Decoding Garden Lingo!

Have you ever been to the garden center and felt like the staff was talking to you in some secret code that only people with a degree in horticulture could possibly understand?

Even growing up around gardening and farming there are so many codes, abbreviations and terms that even I sometimes have to go, WHAT?

Well lets take care of that now!

Aerate : Loosening the soil to increase water and oxygen flow into the soil. It certainly is no surprise that plants need water, but oxygen flow to plants roots is also important.

Annual: A plant that only lives one year and then needs to be replanted.  Many of the vegetable plants that we talk about on a regular basis here, like tomatoes, are annuals.

Bare Root: Bare root refers to plants which are sold most times as just the root system.  These roots have been removed from the soil and are often times dormant.  Strawberries and Asparagus are often sold in bare root form.  Bare root plant varieties can often cost less to purchase than live varieties.

Biennial: Biennial is a term that like annual refers to the life cycle of a plant, except lives for two years and then goes to seeding.

Bolting: Bolting is when plants will skip the process of yielding and go straight to flowering and seeding.  Often times this is caused because the plant is either planted too late, or because temperatures rise too quickly.  Bolting is a common problem with cold weather sows.  Sometimes, especially in areas like zone 6B we go what seems like from winter to summer without really having a spring.  This sudden rise in temperature can make it very difficult for cold weather sows to have enough time to life cycle in early seasons.

Bulb: The easiest way to describe a bulb is essentially a large seed that acts as a life starter for a plant.  Many perennials start off in bulb form.

Complete Fertilizer: A complete fertilizer is one that contains all three of the vital nutrients to a plants survival, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Compost: Organic material added to soil that is the creation of decomposed parts.

Crown: Where the roots meet the beginning of the plant

Cultivate: The process of loosen the top layer of soil to prepare planting, or remove weeds.

Damping off: A fungus, the usually affects seedlings in a greenhouse that can cause root rot.  Typically caused by lack of air circulation and over watering.  This can be solved by providing adequate air circulation.

Deadheading: No, no, no this isn’t what you do in an a rickety old van while following your favorite Grateful Dead cover band across the country.  Dead heading is the process of removing spent flowers from plants to help promote continued blossoming and prevent the plant from seeding to early.

Dividing: The process of splitting one mature plant and it’s root system in to many.

Fertilizer: Organic or inorganic plant food that provides necessary nutrients for plants life.

Flat: A shallow tray used to start seedlings, often times at nurseries and garden centers you can hear of deals or specials with plants being sold by the flat.

Floating Row Cover: A floating row cover is a light weight fabric that is either lightly draped or suspended above rows in a garden or plants to help keep in heat to either begin a season early or extend a season later.

Germination: The process of turning a seed into a seedling.  The germination process itself actually does not require light, or soil, however moisture and heat are necessary for this process to take place.

Growing Season: Your growing season is the estimated number of days between the last frost of the cold season and the first frost of the next cold season.  Zone 6B often is from roughly May 12 until October 2.

Harden Off: To harden off a plant is to acclimate a plant to outdoor temperatures.  Most times young seedlings can experience shock if immediately taken from a greenhouse or indoors and placed directly outside.

Hybrid: A cross species of two plants that is created by cross pollination.

Hydroponics: The science of growing plants in a mineral solution or water instead of in soil.

Manure: Animal excrement that is tiled into soil to amend and fertilize

Naturalize: To plant without any specific order in form of rows or clustering, to give the look that plants naturally grew in this manner without the touch of man.

Organic: A method of gardening that utilizes only natural products that have little to no synthetic basis.  Organic is a process to achieve a product that is natural, without following through from the beginning the process has a loss of integrity.

Perennial: Like annual and biannual, perennial is a term used to refer to a time of growth and life in a plant.  Perennials are plants that have a continuous life span of more than 2 years.  This plants usual come from a dormant stage of their lifecycle, bloom, and then again go dormant.

