There’s lots of talk about pH these days (ever purchased alkaline water?), and soil pH is no different. Acidic soil is soil with higher acidity/a lower pH level. Acidic soil is not inherently problematic for all plants, but it can limit nutrients for many species.
Air circulation. An important component of healthy plant growth and development, and an aspect of indoor plant health that is often overlooked. Keep it breezy, friends.
On the other end of the spectrum from acid soil, alkaline soil is soil with a high pH level. Like highly acidic soil, soil that is highly alkaline can limit nutrients for many plants.
Annual plants generally carry out their life cycle within a single growing season. Annuals will typically reseed and die off in the winter, meaning these types of plants will need to be replanted every year.
“Bare roots” are perennial plants that are sold with their roots exposed (gasp), as opposed to more modest plants, which are sold potted in soil.
Some might consider it superficial, but bedding plants are generally used for their attractive blooms. Often annuals, bedding plants are typically planted in garden beds or containers for a season, and then discarded. Beauty is only petal-deep, people.
While annuals typically live for one season and perennials can live for three or more, biennials have a two-year life cycle. In other words, biennials will generally die and reseed after their second year.
Unlike that Styrofoam to-go container you got when you went out to eat the other night, biodegradable items can be broken down by bacteria or fungus. Biodegradable things make the environment happy.
Botanical names – nomenclature
This is the scientific naming of plants. Each botanical name includes a genus and a species.
Bolting is what happens when a plant (typically an edible green) prematurely seeds. This is something most gardeners try to avoid. There is no pill for this. Instead, thoughtful sowing, enriched soil, consistent harvesting, and ideal weather conditions are the best prevention.
A bulb is an underground storage mass of immature leaves in which nutrients are held. These nutrients are then used in dormancy. Examples of bulbs include onions, garlic, daffodils, tulips, and light. Wait, scratch that last one.
Bumping up or potting on – these terms refer to the act of moving seedlings into bigger containers before being planted in the ground.
Iron deficiency gang rise up! But not too fast. In medicine, chlorosis refers to anemia caused by iron deficiency. In plants, chlorosis refers to lowered levels of chlorophyll in leaves, which usually presents as yellowing. There are many possible causes of chlorosis in plants, including iron deficiency.
Friendship at its finest. Companion planting is the practice of growing different species of plants near each other for the benefit of one or more of the species.
Compost is a mixture of decayed/decomposed organic substances that is often used as plant fertilizer. Examples of things you can compost: apples, leaves, and newspaper. Things you cannot compost: rocks, plastic, and difficult emotions.
Cooperative Extension Services (CES)
Each state offers cooperative extension services to farmers and gardeners. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) originally offered services - such as advice from local experts - to farmers in partnership with universities. Today, extension services have broadened to include things like Master Gardener programs, soil testing, and 4-H.
You know when worms infest ears of corn? This isn’t that. Corms are actually similar to bulbs. They are underground storage organs. But whereas bulbs are composed of layered modified leaves, corms are a solid enlarged stem.
This is a type of plant propagation in which a section of a plant’s stem, leaf, or root is cut and can be grown into a new plant.
This pleasantly self-explanatory (albeit somewhat violent) term refers to the removal of dead blooms or spent flowers from plants. And you didn’t ask for this additional definition, but we’re giving it to you free of charge: In non-gardening terms, deadheading refers to a semi-truck hauling an empty trailer.
Deciduous trees and shrubs shed their leaves each year. Autumn wouldn’t be the same without pumpkin spice lattes. Errr….deciduous trees. We meant deciduous trees.
To dry up; extreme dryness. This term has all sorts of applications in the plant world, and we know you don’t have all day, so we’ll just leave it at that.
In broad botanical terms, the term determinate is used to describe a plant’s growth, and means that growth or production is determined, finite, or predictable. Indeterminate growth is more unpredictable, undefined, or occurs over a longer period.
Perennial plants that are separated into two or more pieces which can then grow on their own as separate plants.
Drip line irrigation is the controlled delivery of water to plants through tubes or pipes. Drip line irrigation typically uses less water than other methods of irrigation.
