Gardening Terms and Definitions
All-America Selections (AAS): Established in 1899, the All-America Selections is a committee of professional gardeners and horticulturists across North America that tests plants of all kinds for production, tolerance, and beauty. AAS award winning seeds are simply the best of the best in American gardening. Check out our complete line of AAS Award Winning Seeds.
Acid Rain: Precipitation with acidic parts like sulfuric acid. Acid Rain forms as rain falls and collects particles in the air that are carried to the ground. This process can affect your growing conditions as the acidic rain is filtered through the soil or lands on your plant material. When filtered through the soil, aluminum and other nutrients are leached into waterways where it can become a toxin. Read the USDA Forest Service's complete Impacts of Acid Rain on Forest Health in the Arkansas Region, Rocky Mountain Region, and Appalachia.
Adventitious: Growth occurring outside of normal habits most often caused by stress during early root development. For example adventitious roots grow from non-root plant material above the soil. This can be seen when flooding or stress conditions trigger rooting hormones. For complete understanding of adventitious roots, read the American Society of Plant Biologists comprehensive look at the Physiology of Adventitious Roots.
Aeration: Aeration is the removal of some plant material to make room for air, water, nutrients, and better root growth. This process is needed when roots become too dense or thatch develops. Learn more USDA tips on Aeration of soil.
Aerobic: Organisms that can only survive with oxygen, while anaerobic organisms do not even require molecular oxygen.
Agriculture: The science and practice of farming and large crop cultivation including the rearing of animals to provide food and other products. The science of agriculture is now a staple of most major colleges and universities. While universities in China and the Netherlands have risen to some of the best in the world, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, UC Davis, and Cornell are still ranked Top 10 Global Universities for Agricultural Sciences.
Air Layering: Air layering is practice of propagation by generating root growth on stems before taking a cutting. To do this, peel away a small section of bark, surround with moist sphagnum moss, and secure with plastic and twine to retain the moisture. After about 2 weeks to a month depending on the type of plant, remove the moss, cut just below the root section, and pot. Some of the best candidates for air layering include rhododendron, azalea, magnolia, and roses. Learn some of the best tips on How to Air Layer from a Texas A&M AgriLife horticulturist.
Allelopathic: Plants that emit specialized chemicals to inhibit other plants from growing nearby. Just like people, some plants prefer to have more space to themselves. To achieve this, they release chemicals toxic to other plants which can inhibit root and shoot growth or nutrient uptake. Walnut trees are a great example of this as the chemicals they release prevent other plants from growing well within their dripline. Allelopathic crops such as aster, barley, Daikon radish, sorghum, and wheat release just enough of a signal to prevent weeds from competing for the same space.
Amend/Amendment: To add materials such as fertilizer, compost, or other soil components to existing land in order to create a more nutrient rich or beneficial environment for plant growth. Some of the most popular types of soil amendments are perlite, vermiculite, coconut coir, and worm castings.
Anaerobic: Organisms that can survive without oxygen. Organisms such as humans and animals are aerobic, requiring oxygen.
Apical: Growth occurring from the top of a stem. Some plants are described as being apical dominant when their upright vertical growth overpowers their horizontal growth, generally helping with access to sunlight among competition. Conifers are widely understood to have some of the most apical dominant species.
Asexual Reproduction: Producing new plants that are genetic clones containing no genetic variations from the parent plant. This is done by using cuttings of the original specimen, sometimes referred to as a mother plant. Both perennial and annual herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil are among some of the most popular plants to clone from cuttings.
Auxin: A plant hormone produced in apical growth, responsible for shoot development which also helps regulate vertical growth. Auxin is an active ingredient in many artificial rooting gels and hormones for such popularly cloned plants as lavender and rosemary.
Average Frost Date: The average day in a given region that marks the first fall frost and the last spring frost. These first and last frost dates bookend the growing season for any hardiness zone, providing northern gardens with fewer growing days compared to the perennially warmer climates of hardiness zones 9-11. To better understand average frost, read our Planting By Zones to learn which crops perform best in the growing season you have available.
