Gardening Essentials


Life is a Garden, Dig It

Gardening Terms Glossary - Learn About Gardens!


acre - A measure of gardening land totaling 43,560 square feet. A square acre is 208.75 feet on each side. 
aerate - Loosening or puncturing the gardening soil to increase water penetration. 
air layering - A specialized gardening supply method of plant propagation accomplished by cutting into the bark of the plant to induce new roots to form. 
annuals - Plants whose life cycle lasts only one year, from seed to blooms to seed.
Aquatic plants - Plants which grow in, live in, or live on the water. 
arboretum - A garden with a large collection of trees and shrubs cultivated for scientific or educational purposes.
arcade - a series of arches; in gardening, often a straight, tree-lined walkway, the trees forming the arched ceiling. 

bedding plant - Gardening Plants (mainly annuals), nursery grown and suitable for growing in beds. Quick, colorful flowers.
biennial - A plant that usually only lives two years, normally producing flowers and seed the second year. 
bolting - Vegetables which quickly go to flower rather than producing the food crop. Usually caused by late gardening planting and too warm temperatures. 
bonsai - The art of growing or gardening carefully trained, dwarf plants in containers. 
bracts - Leaves that develop just below the flowers on some plants. For example, poinsettia bracts, which most people think are the flowers because they turn red, pink, or white. On close inspection, however, you will discover the flowers singly or in clusters above. 
broadcast - To simply scatter seed by hand over the area to be seeded, rather than sowing in rows. 
bud - Early stages of development of a flower or plant growth. 
Bud union - The point where a plant has been grafted. Usually indicated by a small knoblike growth on a tree, shrub, or rosebush. 
bulb - The thickened underground storage organ of the group of perennials which includes daffodils and garden tulips. 

cabinet - In gardening, a term that refers to a hedged enclosure at the end of a walk. 
cambium - The thin membrane located just beneath the bark of a plant. 
catkin - A slender, spikelike, drooping garden flower cluster. 
chlorophyll - The green pigment in leaves. When present and healthy usually dominates all other pigments. 
complete fertilizer - A plant food which contains all three of the primary elements... nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. 
compost - An organic soil amendment resulting from the decomposition of organic matter. Usually effective for growth in organic gardening.
conifer - A cone bearing tree with tiny needlelike leaves. 
cultivate - Process of breaking up the soil surface, removing weeds, and preparing for gardening or planting.

deciduous - Plants that naturally lose their leaves during the winter.
dividing - The process of splitting up plants, roots and all that have began to get bound together. This will make several plants from one plant, and usually should be done to mature perennials every 3 to 4 years. 
double flower - A flower with many overlapping petals which gives it a very full appearance. 
drip line - The circle which would exist if you drew a line below the tips of the outer most branches of a tree or plant. 

epiphyte - A plant which grows on another plant but gets its nourishment from the air and rainfall. They do no damage to the host plant. 
erosion - The wearing away, washing away, or removal of soil by wind, water or man. When eroded too far, additional soil should be added for effective gardening.
evergreen - A plant which never loses all of it's leaves at one time. 
eye - An undeveloped bud growth which will ultimately produce new growth. 
evaporation - Process by which water returns to the air. Higher temperatures speed the process of evaporation. 

fertilizer - Organic or inorganic plant foods which may be either liquid or granular used to amend the soil or prepare for gardening in order to improve the quality or quantity of plant growth. 
flat - A shallow box or tray used to start cuttings or seedlings. 
foliar feeding - Applying liquid solutions of fertilizer to the leaves of plants, where they are quickly absorbed. 
frost - The condensation and freezing of moisture in the air. Tender plants will suffer extensive damage or die when exposed to frost. 

germinate - The process of the sprouting of a seed. When garden begins to take form. 
ground cover - A group of plants usually used to cover bare earth and create a uniform appearance. 
growing season - The number of days between the average date of the last killing frost in spring and the first killing frost in fall. 

