Gardening Glossary

Aerate: Loosening or puncturing the soil so more water can penetrate and to promote root growth.

Aerobic: Describes organisms living or occurring only when oxygen is present.

Amendments: Organic Matter, compost, manure, bone or leaf mold and other materials worked into the soil to enhance the soils properties.

Annuals: Those plants that complete their life cycle in one year.

Bare Root: Deciduous shrubs, trees and perennials sold in winter or early spring, for planting with the soil removed from their roots.

Bark: A protective layer of dead cells on the outside of older stems and roots of woody plants and trees.

Basal Leaf: A basal leaf is one that grows from the lowest part of the stem. Basal, in general, refers to the base of a structure.

Biennial: A biennial is a plant that requires two growing seasons to complete its life cycle. During the first growing season it produces mainly foliage. In it’s second year it will flower and set seed, often early in the season.

Biological Pest Control: Using living organisms such as beneficial insects or parasites to destroy garden pests.

Blight: A symptom affecting plants in response to infection by a pathogenic organism. It is a rapid and complete chlorosis, browning, then death of plant tissues such as leaves, branches, twigs, or floral organs.

Bolt: This is the time of year when plants can bolt, or go to seed early. Annuals and vegetables, if planted too late in the season, or if a heat wave hits, plants can flower early and produce seeds early.

Bracts: These are modified leaves growing just below the flower or cluster of flowers on a plant. They can be showy and mistaken for flowers. A poinsettia is a good example.

Cambium: Thin membrane just beneath the bark of a plant.

Cane: A cane is a flowering or fruit bearing stem that usually shoots up directly from the root system. Roses are a good example of plants that often produce canes.

Cane Pruning: When pruning grapevines at the end of the season, during winter, select canes that grew the previous summer and cut them back to two buds. Keep two to four other canes and tie to a trellis or support.

Companion Planting: Planting plants together that help each other. For example a taller plant can afford shade or act as a wind break to a plant that is more fragile. Marigolds exude natural chemicals from their roots or aerial parts that suppress or repel pests and protect neighboring plants.

Cultivar: This is a contraction of the term cultivated variety and refers to plants within a species bred with distinct characteristics, like pest resistant, drought tolerant, particular colors or fragrance. Cultivar names are usually designated within single quotes after the scientific name.

Damping Off: A fungus that affects seedling, causing the stems to rot at the soil level. This can happen as the result of soil borne diseases, and over watering. Sterilized potting soil can prevent this.

Deadhead: Pinching or cutting off spent blossoms keeps the plant from going to seed, giving you a longer blooming season. It also keeps the garden tidy by not letting unwanted seedlings emerge. However, if you have an informal garden, like to feed the birds, and are not worried about the length of bloom season, don’t deadhead everything. If you want larger blossoms, remove the small side buds along the stems which form in the angles of the leaves. This will allow all of the food reserves to be used for one large flower rather than many smaller ones.

Deciduous: Trees and shrubs that have leaves that lose their leaves seasonally.

Diatomaceous earth: Oceanic sediments formed by accumulation of the silica shells of diatoms (algae).

Dormancy: Once a year a plant’s growth slows down. For most plants this is during winter when the days get shorter and temperatures drop. Dormancy keeps the plant from having tender new growth that would would most likely be damaged by frost.

Drought Tolerant/Resistant: Plants that have relatively low water requirements, and are well adapted to an arid climate are often described as drought resistant or drought tolerant. It will usually be a Native or a naturalized plant in your area that can survive in less rainfall than than other plants, and still look good. It does not mean a plant, especially those not yet established, can live with no water at all.

Espalier: Training a tree or shrub to grow in a flat pattern, against a wall, on wires, or a fence.

Evergreen: Plants that never lose all their leaves at one time.

Full Sun: A plant that requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to survive.

Genetically modified plants: Plant produced foods derived from genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. Critics have objected to GM foods/plants on several grounds, including perceived safety issues, lack of proper testing, ecological concerns, and economic concerns.

Growing Season: This is the number of days between the last killing frost of Spring and the first killing frost of Fall. This is when a plant is actively growing, producing new growth or flowers.