Baby Greens: Prematurely harvested greens such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and arugula. After 2-5 weeks they are harvested because they are at their most tender state and the perfect eating size for salads, wraps, and garnishes. Mesclun salad mix features 7 different greens traditionally harvested early as baby greens.
Bacillus thuringiensis (BT): A bacteria found in the soil that generates proteins toxic to some non-beneficial or troublesome insects. It is commonly used as an insecticide to target problem larvae. Bacillus thuringiensis is a popular store-bought insecticide for controlling many problematic beetles including Japanese beetles, cucumber beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and Mexican bean beetles.
Backfill: Covering a portion of a plant in soil. Some plants require backfilling as it grows. For example, asparagus and onion sets planted well below surface level, then backfilled as it grows to keep it covered.
Balled and Burlapped (B&B): Balled and Burlapped is a method to cover the root ball of trees or shrubs so they can be transported. This method is more popular with trees too large or heavy for pots. They can be planted in the regular burlap as it will decompose, however removing all plastic, metal, vinyl or treated burlap is needed. If using regular burlap simply cut it away from the top of the root ball and remove any loose material. Check out the Arbor Day Foundation for further reading on How to Plant Balled and Burlapped Trees.
Bare-Root Plant: Bare root trees or shrubs are the easiest way to transport trees and shrubs because of how light yet durable they are. These are typically transported in their dormant state which requires less strict water needs. Bare-root plants are simply the plants without being potted exposing their root ball. If a bare-root plant is unable to be planted within a few hours the plant is okay to sit in a bucket of water or bag, otherwise it should be loosely planted. Just covering the roots in soil will allow you to temporarily store the plant until you are ready to permanently plant it within a few weeks. Some of the most common plants you can expect to buy as bare-root are roses, fruiting trees, asparagus, strawberries, and many perennials.
- Asparagus: Asparagus beans are heat tolerant annuals that produce all summer long, known for growing very long 14-30" long pods requiring a well-trellised support system.
- Bush: Bush beans are green beans that are low growing, bushy, don't require support, and produce all of their beans within about 2 weeks.
- Half Runner: Have a compact growth habit like bush beans while still producing runners and continue to produce after young beans are removed.
- Lima: Lima beans are also known as butter beans, growing flat, crescent-oval shaped seeds. They come in both bush and pole varieties and require shelling for consumption.
- Ornamental: Ornamental beans are typically grown for their attractive blooms rather than flavorful pods, and are generally not for culinary use. They are used as decorative plants for their hanging pods and spring blossoms.
- Pole: Pole beans consist of a wide variety of green beans that grow on climbing vines 6-12 feet tall requiring some type of support, produce their crop in 2-4 weeks, and are more disease resistant than bush type beans.
- Shelling: Shelling beans require their pods be removed before the edible seed can be consumed. Some of the most popular types of shelling beans include lima, and black-eyed peas.
- Wax: Wax beans are a type of edible bean known for their pale yellow and white coloration that are ripe for harvesting late spring to early summer.
Beneficial Insect: Insects which enable a healthier environment for plant growth, preying on more bothersome or disease-carrying pests. They may aid in pollination, pest control, decomposition, etc. Some of the most common types of beneficial insects include garden spiders, lacewing, braconid wasps, and lady beetles. Check out our 25 Most Troublesome Pests to learn how beneficial insects can help combat these.
Biodegradable: A material that can be decomposed by living organisms through natural processes. The term biodegradable now extends to a variety of organic products capable of being organically decomposed. Many gardening and hydroponic microgreens supplies such as biostrate mats, micro mats, and bamboo mats are created from naturally derived ingredients such as wood fiber.