hardening off - The process of gradually acclimatizing greenhouse or indoor grown plants to outdoor growing conditions. 
hardpan - The impervious layer of soil or clay lying beneath the topsoil. Hinderance to some gardening types. 
hardiness - The ability of a plant to withstand low temperatures or frost, without artificial protection. 
heading back - Cutting an older branch or stem back to a stub or twig. 
humus - The brown or black organic part of the soil resulting from the partial decay of leaves and other matter. 
hybrid - The offspring of two plants or garden flowers of different species or varieties of plants. 
hydroponics - The science of growing plants in mineral solutions or liquid, instead of in soil. 

indigenous - A plant or gardening flower native to the area. 
inorganic - A chemical or fertilizer which is not obtained from a source which is or has been alive. 
insecticide - A chemical for killing insects. 
invasive - Plants that spread out of control. 
irrigation method - Watering plants by letting the water run from the hose on the ground around the plant puddling or soaking instead of sprinkling. 
island - A flower bed or garden surrounded by lawn or water. 

kelp - Any of various large brown seaweeds, sometimes used to enrich poor soil when gardening. 
kitchen garden - A garden where vegetables, fruits and herbs are grown for use in cooking. 
knocking out - The temporary removal of a plant from its pot in order to check the condition of the root ball. 
knot garden - An elaborately designed garden consisting of flowers, herbs and/or low shrubs arranged in intricate, geometric knot-like patterns when seen from above. 

latex - Milky sap which exudes from cut surfaces of a few house or garden plants, such as Ficus, elastica, decora and Euphorbia. 
lath - In gardening, an overhead structure of evenly spaced slats of wood or other materials used to create shade. 
layering - A method of propagation, by which a branch of a plant is rooted while still attached to the plant by securing it to the soil with a piece of wire or other means. 
leaching - The process whereby a substance, such as fertilizer, dissolves and is carried away by rain water. 
leader - The primary or top stem of a plant or gardening flower. 
leaf margin - The edge of a leaf. 
loam - Good quality gardening soil used in preparing compost. Adequate supplies of clay, sand and fiber must be present. 

manure - Organic matter, excreted by animals, which is used as a gardening soil amendment and fertilizer.
meristem - Any growing point of both root and stem on a plant, where active cell division is taking place. There are both apical and axillary meristems. 
micro-climate - Variations of the climate within a given area, usually influenced by hills, hollows, structures or proximity to bodies of water. 
monocot - Any plant that has only one cotyledon, or seed leaf. 
monoecious - Having separate male and female sex organs on the same plant or garden flower. 

native plant - Any plant that occurs and grows naturally in a specific region or locality. 
naturalize - To plant randomly, without a pattern. An attempt to imitate natural growing patterns. 
node - The part of a stem from which a leaf or new branch starts to grow. 
neutral soil - Soil that is neither acid nor alkaline, having a pH value of 7. 
nitrogen - Major plant nutrient especially important for plants where foliage is the main interest. 
NPK - Acronym for the three major plant nutrients contained in manure, compost and gardening fertilizers, and used to describe the amounts of each readily available. N is representative of nitrogen, P for phosphorus, and K for potassium 

offset - A young plantlet which appears on a mature plant. An offset can generally be detached and used for propagation. 
organic gardening - Method of gardening utilizing only materials derived from living things. (i.e., composts and manures) 
organic material - Any material which originated as a living organism. (i.e., peat moss, compost, manure) 
overpotting - Repotting a plant into a pot which is too large to allow successful establishment. 

pH - 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. Soil pH can be measured with an inexpensive test kit found here(internal link). 
parasitic plant - A plant which lives on, and acquires it's nutrients from another plant. This often results in declined vigor or death of the host plant. 
peat moss - Partially decomposed remains of various mosses. This is a good, water retentive addition to the soil, but tends to add the acidity of the soil pH. 
perennial - A non-woody garden plant which grows and lives for more than two years. Perennials usually produce one flower crop each year, lasting anywhere from a week to a month or longer. 
pest - Any insect or animal which is detrimental to the health and well being of plants, gardening flowers, or other animals. 
photosynthesis - The internal process by which a plant turns sunlight into growing energy. 
pinching back - Utilizing the thumb and forefinger to nip back the very tip of a branch or stem. Pinching promotes branching, and a bushier, fuller plant. 
pistil - The seed-bearing organ of a flower, consisting of the ovary, stigma, and style. 
potting soil - A soil mixture designed for use in container gardens and potted plants. 
processed manure - Sterilized, dried, and bagged manure. Usually sold in 40 or 50 pound bags.
propagation - In gardening, various methods of starting new plants ranging from starting seeds to identical clones created by cuttings or layering. 
pruning - The cutting and trimming of plants to remove dead or injured wood, or to control and direct the new growth of a garden plant. 