Herbaceous: This is a non-woody plant that can be a bulb, annual or perennial. It is soft and can die down completely in winter, re-growing in spring.

Invasive plant species: An introduced species (also called “non-indigenous” or “non-native”) that adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically.

Layering: A stem from a plant is bent to the ground and a portion of it is buried under soil. Roots are allowed to form in the spot that is covered with soil and the “new” plant is detached from the parent plant and planted elsewhere.

Leggy: When a plant does not get enough light, the plant grows toward the sun and the branches and leaves are not thick and compact.

Loam: Soil that contains equal proportions of sand, silt and clay particles.

Mulching: Mulching is putting down bark, wood chips, compost, leaves, decorative rocks, pebbles and even gravel to conserve moisture in your soil, even out soil temperature and hide anything unsightly in your garden.

Native Plant: A native of indigenous plant is one that grows naturally in an area and has done so for quite some time. It fares better than exotics, once established, as it is used to the climate , water and soil conditions.

Perennial: Perennials are plants that grow for more than two years. Some keep their leaves all year long, but many of them die down in winter and return in spring.

pH: pH is a measure of the amount of lime/calcium contained in your soil. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil, a soil pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline soil – this can be tested with a soil testing kit.

Photoperiodic: Plants that sense seasonal changes in the length of night, which signals the plant to flower.

Pinnate: Feather-like or multi-divided leaves arising from both sides of a common stem in plant, like ferns, palms, etc.

Pruning: To shape, clip, shear, pinch off dead blooms and cut back leggy stems. This extends the blooming period of a plant, encourages new growth, increases the vigor and life expectancy of the plant and improves resistance to disease and harsh weather condition. Lastly, to control the height, growth and space a plant or tree takes.

Resistant: tolerant, but not totally immune to adverse conditions, meaning a plant is less likely to get a disease or insect infestation.

Rhizome: underground rootlike system that sends up leafy shoots from the top side and sends roots down from the bottom side.

Root Bound: When a plant has been left is a pot too long, the roots become tangled and matted and grow in circles. Be sure to loosen the roots before planting so they can grow into the soil. Tease the roots apart, and clip off any extra long roots to stimulate new growth.

Root Gall: abnormal swelling on the roots of a plant, caused by a disease or insect.

Scarification: scratching hard coated seeds to help them germinate quicker.

Self-Fruitful: Self-fruitful implies that a single variety of a given fruit type will produce satisfactory fruit crops
when grown by itself. This may occur because the variety is self-pollinating or are produced without complete seed development, resulting in seedless fruits.

Self-pollinating: Plants that do not require pollen from another plant to produce fruit.

Stress: Just like people, plants can be stressed. A stressed plant may wilt, lose foliage color or brown at leaf edges. This condition may be caused by wind, too little or too much watering, extreme temperatures–whether high or low–over a long period of time, all which endanger the health of the plant.

Succulents: A succulent is a plant which has the natural ability store water in its body or roots. they usually have fattened leaves or thick stems filled with stored water, which allows them to live through long periods without moisture. Having less leaf or surface area that is exposed to the air where moisture can evaporate, the store the water, using it when needed.

Taproot: Some plants, especially those in dryer climates, have one large central root that digs deep into the ground. In some plants that taproot is a storage facility–such as in carrots and parsnips.

Tendril: a spiraling growth that coils around anything it can grab to help support the plant as it climbs, vines use them.

Terminal:  growing at the end of a stem or branch.

Topiary: this is a technique used to shape shrubs and trees into shapes resembling animals or geometrical figures.

Underplanting: This means to plant one plant under another, like a ground cover under a tree. This can really help some more sensitive plants survive a hot summer or a icy winter, as the tree protects the plant beneath it. It shades during summer, and, if an evergreen, can protect from ice and snow during winter. It is always good to check out whether the two plants can live together first.

Variegated Foliage: leaves that are not one solid color. Most variegated plants have leaves that are a mix of green and either white, yellow or red leaves.

Vermiculite: A lightweight mica product used as a rooting medium or as a soil amendment for indoor plants.

Wilt: Drooping leaves on plant unusually caused by too much or too little water, or disease.