Blanching: The process of growing plants away from light to prevent photosynthesis from occurring in the developing vegetable, causing it to become white a free of chlorophyll. This is preferred because too much sun exposure can cause the developing vegetable to take on a less desirable flavor. While manual blanching can be a very laborious task when growing asparagus, Belgian endive, and radicchio, there are some crops that naturally develop protective greens to blanche themselves such as self-blanching cauliflower and self-blanching celery.
Bolting: The survival process of rapidly focusing on reproductive growth rather than foliar. Usually bolting is triggered by hot weather causing the plant to produce another generation as fast as possible. Home gardeners typically grow flowering fruits and vegetables that will quickly produce flowers then "go to seed" when distressed from summer heat. When the temperatures get above 86 °F plants start to stop growing until it gets cooler. Once a plant bolts the foliage that is normally tender and delicious becomes tough, bitter, or woody. Some leafy varieties such as Lollo Rosso lettuce, Kagraner Sommer lettuce, Slow Bolt arugula, and Slow Bolt cilantro have been developed to tolerate some midsummer heat to prevent rapid seed production and the compromise of flavor.
Bottom Heat: Heat that is applied beneath seed to increase germination times. It is common to use a mat or heated water style in conjunction with a small humidity dome or mini greenhouse to maintain temp, while chambers and other methods may also be used.
Bottom Watering: Bottom watering is the practice of watering a potted plant from the bottom up, to better help the plant passively absorb water. To do so, place your potted plant in a growing tray without holes or shallow microgreens tray that can hold at least an inch of water. Add water to the tray and allow time for the water to be absorbed. Once the water begins to turn stagnant, dump the extra water out so that the plant only gets the amount of water it needs directly to the roots. This method helps prevent over watering and associated diseases. If a plant is young and still developing main root growth, bottom watering will also encourage deep root development.
Bract: A modified leaf that sometimes displays colors appearing as a flower petal to help attract vital pollinators. Some of the most common examples of flowering bracts include poinsettia, hibiscus, artichoke, and even the tiny spikelets from wheat, millet, and especially the mighty sunflower.
Bulb: A large underground bud coming from a short stem that survives on food reserves allowing it to remain in a dormant state when there is insufficient water available. Although some of the most popular varieties of bulbs such as canna lily, daffodil, iris, and gladiolus are not typically grown from seed, the garden onion is still considered the "king of bulbs" and widely grown from seed.
- Early: Early harvest varieties such as Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage and Red Express cabbage that mature quickly in as little as 50-63 days.
- Late: Cabbage varieties known for their solid heads, remarkable taste, and longer days to harvest. Varieties such as Late Flat Dutch cabbage and Danish Ballhead cabbage develop larger crops later in the season.
- Napa: Derived from the Japanese word nappa meaning edible vegetable leaves, Napa is an Asian specialty cabbage typically grown as a hybrid from more tender savoy-type cabbages.
- Savoy: One the prettiest cabbage types as it develops tender and ruffled leaves with a loose rounded head, ideal for most culinary experiences. Varieties such as Savoy Perfection cabbage and Purple Savoy cabbage mature sooner than late season varietals.
Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC): Cation Exchange Capacity is the ability of the soil to hold cations that could be used by plants. The nutrients your plants use to grow is "stuck" in a sense to the soil by chemical bonds. The higher the CEC the better your soil can hold onto nutrients. The lower the CEC the more susceptible you are to losing nutrients beyond the root zone through leaching. Cation Exchange Capacity in soil can be improved or increased simply by adding acidic lime juice, which can be tested with any common pH testing kit.
Chlorosis: The yellowing of plant foliage because there is a lack of chlorophyll. This can occur because of many problems including poor drainage, soil pH, and nutrient deficiencies such as iron. Not to be confused with blanching, which can be a laboriously challenging technique to keep plants from developing any chlorophyll before harvest.
