Whether you are reaching for gardening for beginners guides or are a dab hand, gardening terms can be a jungle of confusion. From 'hardening off' to 'biennal' - we've pulled together a list of meanings for common gardening terms to help get over the jargon.
Acclimatisation is when plants adjust to cooler (often outdoor) conditions. Often heard at the beginning of spring, before planting out plants that have been growing indoors over winter. Also see ‘hardening off which is the technique to help plants acclimatise for cooler conditions.
Acid soil is when the PH is lower than 7. Some plants, like nasturtiums or parsley need acidic soil to thrive. Also see Alkaline soil.
Aerating is the practice of loosening compact soil, usually with a trusty garden fork to allow air in. This benefits your plants giving them good drainage and fertile ground to grow big and strong.
Alkaline soil is when the PH is higher than 7. Plants like lavender and forget me nots do really well in alkaline soil. Also see Acid soil.
A plant that will sprout, grow, flower, seed and complete its life cycle in a year. See also 'Perennial' and 'Biennial'
Bedding plants including violas and sweet peas, provide immediate bursts of transient hues. They are ideal for garden beds, border landscapes, plant containers, and hanging baskets.
Biennial is a plant that has a 2 year life cycle. Growing in the first year and flowering and going to seed before dying off in the second.
Bokashi is a composting technique that comes from Japan, where the name means "fermented organic matter". It's a bit different from the usual composting method that needs a mix of brown and green materials, air, and a good amount of time. Instead, Bokashi quickly breaks down food waste in a sealed container, using a special helper substance called an inoculant.
Bolting is when vegetables and herbs go to seed before you would like them to. Often this brought on by stress - like a cold spell, lack of water or particularly hot conditions. It normally makes the vegetables and foliage woody, bitter to eat and virtually unusable. Very common with lettuce leaves and spinach.
Broadcast sowing involves scattering seeds across an area, rather than neatly planting them in trenches or straight rows.
In the field of botany, a bud represents an immature or nascent shoot, typically found in the junction of a leaf or at a stem's end. A bud, once established, can either stay dormant for a certain period or start forming a shoot right away.
Yellowing plant leaves due to insufficient chlorophyll. Chlorosis can be caused by a number of issues, including disease, damaged or bound plant roots, highly alkaline soil, inadequate drainage, and/or nutrient deficiencies.
This is a natural fibre derived from the exterior husk of coconuts. It assists in maintaining soil moisture while simultaneously promoting drainage and aeration.
In gardening terms, a cold frame is like a mini greenhouse. It's a low-to-the-ground box with a clear top. It's designed to keep your plants safe from harsh weather like too much cold or rain. The clear top lets in the sunshine while keeping warmth from escaping, especially when it gets chilly at night.
Plants and vegetables that are grown near one another for mutual benefits such as attracting pollinators or deterring pests. Try growing chives near carrots to deter carrot fly or sweet peas near broad beans to attract pollinators or basil near tomatoes as they both love the same growing conditions.
When we talk about a plant's crown, we're referring to everything you can see above the ground. This includes the stems, leaves, and any flowers or fruits. When a bunch of plant crowns grow together in one spot, we call it a plant community canopy.
Days to Maturity
The time from when seeds are sown until the plant should be ready to harvest. A plant description or seed packet will usually outline the specific varieties’ expected growth timeline (also including days to germinate/sprout), though different care and growing conditions can lead to some variation.
Deadheading is simply removing a plant's spent flower heads, often as they start to seed. Deadheading can encourage new blooms. Usually, you remove the flower up to the node below the flower.
Deadheading is to cut off spent flowers to encourage the plant to bloom again, often flowering for a second time before the end of the season., extending the plants flowering period.
Direct sowing refers to planting seeds straight into the garden (whether in-ground or containers), where they will joyfully grow and thrive.
The process to drill is a straight, slim ditch dug in the ground where seeds get planted or young plants are placed.
Earth up refers to the practice of piling soil around the base of a plant. This technique serves multiple purposes: it helps to block light, safeguards against frost and stimulates the growth of roots from the stem. It's a technique frequently employed when cultivating potatoes.
Espalier is a time-honoured gardening technique where you prune and tie branches of a woody plant, like a fruit tree, onto a frame. It's a way of controlling how the plant grows to boost fruit production.
This refers to a type of plant that maintains its foliage year-round. Evergreen species keep their leaves for over a year, continuously replacing older leaves over a gradual period.
F1 Hybrid is the first generation of baby plants you get when you mix two different types of purebred plants together. These hybrids are known for being strong and very similar to each other. However, if you plant the seeds from these F1 Hybrids, they won't grow up to be the same as their parent plants.
Force: Spurring growth when it's not the season. This is when you coax a plant to flower or fruit at a time that's not its usual season. It's a trick often used to get a plant to flower or fruit ahead of its normal schedule. Mostly, this is done in greenhouses or a warm window sill where we can manage things like light and temperature.
Position in your garden that gets 6 hours or more of sunlight in a day.
When seeds begins it's physical changes and grows roots and leaves. We like to think of it as the moment you have cracked it's code to get it to grow.
Grafting is basically a garden hack where you stick two plants together so they can grow as one. The top part, or the scion, is usually a branch or stem. The bottom part called the rootstock, is the one with the roots. The tricky part is making sure the parts of both plants that transport water and nutrients mesh well together for the graft to work.