quartz - Quartz can be used as a landscape mulch. Quartz comes in various colors and will not alter the garden soil pH. 
quincunx - The arrangement of five objects, such as trees or gardening flowers, with one on each of four corners and one in the center. 

raised beds - Planting areas that are mounded or boxed above ground level. Hilling soil is another method of raising the soil level. Soil dries out and warms up much more quickly permitting earlier planting and later harvesting. 
relative humidity - The measurement of the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. 
root ball - The network of roots along with the attached soil, of any given plant. 
rootbound - A condition which exists when a potted plant or garden bulb has outgrown its container. The roots become entangled and matted together, and the growth of the plant becomes stunted. 
rooting hormone - A powder of liquid growth hormone, used to promote the development of roots on a cutting. 

scion - A short length of stem, taken from one plant which is then grafted onto the rootstock of another plant. 
spent flowers - Dead or dying flowers. 
sphagnum - A bog moss which is collected and composted. Most peat moss is composed primarily of sphagnum moss. 
spore - The reproductive cell of ferns, fungi and mosses. These plants do not produce seeds. 
staking - The practice of driving a stake into the ground next to, and as a support for a plant. When staking a potted plant, the stake should be set into the planter before the plant is added. 
sucker - A growth originating from the rootstock of a grafted plant, rather than the desired part of the plant. Sucker growth should be removed, so it doesn't draw energy from the garden plant. 
systemic - A chemical which is absorbed directly into a plants or garden bulb system to either kill feeding insects on the plant, or to kill the plant itself. 

tender plants - Plants which are unable to endure frost or freezing temperatures. 
tendril - The twisting, clinging, slender growth on many vines, which allows the plant to attach themselves to a support or trellis. 
topiary - A method of pruning and training certain plants into formal shapes such as animals. 
thatch - A layer of dead grass that builds up between soil level and the blades of the grass. It keeps air, water, and fertilizer from reaching the soil below. 
topsoil - The top layer of native soil. This term may also apply to good quality soil sold at nurseries and garden centers. 
transpiration - The release of moisture through the leaves of a plant or gardening flower. 
twist ties - Short lengths of wire encased in a protective coating; they are less likely to damage or girdle branches, stems, and other parts of plants.

umbel - A flower cluster in which the individual flower stalks grow from the same point, like the ribs of an umbrella. 
unisexual - A gardening flower of one sex only. 

v-shaped furrow - A planting trench made in the shape of the letter V. It is wide at the top and pointed at the bottom. 
variegated - Leaves which are marked with multiple colors. 
viability - The ability of a bulb to grow or a seed to germinate. 
vine - A flexible shrub with extended growth in both height and length. It can be trained upward when supported by a fence or trellis or serve as a wandering ground cover. 
volunteer seedling - A plant or garden flower that sprouts from seeds formed the previous year. 

watering in - The application of water to a plant after planting it in order to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. 
water-logged - The condition of soil that has poor aeration and overwatering. 
water sprouts - Rapidly growing shoots that arise from latent buds on branches or trunks. 
water stress - The condition whereby a plant loses water faster than absorbs it. 
weed - An uninvited and usually unattractive plant that surfaces in gardens. Usually seeds are delivered by winds, but not always. 
woody - Producing hard rather than fleshy stems and having buds that survive above ground in winter. 

xerophyte - A gardening plant which is able to live under very dry conditions. 
xylem - The tissue responsible for the upward movement of water and nutrients from the roots of a plant to its leaves. 

yew - A medium sized evergreen shrub, maturing at roughly 5' tall by 10' wide with a slow growth rate. Yews like full sun to full shade and well-drained soils. 

zinc - A mineral which aids in cell division, as well as enzyme and auxin productions and utilization. Small, thin, yellow leaves as well as low yields are symptoms of zinc deficiencies. 
zone - An area defined by its range of temperatures and used to describe the hardiness of plants. 
zoning - A ring of contrasting color on a leaf or garden flower.