Coconut Coir: Coco coir is a byproduct of coconut fiber that sits between the husk and coconut. It can contribute to better water retention and drainage when used with potting soil or as a garden amendment. When starting seeds coco coir pellets can be used to prepare a seedling for planting without causing damage when transferring between trays. For both price and convenience, coconut coir and sphagnum peat pellets have become the new standard when shipping soil via mail.
Cold Frame: Cold frames are used to extend your growing season through cooling temperatures. It works by creating a greenhouse environment when closed while being easily accessible. It is typically made up of a box and clear glass or plastic that can be opened to allow for an open setting through the warm months. This is a great method to use if you want to start cool season plants at the end of winter or extend your season into the cooler fall months.
Companion Planting: Companion planting is the process of pairing different plants together that can exist in a mutualistic relationship. Often one will poses qualities which encourages growth or repels pests of the other plant. Generally having more variety in your garden will encourage a healthier balance between growth and pests. Aromatic herb seeds are typically sown in the vegetable garden to provide a noxious and inhospitable environment to several small and bothersome garden pests.
Compost: A humus-like byproduct form organic matter decomposing that is rich in nutrients, typically improved by adding red worms for composting to aid in decomposition. Compost is extremely valuable in gardens because it not only adds nutrients, it improves the structure of your soil. By incorporating more organic matter, that moist and fluffy dark matter to your soil, you allow for better moisture retention and water drainage as pore space is increased. Without adequate pore space your water doesn't seep deep into the soil allowing for strong root growth. You can even run into problems with root rot because there is too much water sitting in the root region. You also want to have moist soil so your plants don't dry out. Compost also encourages healthy microbial activity suppressing soil borne diseases. A healthy soil is the basis for all organic growing endeavors as you create the most desirable conditions for your plants.
Coniferous: Trees and shrubs that are needled, cone-bearing perennial evergreens which add color to your landscape year round. Some of the most common types of conifers in North America include cedar, Douglas fir, hemlock, redwood, and spruce.
Conventional: Seed that is the result of traditional breeding methods, excluding biotechnology, and has not been certified organic. Seeds that are not explicitly labeled "organic" or "for microgreens use" are generally known as "conventional".
- Bi-color: Hybrid types grown specifically the produce both yellow and white kernels such as Ambrosia, Serendipity, and Peaches & Cream, typically maturing in about 70-80 days.
- Dent: Dent corn is a type of grain corn grown for its high starch content, and one of the 6 types of corn produced. Varieties of dent corn such as Silvermine, Trucker's Favorite Yellow, and Earth Tones Dent are more popularly used for dried flour and milling than raw eating.
- Flint: Flint corn can be identified by its hard outer shell and variety of color to the kernels.
- Normal Sugary (su): Standard sweet corn flavor and texture which retain their quality for a couple of days within the garden and have a low storage quality. Varieties such as Country Gentleman and Stowell's Evergreen boast an average 8-10% sugar content.
- Ornamental: Sometimes referred to as "Indian corn", ornamental varieties are grown for their stunningly colorful "glassy" fruit structures which are often displayed with the husks pulled back. Exotic heirlooms and radiant ornamental varieties such as Blue Hopi, Rainbow, and Earth Tones Dent have very little culinary value.
- Popcorn: Popcorn seeds such as Japanese hulless are a subtype of flint corn known for its hard shell that is burst when heated due to the release of moisture held within the kernel.
- Sugary Enhanced (se): Sugar Enhanced varieties such as Sugar Buns and Peaches & Cream boast tender kernels that are characteristic of sugary enhanced corn varieties which have a slightly longer storage capability than Normal sugary types.
- Super Sweet (sh2): Sometimes referred to as "shrunken 2" (sh2) for their slightly smaller kernels when dry, supersweet corn has twice the amount of sugar as normal sugary varieties with a slower conversion rate from sugar to starch making this type great for storage. Supersweet varieties tend to have lower yields than standard sweet corn with smaller kernels. Read further for Different Types of Sweet Corn.
