Don’t get lost in the jargon! Although we’ve tried to keep the subject of vegetable
gardening on this site simple for the beginner, there is some basic gardening
terms that still need explaining. From “Hardening Off” to “Thinning Out”, you’ll
become a tree of knowledge with this quick reference guide that’ll mean more
time gardening and less time scratching your head.
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.
Soil that is lower than 7.0 ph. Measured by the amount of calcium in the soil, as is 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.
Loosening soil to allow the penetration of air – as when using a tined fork to aerate the lawn.
An application of fertiliser, organic matter or soil before planting.
A system of growing vegetables in closely spaced rows to form blocks of plants.
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.
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 acidic (pH -7.0), usually a peaty or organic soil.
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.
A disease of cabbages and some related vegetables caused by the slime mold fungus.
An unheated outdoor frame in which young (often tender) plants are placed to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions.
Different vegetables that are planted together to deter pests, e.g. strong smelling onions with carrots deters carrot fly.
A plant food which contains all three of the primary elements... nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Decomposed garden waste (grass clippings, fallen leaves, etc.) or garden vegetable matter that is put into the soil to enrich it.
Planting different crops each year in the same beds in a sequence of seasons to get the most out of the soil, avoid soil diseases and to control pests.
The region where the shoot and root join, usually at or very near the ground level.
To remove weeds and debris and loosen the soil.
Cut and come again crops
Quick growing plants that are picked as individual leaves rather than harvested as a whole.
When a fungal disease destroys emerging seedlings by rotting the stems at soil level.
A pointed tool used to make holes in the soil for seeds, bulbs, or young plants.
Putting the seed directly in the soil as opposed to transplanting seedlings from the seed tray after germination.
Preparing the soil by systematically digging an area to the depth of two shovels.
Discolouring and blotches on the upper leaf surface, most commonly on young plants and those grown with poor ventilation.
How water moves through the soil which should be easy. If there is standing water create better drainage by adding non-porous material.
Shallow straight grooves made in a prepared seedbed.
A trickle irrigation system. Highly recommended for soaking the soil well.
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.
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.
Plants that are able to survive winter frosts without damage to their leaves.
These plants will be damaged or killed by even the lightest of winter frosts.
This shade is sometimes called deep shade and is created by mature trees.
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.
A glass or plastic structure that is used for growing plants under controlled and protected conditions.
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.
Term used to describe low-growing plants.
A direction or shape a plant takes as it grows.
Area of new growth occurs, i.e. when a plant is pinched and the new shoots develop.
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.
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.
The sweet and sticky syrup secreted by aphids and other sap-sucking insects that sometimes gets mouldy fungus on it.
The organic residue of decayed organic material.
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.
The systemized application of water to plants.
Compost like substance formed by partially decomposed leaves.
A member of the pea family.
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.
The minerals (fertilisers) used to feed plants.
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.
Rotted leaves, composted pine bark, mushroom compost, aged manure; usually mixed with existing soil to make it less heavy and compacted.
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.
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.
Taking young seedlings or transplanted plants into a specific container for mature growth.
A soil mixture designed for use in container gardens and potted plants. Potting mixes should be loose, light, and sterile.
Fungus creating a powder-like white to greyish-white cover on the leaf surface.
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.
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.
The combined root system and surrounding soil/compost of a plant.
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.
Any vegetable where the roots are edible: i.e. carrots, potatoes, turnips.
Quite common in plants that are affected by fungus diseases and have poor drainage.
Used to sow seeds until they produce leaves with the intention of later transplanting to their final growing position.
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.
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.
Anything added to the soil to improve the present situation, i.e. drainage, nutrients, or makeup.
A chemical test that measures the nutrients in your soil and its acidity.
Scattering and planting seeds to be germinated.
Sowing small clusters of seeds at intervals that increase the chances of germination with some crops.
Planting a fast crop one week or so after another. The object is to keep a constant supply on hand, like squash or lettuce.
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.
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.
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.
When a seed germinates a pair of leaves is produced. The set of leaves to appear after these are the true leaves.
The swollen part of a plant underground that stores energy, e.g. potatoes.
A collapsed plant, caused by fungal disease or lack of water.