Hardening off is the method of getting your sprouts and plants that have been grown indoors or in a greenhouse used to outdoor temperatures. By hardening off, your sprouts won’t get stressed, wilt or in some cases die off. See also ‘Acclimatisation’.
Plants that are tough enough to survive winter without any protection. Ordinarily this means the plant is capable of withstanding outdoor winter temperatures down to -15C.
A herbaceous plant is a type of perennial plant that doesn't develop woody stems or branches. These plants often retreat into dormancy during winter through their underground roots or woody base. When spring arrives, they return to active growth.
Last Frost Date
The last frost date points to the final chilly spell in the spring where you live - so you can plant out new or tender plants. While the first frost date marks the start of these cold snaps. These dates and temperatures can really differ based on where you live - the state you're in and how high up you are. Plus, whether you're city living or out in the countryside can make a difference too.
"Leggy" is a term used in gardening to refer to seedlings that have grown too tall and thin. These seedlings aren't the best, as they tend to be weaker and more likely to fall over. You can avoid leggy seedlings by ensuring they get plenty of bright light. Seedlings become tall and stretched out as they reach for more light, and will grow in the direction of the strongest light source. Most leggy seedlings' stems can be partially buried once they've been properly acclimated to outdoor conditions.
A fertile soil mixture made up of equal amounts of sand, silt and a little less clay. The ratio is about 40-40-20%. Loam is a garden favourite as it is considered ideal for retaining nutrients well and absorbing water while still allowing excess water to drain away.
Micro greens is the process of harvesting young, leafy vegetables and herbs whilst they are still sprouts. With their small tender leaves, they often have a concentrated flavour and are rich in goodness (making them an ideal salad topper).
"Mulch" is stuff you spread over the ground and around plants to keep the soil moist, keep weeds away, and make the soil better. You can use all sorts of things for mulch, like well-aged manure, compost, reuse compost bags or even gravel.
N-P-K stands for the big three nutrients that plants absolutely need: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). They're also called "macronutrients." When you see three numbers on a fertiliser bag, that's what they're talking about.
Plant varieties that produce seeds that are 'true', growing into near identical plants from which they were grown from (not cross pollinated). Unless otherwise stated as a hybrid, the plant it is often open pollinated. Choosing open pollinated means you are supporting the bio-diversity of the seed and being a part of the seeds history.
Perennial means plants that live for more than 2 years. Also see 'Annual' and 'Biennial'.
Pinching out means taking off the growing tips of a young plant to make it sprout side shoots. It's a neat trick to make the plant grow in a fuller, bushier way and to get more stems that will bloom.
Pollination is the word describing the process of moving pollen from one flower to another. It can happen with a little help from the wind, bugs, animals, or even by hand.
Pot on means taking a plant out of its current container (usually because it's grown too big for it) and moving it into a new, roomier one so it can keep growing.
Pricking out is when you move your seedlings from pots or trays to give them more space to grow, normally when their first set of true leaves have grown.
Propagation is the act of producing new plants using a range of techniques, such as growing from seeds, using cuttings or grafts, or other parts of the plant.
Root rot is a nasty fungal disease that affects the roots of the plant, often causing the plant to wither and die. Often caused by overwatering or plants in pots without much drainage.
The mix of roots and dirt that tags along when you pull a plant out of its pot or lift it from the ground.
Scarifying, also called de-thatching, is all about cleaning up your lawn by getting rid of the accumulated dead grass, or thatch. As the grass grows, it spreads through side shoots, which eventually die off and can choke out the living grass if they pile up too much. Scarifying gives your lawn a fresh start by clearing out the dead stuff, which in turn lets water and nutrients get down into the soil and helps your healthy grass thrive.
A plant in its early stages of life, grown from a seed.
Spacing is all about how much space you leave between seeds in a row, and from one row to the next. The size of the seed and the grown-up plant it's going to become decide how much space you need. So, bigger plants need more elbow room between seeds and rows, while smaller seeds can be snugger and closer together in the row.
The process of simulating the natural process of breaking a seeds dormancy that it would naturally experience over autumn and winter. Placing seeds in a moist and cold environment (often the fridge with a damp tissue in a bag) before taking them out to sprout.
Succession Sowing, also known as Succession Planting, is a gardening strategy where you consistently plant new seeds or young plants in different time intervals throughout the growing season. The purpose of this approach is to stagger harvest times, resulting in a steady, prolonged yield over several months rather than having a large volume of crops ready all at once. It's particularly useful for fast-growing vegetables like radishes, bush beans, or baby greens.
To thin out is when you remove seedlings that sprout to close to one another, to allow the strongest seedlings to grow with less competition for light and nutrients.
Tilling means breaking up the soil to prepare it for planting. Effective tilling churns dirt from eight to 10 inches below the surface, creating a loose, aerated soil bed for planting seeds or seedlings.
Tilth is the top layer of soil that's been broken down into small, loose pieces through digging and raking.
Transplant is the process of relocating a young plant, typically from a pot, to its final spot in the garden where it's set to flourish, bloom, or bear harvest.
Vermiculite is a natural mineral that's been heated to high temperatures, resulting in lightweight, super-absorbent flakes. When you mix Vermiculite into your growing medium, it boosts aeration and helps hold onto more moisture and nutrients.
Lots of water and no wear for it to go, waterlogged pots or even beds is when you have an excess of water submerging the pots, best avoided by using free draining soil and lifting plants off the ground with feet in the winter.
A weed is thought to be a plant that's not where it should be. A weed is just a plant that's ended up somewhere it's not wanted or supposed to be.