- Synergistic: With a combination of higher sugar levels than the sugar-enhanced type and kernels more tender than the supersweet varieties this type is a favorite for those seeking multiple purposes out of their corn. Synergistic corn varieties such as Honeyselect and Serendipity should be planted in warm soils to avoid poor germination.
- Triplesweet: Serendipity Triplesweet™ Hybrid produces high quality 8 inch ears with 16 to 18 rows of sugar enhanced kernels. 25% of kernels are supersweet (sh2) giving extra sweetness, great holding ability, unsurpassed eating enjoyment and a long shelf life.
- White: The kernel color is entirely white such as Silver Queen and Silver King.
- Yellow: The kernel color is entirely yellow such as Kandy Korn or Early Sunglower.
Cotyledon: Cotyledons are the first set of leaves to appear after seed germination developed from the embryo of the plant. These are often highly dense with nutrients making microgreens popular for those seeking a healthy balance in their food. When germinating for microgreen seeds or sprouting seeds, it is these small and tender cotyledons that are enjoyed rather than true leaves which tend to be too fibrous for human consumption.
Cover crop: Cover crop seeds are used to prevent soil erosion, and replenish nutrients between main crops. By planting a cover crop you maintain a healthy soil structure and composition by naturally replacing nutrients used in your last crop. Often cover crops are made up of grass grains or legumes. Legumes are great because they are nitrogen fixers meaning they can change the nitrogen present in your soil to a form that is accessible to your plants. This is concerning as it takes 500 years to naturally form 2.5cm of topsoil. The structure of your soil matters making cover crops a great option for a more sustainable farm or garden. Check out our complete Guide to Cover Crops.
Crown: The base of a plant where the stems meet the root, the area responsible for transferring nutrients from the roots through the rest of the plant. It is also a common area for many fungal diseases including bacterial and botrytis crown rot, crown gall, and several others. Some garden crops such as broccoli have very thick and defined crowns while tender herbs such as cilantro and parsley have thin crowns above the soil.
- Burpless: Characteristics include being acid free and less bitter. Burpless cultivars including Muncher, Beit Alpha, and Sweet Success commonly require a trellis support system.
- Bush: More compact varieties with vines growing to about 2 ft long. Bush cucumbers such as Bush Crop, Boston Pickling, and Saladmore Bush are popular for easy pickling and container gardening.
- Pickling: Characteristics include varied coloration, thin skin, crisp and crunchy texture, and a more condensed growing habit. Cucumbers such as Boston Pickling, National Pickling, and Wisconsin SMR-58 Pickling are among some of the most treasured cultivars of pickling cucumbers.
- Slicing: Characteristics include longer fruits with thick dark green skins, preferred for slciing rather than pickling. Longer slicing cucumbers such as Straight Eight, Diva, and Long Green Improved Slicing are typically ready for harvest about a week later than smaller pickling varieties.
Cultivar: A specific plant variety that has been breed and selected for specific characteristics such as color, height, taste, disease resistance, etc. It is identified in the Latin nomenclature with single quotations. For example, the common tomato species of Solanum lycopersicum is home to more than 10,000 cultivars of tomato from the smallest cherry tomato to large competition-sized beefsteak and brandywine tomatoes.
Damping Off: The rotting and collapse of a young plant due to fungal infection common in overly wet conditions.
Days to Baby Leaf Harvest: Days from planting until immature leafy greens are ready for harvest (usually 2-3 weeks).
Days to Emerge: The number of days it takes a seed to germinate and rise through the soil surface.
Days to Harvest: The number of days it takes a seed to germinate and grow to maturity.
Days to Microgreen Harvest: The number of days from planting until microgreens are ready for harvest.
Days to Sprout Harvest: The number of days until sprouts are ready to consume.
Deadheading: Removing spent flowers allowing energy to be invested by the plant for other functions including pushing more flowers. Some of the most common flowers that benefit from summer deadheading include zinnia, cosmos, marigold, and delphinium to name a few.
