Jargon Buster

From “Blanching” to “Propagators”, you’ll become a tree of knowledge with this quick reference guide that’ll mean more time gardening and less time scratching your head. Look up any unfamiliar terms in the below lists and if there is a definition that you are looking for and it is not here, please contact us and we will do our best to help you out. 

Adjusting plants to different conditions (usually cooler) than those in which they are growing.

Acid soil
Soil that is lower than 7.0 ph. Measured by the amount of calcium in the soil, as is alkaline soil.

Aerate (soil)
Loosening soil to allow the penetration of air – as when using a tined fork to aerate the lawn.

Alkaline soil
Soil that has a pH level of about 7.0 or more. Sometimes referred to as "sweet" soil.

Usually referring to some form of organic material being added to the soil for the purpose of improvement.

Describes organisms living or occurring when oxygen is absent. Usually a term used when talking about compost heaps.

A plant that will complete its life cycle in one growing season.

Small sap sucking insects. They infect foliage and are easily recognized by the sugary "honey dew" that they secrete that often attracts ants.

Growing plants using a nitrogen cycle established with aquatic life forms

Plants such as raspberries that have been dug out of the ground when dormant with no soil around the roots.

Base dressing
An application of fertiliser, organic matter or soil before planting.

Bed system
A system of growing vegetables in closely spaced rows to form blocks of plants.

Beneficial insect
Insects that will improve soil, attack harmful insects and pollinate plants, e.g. ladybirds, bees, lacewings, etc.

Biological pest control
Using living organisms, i.e, beneficial nematodes, to destroy garden pests. This is a technique that is safe to humans, pets and the environment – perfect for organic gardening.

Excluding light to make leaves and stems tenderer.

Blossom end rot
A rotten spot at the blossom end of tomato fruit, caused by lack of calcium.

Crops that flower prematurely. Often caused by rapid temperature changes, cool temperatures, and over fertilization with hot manures.

To simply scatter seed by hand over the area to be seeded, rather than sowing in rows.

Brown rot
A fungus that is a very common disease on fruit where all infected parts should be removed.

A plant that prefers a soil that is alkaline (pH +7.0), usually a limey soil.

A plant that prefers a soil that is acidic (pH -7.0), usually a peaty or organic soil.

Catch cropping
When you sow a quick maturing crop into a vacant gap so that it is ‘out of the way’ quickly, e.g. spring onions and radishes.

Encouraging seed potatoes to develop shoots by leaving them in a light and frost-free spot.

This is a cover for protecting plants from the cold and pests.

Club root
A disease of cabbages and some related vegetables caused by the slime mold fungus.

Cold frame
An unheated outdoor frame in which young (often tender) plants are placed to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions.

Companion planting
Different vegetables that are planted together to deter pests, e.g. strong smelling onions with carrots deters carrot fly.

Complete fertiliser
A plant food which contains all three of the primary elements (NPK) ... nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

An embryonic leaf in seed-bearing plants, one or more of which are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed.

Earthing up
Process of drawing up soil from spaces between rows to create ridges. For potatoes this gives greater depth of soil in which the plant can produce tubers and therefore increases crop. Also stops tubers from turning green and becoming inedible.

A soil rich in nutrients and biological life

5-10-10 - Standard fertilizer
Used for vegetable gardening. All fertilizers have three numbers. The first is nitrogen, the second is phosphorus, and the third is potash.

The act of or the actual substance added to soil to provide additional nutrients for plants.

Light woven material used to protect plants from frost or used as a barrier against insect pests.

Foliar feeding
Applying liquid solutions of fertilizer to the leaves of plants, where they are quickly absorbed.

The processes of making a plant grow before its natural season, e.g. Rhubarb.

The freezing and condensation of moisture in the air. Frost dates are important to know for your area.

Frost hardy
Plants that are able to survive winter frosts without damage to their leaves.

Frost tender
These plants will be damaged or killed by even the lightest of winter frosts.

Full shade
This shade is sometimes called deep shade and is created by mature trees.

Full sun
Six hours or more in the direct sun during the growing season of the year.

A depression in the planting garden either dug by a spade or a plow. It is created to be planted in or to be drainage.

When seeds begin to sprout leaves.

A glass or plastic structure that is used for growing plants under controlled and protected conditions.

Green manure
A crop grown specifically for digging back into the soil to add nutrients or to provide green matter and nitrogen ready for the next crops, e.g. broad beans.

Ground cover
Term used to describe low-growing plants.

Growing habit
A direction or shape a plant takes as it grows.

Growing point
Area of new growth occurs, i.e. when a plant is pinched and the new shoots develop.

Growing season
The period of time from the last frost date in spring to the first frost date in the fall. Vegetables especially will require a certain amount of days to maturity. Make sure your growing season is long enough.

Half hardy
Plants unable to survive the winter without protection, e.g. runner beans and sweet corn.

Harden off
The gradual acclimatisation of seedlings grown indoors or in greenhouses to outside conditions before planting out by moving them to cooler temperatures for a short period.

Plants able to survive the winter without protection. Examples include brussels sprouts and broccoli.

When there is a climate change from frost to warming of the soil, it often causes the soil to buckle upward.

Aromatic plants used for seasoning, medicinal purposes, or garnishes.

A method of loosening the soil at a shallow level to kill weed seedlings.

Honey dew
The sweet and sticky syrup secreted by aphids and some scale insects as they feed on plant sap.

