A – Z of Gardening Terms

  • ACID SOIL has a pH content lower than 7.0. The majority of plants will grow on acid soil, while plants such as rhododendrons and heathers will not grow on anything other than acid soil.
  • AERATING soil or ground, including lawns, means loosening it with tools or a machine to expose it more to the air and to moisture.
  • AERIAL ROOTS are roots you find on plant stems above ground, for example on orchids and ivy.
  • ALKALINE SOIL has a pH content higher than 7.0.With the exception of acid soil loving plants such as rhododendrons and ericas (heathers), the majority of plants thrive on slightly alkaline orneutral soils.
  • ALLERGENS are substances that trigger allergic reactions. For example, pollen is an allergen as it can cause hay fever.
  • ALPINE is a term used to describe any plant growing in the alpine zone, that is between the tree line (or the upper limits of tree growth) and the permanent snow line. Small plants growing on a rockery are also often called alpine plants.
  • ANNUAL plants only live for one year, for example sweet peas and marigolds.
  • APHID is the term used to describe a plant-louse, for example the greenfly, that infests and causes damage to plants.
  • ARCHITECTURAL PLANTS such as mahonias, fatsias and yuccas, provide a strong, lasting, evergreen framework within a garden.
  • BEDDING PLANTS are hardy, half-hardy or tender annuals, biennials or perennials, used to provide an attractive garden display.
  • BIENNIAL plants need two years to complete their growing cycle, the first to form leaves, the second to flower, fructify (fruit and seed) and perish.
  • BIOLOGICAL CONTROL is the introduction of natural predators in order to eradicate pests. For example, ladybirds are often used on plants to counteract aphids.
  • CANE is a term used to describe the thin, often hollow, woody stems of plants. It is applied especially to bamboo and to the stems of raspberries, blackberries and loganberries.
  • CELLULOSE is a carbohydrate that forms the main constituent of plant-cell walls and gives plants their shape and structure.
  • CHLOROPHYLL is the green colouring matter in plants, essential to photosynthesis.
  • CLOCHE was originally a bell-shaped glass cover, used to propagate plants or to protect tender plants or early crops from frosts. Nowadays cloches are made of glass or plastic sheeting of a wide range of sizes and lengths and are used to promote early growth in crops in open ground.
  • COMPOST is formed organically from layers of garden refuse, including grass cuttings, and uncooked fruit and vegetable peelings, inside a compost bin or in a heap or an enclosure. Over the course of a season the materials rot down to form a rich, brown, crumbly humus to spread on garden plots to promote plant growth.
  • CONIFEROUS meaning ‘cone-bearing’, is a term applied to shrubs and trees that are usually evergreen and have needle-like leaves. For example, spruces and pine trees are conifers.
  • CORM is a bulb-like, underground stem, often covered with paper-like skin, it is the plant’s storage organ, and the bud at the top of the corm contains both shoots and new roots.
  • COTYLEDON is the primary or seed-leaf that appears once germination has started. Sometimes, as in the case of broad beans, the seed-leaves remain underground, while the first shoot to appear above ground bears adult leaves, which are often quite different in shape. The onion seed-leaf looks like a blade of grass.
  • DECIDUOUS trees and shrubs, unlike evergreens, shed their leaves at the end of the growing season, in order to minimise the loss of water to the plant and to protect it from low temperatures.
  • DIBBER is the name given to any (wooden) peg or blunt-ended stick that can be used to make holes for (trans) planting bulbs, seeds or seedlings.
  • DORMANT means lying inactive or resting and refers to the period when a plant stops developing, usually throughout autumn and winter.
  • EVERGREEN trees and shrubs, unlike deciduous trees and shrubs, retain their leaves and foliage throughout the year.
  • FUNGICIDE is a fungus-destroying substance, such as copper sulphate.
  • FUNGUS generally speaking is a form of mould, a chlorophyll-free plant that feeds on organic matter. The term can also be used to describe plants such as the mushroom and the toadstool.
  • GERMINATION is the first stage in the development of a plant from seed.
  • GRAFTING is the process of inserting a shoot or bud from one plant into a slit in the stock of another, to produce an entirely new plant. Grafting is quite common with fruit trees and plants that are slow to produce roots by the usual method of propagation from cuttings.
  • HARDENING OFF is the term used to describe the gradual acclimatisation of plants that have been grown in a heated greenhouse before spring. In late spring these tender and half-hardy plants are first placed in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame or even against a warm wall outside, then they are gradually exposed to normal air conditions, in order to avoid damage from frost or cold weather.
  • HARDY ANNUAL plants flourish in the open even when there are frosts.