Deciduous: A tree or shrub that drops its leaves annually. Some deciduous trees such as the Chinese mahogany thrives as both a 7-10 microgreen as well as 60+ year perennial.
- Arid: A hot and dry desert such as the Sahara and Mojave deserts. Herbs and flowers such as yarrow, salvia, agastache, and Russian sage thrive in arid climates.
- Coastal: Areas along a coast that are humid, but rarely get precipitation. Examples include the Atacama Desert. Perennial and annual Mediterranean herbs thrive in these dry coastal climates as well as ornamentals such as California poppy, nasturtium, and geranium.
- Cold: Deserts that are dry but experience extreme cold temperatures. Alaska is home to USDA zones 1-2, which is still very suitable for root crops like arugula, chard, and kale.
- Semi-Arid: Semi-arid deserts have long and dry summers with little precipitation in the winter. Examples include deserts found in Greenland, Europe, and parts of North America. Some semi-arid favorites include sedum, gaillardia, and Black-Eyed Susan.
Determinate: Determinate plants such as certain types of tomato, strawberry, and eggplant have a fixed growth that they will reach as well as develop fruit at the same time. They are also good for container gardening as you can plan for their size.
Dicot: Any plant with two cotyledons in the seed. These develop into the first two "leaves" you see after germination. You can usually see a pattern in the leaf blades, as well as flower parts ingroups of four or five. While many of the most common flowers, fruits, and vegetables are dicots some examples of monocots include grasses, corn, and asparagus.
Direct Sow: Direct sow means you are placing the seed in the final growing location rather than starting in a container or transplanting it. Some plants grow so quickly and do not do well with being moved or sustaining any type of root damage that can occur with transplanting. For example, wildflowers, corn, grains, and any root vegetables are among some of the crops directly sowed and harvested in the same location.
Division: The process of separating a perennial plant's foliar and bud growth with a portion of the root system to create two separate plants. This process encourages new growth from both portions for gardens favorites such as echinacea, phlox, and ornamental grasses.
Dormancy: A plants rest period which often takes place during the cold winter months. This period allows plants such as lavender, rosemary, and sage to prepare for the new seasons growth and seed development. Their metabolic processes slow requiring less water and nutrients until conditions become more favorable.
- Requires Good Drainage: Open pore space is required to allow root system access to oxygen and prevent roots from sitting in excessive water for too long. While most fruits and vegetables thrive from good drainage, potted Mediterranean herbs prefer average, dry soils and rely on drainage more than most.
- Tolerates Heavy Soils: Plants like heuchera, castor bean, and aster are tolerant of soils that are rich in clay and silt content with a greater water holding capacity.
Drip Line: The outer edge of a tree's canopy and the soil and root area beneath it. This is the area where the tree absorbs water and nutrients is also known as Critical Root Zone (CRZ) and sometimes Root Protection Zone (RPZ). If using pesticides be aware of instructions that restrict applications within tree driplines as it may damage them.
Drought Tolerant: Any plant is able to maintain its biomass amid drought conditions without deterioration between watering. Drought tolerant plants such as Dryland wildflowers, purple coneflower, and Russian sage are popular in areas of dry climates as they can minimize the impact of having a limited water supply while creating more desirable microclimates over time.
Dwarf: A plant intentionally bred to be smaller than the original plant it is developed from. Garden favorites including basil, dill, kale, and nasturtium are all available as dwarf varieties as home growers are increasingly participating in patio, balcony, container, and indoor gardening.
Edible Landscaping: Landscaping using edible plants and edible flowers. This is not the same as a traditional garden as the edible plants are incorporated within the overall design. This method can be very beneficial as many areas restrict traditional gardens through city or HOA policies, depending on where you are located. By interplanting your edible plants with edible ornamentals such as nasturtium, marigold, and borage you can also have less pest issues as the mixture of plants creates a better mutualistic balance.