Soil that has no nutrients.

Fine mesh sheet used to cover crops for pest control.

Growing small crops in the spaces alongside larger slow growing plants. These benefit from shade by the larger crop, i.e. radishes, early peas, lettuce.

Irrigation method
The systemized application of water to plants.

The loss of nutrients by washing them through the soil.

Leaf mould
Compost like substance formed by partially decomposed leaves.

A member of the pea family.

Main crop
Potatoes that crop later than earlies and provide tubers that can be stored over the winter.

Any animal droppings with a high content of nitrogen, these should be composted and aged before use. Take special note not to use cat or dog droppings.

A physical area with a set of conditions different from those surrounding the area.

These are the very important nutrients that plants need for proper growth. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and from the soil they will acquire nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus and in smaller quantities calcium, sulphur, and magnesium.

Animals and plants that are too small to be seen clearly with the naked eye but are the soil enablers helping to improve the soil.

Several different types of fungi. Two popular types are downy and powdery. Shows up in cool, wet weather and leaves a white coating on the leaves.

A thick layer of compost, manure, or leaf mould, etc. placed over the ground, for the purposes of feeding the soil, conserving moisture, stopping weeds germinating, keeping the soil warm or protecting from heavy rain.

Neutral soil
This is neither acid nor alkaline; pH 6.5 - 7.5.

The minerals (fertilisers) used to feed plants.

Fertilizers and chemicals that have been obtained from a source which is or has been alive.

Organic gardening
The method of gardening utilizing only materials derived from living things (i.e. composts and manures) and uses no chemical or synthetic fertilisers or pesticides.

Organic matter
Rotted leaves, composted pine bark, mushroom compost, aged manure; usually mixed with existing soil to make it less heavy and compacted.

Plants that live for more than two years, dying out in winter but produces new growth in Spring, e.g. rhubarb, asparagus.

The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

pH scale
The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being the point at which soil has a neutral reaction. Numbers lower than 7 indicate acid conditions. Those greater than 7 indicate alkaline conditions.

Using your thumb and forefinger to remove (pinch off) the tip growth of plants to encourage a bushier growth habit.

Planting out
Transplanting seedlings developed in the greenhouse to the outside garden.

They make our world grow! Insects that hop from plant to plant - bees, moths, butterflies and bats.

Potting up
Taking young seedlings or transplanted plants into a specific container for mature growth.

Potting soil
A soil mixture designed for use in container gardens and potted plants. Potting mixes should be loose, light, and sterile.

Powdery mildew
Fungus creating a powder-like white to greyish-white cover on the leaf surface.

Pricking out
Moving tiny seedlings from pots or trays into new pots, to give them more room when their first true leaves appear.

Plastic trays with lids that speed up germination.

Techniques used to multiply a number of plants.

Raised beds
Planting areas that are mounded or boxed above ground level. Soil dries out and warms up much more quickly permitting earlier planting and later harvesting.

Rather like earthing up, this is done to support asparagus once it has turned to fern to stop wind rock and damage to the crowns.

Red spider mite
Tiny, sap-sucking spider-like mites often found in hot, dry conditions in the greenhouse.

The underground support system of a plant.

Root ball
The combined root system and surrounding soil/compost of a plant.

Root bound
Often, when plants are left too long in their container, the roots become entangled and begin to grow in circles. There is hope by separating the roots that the plants will survive when planted.

Root crops
Any vegetable where the roots are edible: i.e. carrots, potatoes, turnips.

Root rot
Quite common in plants that are affected by fungus diseases and have poor drainage.

Sucking insects found in milder climates. Not to be taken lightly, and need to be treated.

Seed trays
Used to sow seeds until they produce leaves with the intention of later transplanting to their final growing position.

Self-blanching crop
A plant that doesn’t need earthing up while growing.

A garden sieve is a frame with a mesh bottom. Mainly used for separating compost, but sometimes used in very stony gardens.

Slow release fertiliser
Generally a natural fertiliser that over a period of time will release its nutrients.

Soaker hose
Hoses that have hundreds of mini holes to let the water out slowly and can be left on for a long period of time. Great for vegetable gardens and beds that need to be watered frequently.

Soil amendment
Anything added to the soil to improve the present situation, i.e. drainage, nutrients, or makeup.

Soil test
A chemical test that measures the nutrients in your soil and its acidity.

Scattering and planting seeds to be germinated.

Station sow
Sowing small clusters of seeds at intervals that increase the chances of germination with some crops.

Succession planting
Planting a fast crop one week or so after another. The object is to keep a constant supply on hand, like squash or lettuce.

A plant that is killed or damaged by low temperatures (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Removing seedlings that are planted too closely together, so those remaining have sufficient space in which to properly mature.

A fine, crumbly layer of surface soil.

Tired soil
A piece of land that has been exhausted of its nutrient value. It does not produce like it once used to and occurs when a particular crop has been grown too long in one place.

Top dressing
An application of fertiliser or bulky organic matter that is added to the soil surface and often incorporated around the base of the plant.

Soil that is on the very top, hopefully containing a lot of humus and good elements needed for growth.

The loss of water through the pores of the leaf.

Taking seedlings from a seed bed or container and planting them where they will grow to maturity.

A condition in soil where all of the air spaces are filled (saturated) with water, and oxygen is excluded as a result.

A collapsed plant, caused by fungal disease or lack of water.