Plants become established when they have a house and financial stability. …Or, more likely, when they have a strong root system and they begin to produce new growth.
Evergreens are plants that remain green throughout more than one growing season. Think pine trees (but fake Christmas trees don’t count).
Like the animal kingdom, plants reproduce through fertilization. However, fertilization in gardening terms is more often the act of adding a nutrient-rich substance to soil (or in some cases, to leaves) to aid plant health and growth.
Foliar feeding is the act of applying liquid fertilizer to the leaves of plants.
If you’ve ever met with a potential love interest and found it to be awkward and uncomfortable, then you know exactly what a frost date is. Oh, you’re here for a plant-based definition. That’s our bad. In botany, a frost date is the date the first and/or last frost of the year. Frost dates change based on location.
Full sun refers to plants that need a certain number of hours of sunlight per day – typically a minimum of 6. The human equivalent of this is people who live in Arizona.
Germination is the act of a spore or seed beginning to grow.
In broad terms, grafting is taking one plant, making a cut or opening, and inserting another plant into the opening. In time (when done correctly), the plant tissues grow together and the two plants become one. Plants are wild, aren’t they?
Alright, we’re going to try to keep this PG. Hand pollination is a manual plant fertilization technique. It’s the human-assisted transfer of pollen from the stamen (the male part of the plant) to the pistil (the female part). This act assists in plant reproduction.
Hardiness zones are geographic areas which show where certain plants can thrive based on temperature.
Hardening off is the act of transitioning a plant from a comfy cozy indoor environment to the harsh outside world.
Herbaceous plants have a couple notable features: they reach their full growth potential within one year, and they die back in the winter and repeat that same growth cycle each year. They also have a non-woody stem.
Heirloom means exactly what you think it means. Isn’t it nice when that happens? It’s a variety of plant that has been passed down through generations. Heirloom plants are varieties that existed before modern-day commercial varieties.
Hybrid plants are plants which have been purposefully cross bred to gain some kind of advantage. We often breed hybrids to be larger, more uniform, or to have better yield.
Certain plants grow indeterminately – they will continue to grow and add leaves, roots, etc., if the necessary nutrients are available.
Landscaping is the act of updating or manipulating a yard or other outdoor space, most often using plants, in an effort to make the space more attractive.
While for humans this is often a positive attribute, in the plant world, many gardeners would like to avoid long, thin stems (legs) that can’t adequately support the plant.
Medium: less exciting than communing with the dead, a plant’s medium just connects it to its surroundings. Soil, water, compost, even rock or air are all potential mediums.
Fresh or old. Sweet or pungent. Lots of plants love poop and poop related products. Usually made from animal feces, manure can often improve the quality of soil for plants.
A small area in which the climate differs from the surrounding climate.
Small but mighty: These are nutrients that are essential for plants, but only in small quantities. They are boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.
These plants have no need to go on dates or woo a mate. They have both male and female reproductive organs.
Cover that ground, it’s exposed! Often composed of wood chips or straw, mulch can be anything organic in nature that provides groundcover, prevents weed growth, and protects plants.
Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium – the three main nutrients that plants need to be successful in life. Fittingly, these are also the three main components of fertilizer.
Nitrogen is an element. It’s the gas that makes your Guinness’s foam so creamy (and, less significantly, the most abundant element in our atmosphere). In plants, it is part of the chlorophyll molecule, which allows plants to photosynthesize.
A location that receives three to six hours of direct sunlight a day.
Peat moss is a type of moss that is often used in potting soils because of its excellent drainage. It is a renewable resource, but still takes a heavy toll on the environment when mined.
Perennials are plants that can live for three or more years or growing seasons.
Phosphorus is a macronutrient (alongside Nitrogen and Potassium) which plants require for growth and development.
Pollination is, effectively, making babies. Reproduction. There, we said it. It involves the transfer of pollen from the male anther to the female stigma.
There’s been lots of focus on pollinators recently, and rightfully so. Pollinators are living organisms including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, which transfer pollen from the male anther to the female stigma and therefore aid in plant reproduction.