Perlite: A mineral that can be added to potting soil or seed starting mixes to help promote healthy moisture retention.  Perlite can also be seen in gardening as an additive to pelletized seeds to make them easier to handle.

Propagation: Starting of new seeds or seedlings in various methods of their growth.

pH: The measure of your soils acidity or alkali status

Root ball: The root system along with attached dirty to any type of plant.  Trees sold from large scale producers are often sold and sent to purchasers in this method of shipping.

Runner: A shoot from a plant that has spread out on it’s own away from the parent plant.  Once the runner has developed it’s own root system it may be trimmed away from the parent plant.  Strawberry plants can run.

Scarification: Is the scratching or lightly cutting of a seeds outer shell to help facilitate the germination process.  Some seeds have such a significantly hard outer layer that this is a necessary part of the process.

Staking: To put either a cage or pole with a plant as a method of supporting the plant.

Tender Plants: Plants that are unable to endure frost and freezing temperatures.

But if you thought that the lingo here was the only tricky thing about gardening we aren’t done yet!

You might find that even some plants have a special hidden language all of there own located on their seed packages.  For example many tomato seeds have initials after their names.  These tricky little letters are actually ways for gardeners to know what type of disease tolerance these varieties have!

  • V – Verticillium – This, like most of these may sound like something you probably should have learned about in health class in high school when it came to safe reproductive health, but in fact it is just a really long and odd name for a fungus that causes plants to wilt.
  • F – Fusarium – A separated naughty fungus or bacteria in this case that can cause wilt and similar symptoms to Verticillium.
  • FF – Fusarium 1&2
  • FFF – Fusarium 1,2,&3
  • N – Nematodes – These devilish little creatures are a type of small microscopic worm.  Nematodes are actually like the SUPERMAN of microorganisms too they have actually managed to find their way into fresh and salt water, the polar regions, soil, mountains, deserts, you name it… These little bad boys ARE PROBABLY THERE! Here is the tricky part there are good nematodes and bad ones, again the similarity to Kryptonians is odd… Good nematodes can actually help alleviate pests like cutworms, but bad ones like the Root Knot Nematode, actually attack plants AND help spread nasty viruses among your crops.
  • TMV – Tobacco Mosaic  – FUN FACT! TMV was actually the first virus among plants to be discovered.  Think of TMV like a rash, if plants get TMV they will develop a discoloration of their leaves, if they are more mature when it happens the effects will be minimal, however TMV in seedlings could lead to stunted plants that just won’t grow.
  • TSWV – Tomato Spotted Wilted Virus – Thrips, or Thunder bugs as they are also called, are the insects that help transmit this next virus.  Unfortunately for your plants if they get TSWV it is ultimately a death sentence, because once caught you should remove the plant and destroy it to help prevent it from spreading to its neighbors.  TSWV causes wilting of the plant and discoloration of the fruit.
  • ToMV – Tomato Mosaic – Like TMV, ToMV is a the discoloration of the leaves of your tomato plant.  ToMV can take place during any part of the growth process.
  • GLS – Gray Leaf Spot – ANOTHER FUNGI! This fungus is caused mostly due to excess moisture, it will appear as a dark olive green spot on your leaves.  You can remove the infected leaves, and even treat with a fungicide.  Just be sure you’re using good hygiene when dealing with this or any fungi, REMEMBER, you too are an organism!

Some like it hot, and some like it SCOVILLE HOT! If you have been looking into pepper seeds, and wondering “WHO THE HECK IS SCOVILLE?” Wonder no more! A scoville rating is given to peppers as a measure of their heat.  The number of the scoville rating represents the amount of capsaicin, or the active ingredient in peppers that gives you the burn! The scale starts relatively low around 300 being mild and 20,000 – 30,000 being EYE WATERING, MOUTH BURNING, HOT DELIGHT if that is your thing!

I am sure we couldn’t nearly cover it all! Got questions we would LOVE to hear from you! Leave your questions in the comments below and we will get back to you and maybe even feature your question in an upcoming blog, live feed, or YouTube video!


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