  • HERBACEOUS plants do not have woody stems. Herbaceous borders usually consist of perennial flowering plants that die down each autumn but reappear in the following spring.
  • HUMUS is the rich, dark brown material that results from decomposed plants, such as you find in leaf mould or well-rotted compost.
  • HYBRID is the term used for a plant formed by crossing two different species or varieties.
  • INSECTICIDE is a substance used to kill insects that are harmful to plants.
  • LAYERING is the process of fastening into the soil a shoot from a plant already growing, so that the shoot also strikes root itself.
  • LEACHING is the process of removing soluble matter from soil by allowing water to percolate through it.
  • LEAF MOULD is soil that consists mainly of decomposed leaves. Also known as leaf soil, it is an extremely rich compost that promotes successful, healthy growth in plants. Although any deciduous leaves can be used to make leaf mould, oak and beech leaves are the most suitable.
  • LEGUMINOUS plants, such as peas and beans, have seeds in pods.
  • LIGNIN is the material in the cell walls of woody plants that make them stiff.
  • LIME is an important source of calcium and is sometimes used as a fertiliser, to neutralise soil that is too acid.
  • LOAM is a mineral-rich, fertile soil consisting of a blend of clay, sand and decayed vegetable matter.
  • MILDEW is a destructive growth of tiny fungi on plants and surfaces exposed to damp conditions.
  • MULCH can consist of compost, leaf mould, straw, sawdust or peat. It is spread around the base of plants to retain moisture, protect roots and keep down weeds.
  • NECTAR is a sweet fluid produced by plants to attract insects, in order to promote pollination. Bees make nectar into honey.
  • NEUTRAL SOIL has a pH of between 6.5 and 7.0 and is neither acid nor alkaline.
  • NODE is the term used to describe a knob on a root or a branch, where shoots, buds and leaves appear.
  • PERENNIAL plants, usually herbaceous/non-woody, live for several years.
  • PESTICIDE like insecticide is a substance for destroying pests, mainly insects.
  • PH readings give you the acidity or alkalinity of the water in the soil, using the pH scale. A reading of 7.0 means the soil is neutral; below 7.0 means more acid soil, above it means more alkaline.
  • PHOTOSYNTHESIS is the process plants use to convert sunlight and water into energy. The green pigment – or chlorophyll – traps the sunlight, then turns the carbon dioxide from the air and the water from the soil into carbohydrates. These are stored as starchy substances in the leaves and roots and are then gradually released to give the plant a continuing source of energy.
  • POLLINATION occurs when plants are fertilised or sprinkled with pollen, artificially by hand or naturally by the wind, insects or gravity.
  • PRICKING OUT is the term used for planting out seedlings in rows of small holes pricked in the soil using, for example, your finger, a pencil or a knitting needle.
  • PROPAGATION is the reproduction of plants from seed or, more commonly, using cuttings from the parent plant.
  • PRUNING plants, especially those with woody stems, is used to remove dead wood and/or to promote new growth. It is also used to train or shape plants.
  • RHIZOMES are stems that remain below ground but continue to grow horizontally and form a food reserve for the plant. In iris rhizomes the terminal bud turns up and produces flowers and leaves above ground.
  • ROTATION OF CROPS is the growing of different crops in a regular order on the same plot of land, in order to avoid exhausting the soil’s reserves of minerals.
  • SPORE is the tiny, single reproductive cell of plants like mosses, fungi and ferns.
  • STERILE plants generally never seed. For example, in many double-flowered plants the reproductive organs have become petals, so the plant cannot seed.
  • SUCCULENT plants, such as cacti, have thick, fleshy stems or leaves and flourish in very dry conditions.
  • SUCKER is used to describe any shoot on a plant that comes from below ground level and usually from the root of the plant.
  • TAPROOT is the central descending root of a plant.
  • TENDER plants are not resistant to frost.
  • TILTH is crumbly, fine, cultivated soil at surface level.
  • TOP DRESSING means adding fresh soil or compost around the base of plants.
  • TRANSPIRATION is continual loss of water through leaves and stem surfaces.
  • TRANSPLANTING means relocating plants in the garden to give them more space or a better aspect for growth.
  • TRENCHES are long, narrow furrows, usually quite deep, for the cultivation of certain types of vegetables, such as potatoes and runner beans, and flowers, for example sweat peas. • TRUSS is the term used to describe a cluster of fruit, such as tomatoes, or flowers.
  • TUBERS are the short, thick rounded parts of the stem or rhizome (see above), in plants such as potatoes and dahlias.
  • VARIEGATED leaves or petals are so-called because they have spotted or striped patterns in contrasting colours.

23. February 2016 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles | Tags: , , | Comments Off on A – Z of Gardening Terms

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