A macronutrient (along with Nitrogen and Phosphorus) that plays an important role in plant growth and health. While humans tend to find potassium in foods like bananas, plants find their macronutrients in soil (or fertilizer).
They grow up so fast *sniff*. Much like toddlers outgrowing their clothes, plants can outgrow their pots. Potting up simply means moving a plant to a larger pot to account for and accommodate growth.
To increase in numbers. In plants, this happens through sexual or asexual reproduction.
This isn’t what happens to your hands when you stay in the water too long. It’s cutting back specific parts of a plant that are no longer healthy or visually appealing, but that are not necessary for the plant to continue healthy growth and development.
While this sounds like it could be a hair product, it’s actually the act of pouring a liquid chemical or chemicals over the soil/roots of a plant so that they can be absorbed and provide some function for the plant. These chemicals are typically herbicides, pesticides, nutrients, etc. The alternative is spraying the leaves of plants or using granular formulas that are mixed into the soil.
If a plant outgrows its living space, its roots will become bound by its container and will eventually stop efficiently absorbing nutrients, etc. Happy plants have containers that give their roots room to grow.
This is the zone or area of soil in which the roots of plants can absorb water.
When a dandelion finishes flowering, seeds take the flower’s place in the form of the white fluffy floaties (technical term) that we’ve all blown off of a dandelion. Broadly speaking, seed heads are the seeds that a plant produces after flowering.
You know not all seedlings are cute, but we would never tell their mothers that. Seedlings are young plants that have grown from seed. They are newly able to photosynthesize and form roots.
Semi-determinate plants (often tomatoes) tend to be smaller than indeterminate plants, but they can produce fruit indefinitely/throughout a growing season.
Well, shoot. A shoot includes the stem, leaves, and reproductive parts of the plant.
The little-known 28th amendment to the US Constitution (just kidding). A soil amendment is anything that is added to soil to make it a better environment for plant growth.
Also known as root drench, this is the act of pouring a liquid chemical or chemicals over the soil/roots of a plant so that they can be absorbed and provide some function for the plant. These chemicals are typically herbicides, pesticides, nutrients, etc. The alternative is spraying the leaves of plants or using granular formulas that are mixed into the soil.
Sometimes plants get their dressing on the side. Side-dressing is adding fertilizer to the side of a plant’s stem or roots, on or in the soil.
Don't fall! Most commonly used in reference to sweet potatoes, a slip is a shoot that has grown from a mature plant and can be used to propagate the plant.
The acidity level of soil. Most plants are happiest with a soil pH between 6 and 7.
A soil test is what parents do to check if their child has a dirty diaper. Hold on, we’re being told that’s incorrect. A soil test is any test that measures a certain soil component (such as pH) to ensure the soil will provide a healthy environment for a plant or plants.
While this term is spelled the same as a female pig (isn’t language fun), sowing in gardening terms means planting, and is most used in reference to seeds.
Staking plants is the act of inserting a rod or stake into the ground next to a plant to secure the plant with ties. This provides support for the plant and keeps it upright.
To till is to make soil ready for planting or to cultivate soil. This typically integrates a combination of actions, but most often will include some form of soil aeration.
No, Shakespeare didn’t make up this term, although it certainly sounds like some hardcore Old English. It means prepared or cultivated soil, or soil that is ready for planting.
Transplanting is an enjoyably self-explanatory term which means to take a plant out of a certain location and replant it somewhere else (move it).
Plant sweat. Ok, not exactly, but it’s not that far off! Transpiration is when a plant releases water in the form of vapor through its stomata (cell structures in leaves).
You say potato, we say tuber. A tuber is like a corm or a bulb in that it serves as an underground nutrient storage system. A tuber is part of a plant’s root system and unlike corms, they have no basal plate.
Volunteers are plants that were not deliberately planted. They are “surprises”.
Woody plants are typically trees and shrubs. They are plants that have hard (one might even say “woody”) stems. They continue growing throughout more than one growth cycle, and they can survive above-ground in the winter.