A Gardener’s Glossary

Whether you are a beginner trying to grow a few herbs on a kitchen windowsill or a seasoned veteran starting a complete backyard renovation, having a glossary of garden terms for quick reference can be helpful. The gardening world is filled with its own sort of unusual terms and phrases that aren’t used anywhere else. To help sort out any confusion, we’ve compiled our glossary of garden terms as a quick reference guide for those who just can’t quite remember what something means.  

Aeration – Any method of loosening soil or compost to allow air to circulate.

Annuals – Plants that flower or fruit in the first year, including many flowers, herbs, and vegetables, then die after that year.

Bare Root Plants – Plants purchased with the soil washed off the roots.

Biennials – Plants that have a two-year biological cycle. They grow leaves the first year, flower, seed, and die in the second year.

Bulbs – The fleshy plant bases that store food/energy for growth.

Climbers – Plants that grow vertically, often needing a wall or trellis for support.

Companion Planting – The sowing of seeds in the garden in a way that plants help each other grow instead of competing against each other for resources.

Compost – Decayed organic matter used for conditioning the soil.

Cut Flowers – Flowers grown specifically for cutting, used for bouquets or displays.

Cuttings – Pieces of plants used for asexual propagation.

Damping Off – A group of pathogens that fester in damp conditions and kill off seedlings. This occurs mostly during indoor sowing.

Deadhead – The process of removing the flower head that has finished blooming and is dying. In some cases, this makes room for more blooms.

Deep Shade – A plant requiring less than 2 hours of dappled sun a day.

Direct Sowing – Sowing the seeds directly in the garden.

Flats – A tray of plants. These are often used when buying a bunch of plants of the same variety.

Frost Hardy – A plant is frost hardy when it goes dormant during the winter and resumes growth in spring.

Full Shade – Less than 4 hours of direct sun a day.

Full Sun – 6 or more hours of direct sun a day.

Germination – The point at which a seed undergoes physical changes and begins to grow.

Hardening Off – A process where indoor seedlings and young plants are prepared for the growing season by moving them outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to direct sunlight, dry air, and cold nights. 

Hardiness Zone – A plant’s hardiness zone tells you where it can grow, withstanding the usual climate and seasonal temperatures. As a gardener, you want to know which zone you live in, and choose your plants accordingly. Most plants are suitable for a range of zones. Click here to find your hardiness zone.

Herbaceous Perennials – Plants that die back down to the ground or just have dead growth above ground during the winter. The roots will send up new growth in spring.

Herbs – Plants of which the leaves, stems, flowers, or roots can be used for food, flavor, scent or medicinal purposes.

Indoor Sowing – Starting seeds indoors, where they grow until they are transplanted outdoors.

Leggy – A term used to refer to plants that have an abnormal amount of stem in relation to their flower and foliage.

Offshoots – New plants that branch out from the base of a plant’s main stem.

Organic Gardening – Gardening without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. 

Partial Sun – 4 to 6 hours of direct sun a day.

Perennials – Plants that live on for several years. They can flower or fruit year after year.

Pinching Out – The process of removing the growing points of a young plant to encourage side shoots to form. This encourages a bushy habit and more flowering stems.

Pollinators – A range of animals and insects that assist with the pollination of plants with their everyday movements.

Pricking Out – A process of thinning out seedlings. This is often done when several seeds germinate close together and some need to be removed to allow the healthiest one room and resources to grow.

Prune – The act of removing parts of a plant to improve its structure or health.

Stratify – A process of preparing a seed for planting by soaking it in water and then placing it in a warm or cold area.

Tender Plants – A plant that cannot withstand freezing temperatures.

Tilth – The general health of the soil usually pertaining to a balance of nutrients, water, and air.

Vermiculite – A mineral used in potting mix to retain moisture and provide aeration.

Hopefully this will be a good point of reference for you as you either jump into the gardening world or just simply need a quick refresher. Are we missing any helpful terms? Let us know in the comments below.

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