Gardening Gobbledygook

The recent lockdown has seen more people looking to green spaces for respite, with an increased number of people engaging in gardening activities.  But if you are new to gardening and struggling with some of the terminology (and it’s not without it’s fair share) don’t be put off! This month we have put together a compact gardening glossary to get you started…..

Annual – a plant that completes its life cycle (germination, flowering, seeding, dying) in one growing season

Breaking bud – the stage of growth when a bud bursts through the protective bud scales

Broadcast sowing – scattering seeds evenly over the ground rather than in furrows or drills

Biennial – a plant that germinates from seed, that grows, flowers and sets seed all in two years. The plant then dies

Catch crop – a quick-maturing crop that can be grown on a piece of ground before the main crop is planted

Drill – a narrow, straight furrow in the soil in which seeds are sown or seedlings planted

Earthing uppotatoes are earthed up as they grow to prevent the tubers turning green near the surface, where it is light. Green potatoes are poisonous. Earthing up can be done in several stages, or when plants are about 23cm high. Soil is drawn up around the stems to around 10-13cm. Leeks and celery are also earthed up to produce whiter stems

Harden off – this term is used to describe letting plants grown inside, or with heat, become accustomed to conditions outdoors. If you don’t harden off your plants, the shock of the cooler conditions can damage them. You can harden off your plants by putting them in a cold frame and leaving the lid open for short periods, gradually increasing the time, until they are more able to cope with the temperature outside. Or you can put plants outside for short and then longer periods in the warmer part of the day. Try to harden off when danger of frost is passed

Hardy plants – plants that survive the winter unprotected, but half-hardy plants will need protection. Tender plants will not survive any exposure to frost

Horticultural fleece – is an opaque, lightweight material that can be used to cover and warm the soil, or to protect crops against frost/cold or as a barrier against pests. It is available from good garden centres

Intercropping – the sowing or planting of a fast-growing crop between or alongside a slower-growing crop. The fast-growing crop is cleared before the slower crop requires all the space for its latter stages of growth. Eg. Lettuce with broad beans or radishes with parsnips

Mulch – is material used to cover the soil. Common loose ‘organic’ mulches are garden compost, shredded bark and cocoa shells. Spread your mulch over the vegetable plot in spring, when the ground is wet. Mulching will suppress weed growth and conserve moisture in the soil. You will need at least 5cm (2-inches) depth of mulch for a good effect. Sheet mulches do the same job, and can be used in combination with a loose mulch or decorative layer, to hide the sheet. You can use plastic, old carpet, or proprietary semi-permeable matting. Planting holes can be made through the sheet. Lay the matting down when the soil is moist

Organic matter – composts or similar materials derived from plant material

Perennial – any plant living for at least three years

Plug Plants -this is a small plant grown in a tray with its own separate cell of compost so that root disturbance is kept to a minimum. The smallest are called mini-plugs, while large maxi-plugs are almost ready for hardening off and planting

Rootball – the roots and accompanying soil when a plant is removed from a container or lifted from the ground

Systemic / translocated weedkiller – a weedkiller that is absorbed and distributed through a plant when applied to leaves

Seed leaves – are the first pair of leaves produced by a seedling, and are a simple shape. The true leaves come through next and have the characteristic shape of the plant’s mature leaves

Successive sowing – means sowing in succession, to prevent the crop maturing all at once and producing a ‘glut’. It is often used with fast-growing crops such as lettuce, radish, spinach and turnips. As a general rule, sow a moderate amount of seed and sow the next amount when the first seed has started to show, and so on

Tilth – a fine crumbly surface layer of soil produced by cultivation

Want to unearth more gardening terms?  The RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening has a full and comprehensive glossary of gardening terms