  • Tap Root is one of the terms that you will hear when looking into good nitrogen fixers for your garden. A long tap root will mean that this plant can then pull up nutrients from further down than the usual plants you will be growing.
  • Thin Out is a phrase you will use when starting off seedlings and looking to remove the weaker plants. You can also use this term when you are pricking out buds. It gives the healthier plants a real chance.
  • Thongs are roots that can be grown and harvested. Herbs that grow these type of roots include horseradish.
  • True Leaves come after the first leaves have been pushed from the seed. Those first leaves are just to catch as much sunlight as possible before the plants true nature can come out.
  • Vegan Compost is compost that has been developed without using any animal products, from fish bone meal to chicken poop.

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