Monday, October 13, 2014

A Bit of Gardening Terminology

Even though winter is coming quickly, I think it is important to start preparing early so you are not rushed because time can go by so fast!  I have always dreamed of having a big garden.  I think it is very rewarding to care for something, watch it grow, and see it transform into something useful.  

Unfortunately, since I moved out of my parents' house to go to college (a few years ago), I have never lived in a place that has allowed me to set up a big garden either because of space and/or because I am renting and can't really change the landscape...and I still don't have that opportunity.  However, I am now within a day's drive of my parents' place and they live in the country, surrounded by farmland.  So, I am planning on doing research now and setting up some raised garden beds at their place to use this summer!

So, I ordered a bunch of seeds and am planning on storing them in a cool place so they last a long time.  I am looking into setting up a compost area that we can eventually add the compost to the garden this spring (but more on that later).  

I have learned that not all seeds are created equal.  So, I did some digging and here is some of the terminology that I have found:

Aeration: Any method of loosening soil or compost to allow air to circulate.

Aerobic: Describes organisms living or occurring only when oxygen is present.

Alkaline: A soil with a pH between 7.0 and 14 (on a scale of 0.0-14.0). Often referred to as “sweet” soil by gardeners.

Anaerobic: Describes organisms living or occurring where there is no oxygen.

Annual: A plant that blooms, produces seed, and dies in one year.

Beneficial Insect: An insect that benefits your garden by eating or laying its eggs in other insects, thereby controlling their population.

Biennial: A plant that completes its full life-cycle in two growing seasons. It produces leaves in the first and flowers in the second.

Biodegradable: Able to decompose or break down through natural bacterial or fungal action. Substances made of organic matter are biodegradable.

Biological Pest Control: Using living organisms such as beneficial insects or parasites to destroy garden pests.

Cold Frame: An unheated structure usually made of wood and covered with glass or plastic. Cold frames are used to protect plants from frost and are helpful season extenders.

Companion Planting: The sowing of seeds in the garden in such a way that plants help each other grow instead of competing against each other.

Compost: Completely decayed organic matter used for conditioning soil. It is dark, odorless and rich in nutrients.

Cool-Season Crops:  Peas, lettuces, radishes, brassicas (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards), and spinach germinate and thrive in the lower temperatures of spring and fall and tolerate light frosts. Many cool-season crops can be direct-sown in the garden around before the last frost.

Cover Crop: Vegetation grown to protect and build the soil during an interval when the area would otherwise lie fallow.

Crop Rotation: The planting of a specific crop in a site different from the previous year.

Cutting: A vegetative method of plant propagation whereby a piece of plant leaf, stem, root or bud is cut from a parent plant. It is then inserted into a growing medium to form roots, thus developing a new plant.

Dead Heading: The act of removing spent flowers or flowerheads for aesthetics, to prolong bloom for up to several weeks or promote re-bloom, or to prevent seeding.

Deep Shade: A plant requiring less than 2 hours of dappled sun a day.

Determinate:  Determinate plants are bush-type plants.  They only grow to a certain height, produce their fruit, and then die off.  

Direct Seed:  To seed directly into the soil instead of starting your seeds indoors.
Acidic: A soil, compost, or liquid with a pH between 0 and 7.0 (on a scale of 0.0-14.0). Often referred to as “sour” soil by gardeners.

Fertilizer: An organic or synthetic material added to the soil or the plant, that is important for its nutrient value.

Fungicides: Compounds used to prevent the spread of fungi in gardens and crops, which can cause serious damage to plants.

Germinate: The beginning of growth in seeds, the action of sprouting, budding or shooting, above the soil. This occurs whenever a plant or seed begins to vegetate into leafy young plants. The breaking of dormancy in seeds or the sprouting of pollen grains deposited on a stigma.

Hardening Off: The process of acclimatizing plants grown under protection, in the greenhouse for example, to cooler conditions outdoors.

Heavy Soil: A soil that contains a high proportion of clay and is poorly drained.

Heirloom Vegetables:  Heirlooms are open-pollinated varieties that have been cultivated for at least 50 years. They are often more flavorful, colorful, and interesting than hybrids, but they may lack disease-resistance or require staking.

Humus: A fairly stable, complex group of nutrient-storing molecules created by microbes and other forces of decomposition by the conversion of organic matter. Typically its dark loamy earth.

Hybrids:  These plants are the result of cross-breeding to produce offspring with certain desirable traits, such as disease-resistance or uniform color or size. Their complicated genetics mean that the seed inside the fruit you grow one season will not produce a plant like its parent. Each year, you will have to buy new seeds of this variety if you want to grow it again.

Indeterminate:  The plant continues to grow after it begins producing fruit.  Indeterminate plants can produce fruit all season long.

Micro-Nutrients: Some mineral elements are needed by plants in very small quantities. If the plants you are growing require specific “trace elements” and they are not getting them through the soil, they must be added.

Mulch: Any organic material, such as wood chips, grass clippings, compost, straw, or leaves that is spread over the soil surface (around plants) to hold in moisture and help control weeds.

No-Till-Gardening: This type of gardening calls for no cultivation (or tilling) of the soil after the initial tilling. In its place, regular mulches are added and plants are planted through the mulch. This saves on labor and eliminates weeds, which might germinate as a result of tilling.

N-P-K: An abbreviation for the three main nutrients that have been identified as absolutely necessary for plants are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These three are also known as “macronutrients,” and are the source of the three numbers commonly found on fertilizer labels.

Open-Pollinated (OP):  These plants come from a parent of the same variety and they can, in turn, produce offspring of the same variety. This is called "coming true from seed." The seed from open-pollinated varieties can be collected from the plants you've grown and saved to grow again next year.

Organic Gardening: This method of gardening is based on building a healthy, living soil through composting and using supplemental nutrients from naturally occurring deposits. The basic principle is to feed the soil so the soil will feed the plants. Healthy plants are better able to resist pests and disease thus reducing the need for control. If control is needed, cultural and mechanical methods are used first. Naturally derived pesticides are used only as a last resort.

Perennial: A plant that grows and flowers for years. They are either evergreens or may die back to the ground but will grow again the following season.

pH: A scale from 0-14 that explains the degree of acidity or alkalinity of the water or soil. Soil pH is very important because it affects the availability of nutrients to plants and the activity of microorganisms in the soil.

Rhizome: A fleshy underground stem or runner. Creeping grasses spread by rhizomes.

Season Extender: Any technique or piece of equipment used to extend the growing season in both spring and fall. Examples include; row covers, greenhouses, hotbeds, cold frames, and products such as Wall O’ Waters.

Soil Amendment: Material added to the soil to improve its properties. This may include; water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, aeration and structure. Soil amendments are mostly organic matter or very slow release minerals and are typically worked into the topsoil.

Soil Test: A measurement of the major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) and pH levels in the soil.

Topdressing: Applying fertilizers or some kind of soil amendment after seeding, transplanting or once the crop has been established.

Transplanting: The moving of a plant from one growth medium to another.

Vermicomposting: The use of red worms to convert food scraps or other organic materials into worm castings.

Warm-Season Crops:  Tomatoes, eggplants, summer and winter squash, beans, and corn prefer summer's heat. Plant these only after the soil has warmed. Many warm-season crops require a long growing season and should be started indoors in late winter or early spring or purchased as seedlings ready to be transplanted.

Worm Casting: The digested organic waste of red worms. Gardeners consider them the most nutrient dense organic compost available.

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