Essential Nutrients: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Calcium, Magnesium, Boron, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, and Zinc. Cover crops, fertilizers, and soil amendments are among the easiest ways to directly fortify your soil.
Etiolation: The growing and deterioration of a plant due to low light or no light conditions. Without light plants take on lighter shades and have longer, thinner, and weaker stems. These conditions are often found under rocks and overgrown or dense canopies. While these circumstances are not ideal for many plants, crops such as asparagus, endive, and celery are often intentionally grown away from sunlight for improved flavor, attributed to the pale coloring.
Evergreen: A plant that maintains its green leaves year round.
F1 Hybrid: The first child of a hybrid cross. It is popular to inbreed specific varieties to create consistent traits being passed down making a seed more reliable in generating a specific size, color, yield, or tolerance. This does cause a weakened state that can be reversed by crossing the inbred variety with a different one creating a hybrid that maintains the qualities of the inbred parent with great health. This phenomenon is called hybrid vigor. Even differing crops that weren't intentionally bred still produce hybrids.
Fermenting: Fermentation is the use of bacteria to break down sugars stored within vegetables and convert them to acid, CO2, and unique flavors. The acid production prevents harmful bacteria from growing allowing the preserved vegetables to be consumes safely. In fact fermented vegetables such as cucumber, beet, radish, and peppers can contribute to a healthy gut and digestive system.
Fruit: A fleshy ovary of a flowering plant containing seeds. While some flowering plants distribute their seeds directly, others distribute their seeds in protective and delicious fruits.
- Aggregate: A fruit such as strawberry or gooseberry that develops from merged ovaries separated in one flower.
- Berry: A fleshy fruit with many seeds that comes from a single ovary of one flower. Although we may have a narrow understanding of the word 'berry' such as in strawberry, the 'berry' classification technically extends to other soft fruits that contain seeds such as tomato, eggplant, and peppers.
- Drupe: Fruit with a skin, fleshy contents, and a central stone with the seed, widely synonymous with the term 'stone fruit'.
- Grains: A single seeded fruit that is common in ancient grains and grasses.
- Hesperidium: A leather-rinded berry of citrus fruits that come from one ovary. Examples include oranges and lemons and other fruits with rinds that are too bitter and tough for human consumption.
- Legume: Fruit that develops within a pod that uses two seams to contain the seeds. Legumes are popularly cultivated overwinter to help convert atmospheric nitrogen back into depleted soils.
- Nuts: A fruit with a hard shell that protects the seed that can usually be eaten.
- Pome: A fleshy fruit with a core containing the seeds such apples, pears, or quince.
- Samara: A winged, one seed fruit that usually develops in clumps. Samara fruits are generally delicate paper-thin seed pods found on any number of elms, maples, and ash trees.
Furrow: A shallow ditch often used to plant seeds or direct water for large, broad-acre cultivation of corn, soybean, or cotton. In a ridge and furrow irrigation system water is diverted through the furrow as a type of flood system. The pattern that the ridge and furrows make have influenced several aspects of architectural design, including the construction of greenhouses.
- Arbor: A framework build to act as a passageway while allowing for vining plants to grow vertically. They are often arched and function as a decorative trellis for moonflower, morning glory, or scarlet runner bean.
- Conservatory: An extension to a house with a glass roof that covers more than 3/4 the roof area and windows covering more than half the wall space.
- Gazebo: A freestanding circular building structure with a pitched roof and open sides. They may also be screened for protection from pests.
- Greenhouse: A structure build to create a controlled environment to grow plants all year long, or to extend the growing season.
- Orangery: An extension to a house with a glass roof that covers less than 3/4 the roof area and windows covering less than half the wall space.
- Patio Cover: A structure attached to a home or other building that shades and protects a patio from rain, helping to create a suitable environment for partial-shade favorites such as astilbe, foxglove, and begonia.
- Pergola: Freestanding with an open roof that is held by columns. This structure provides filtered shade and may be used as a patio cover. Pergolas can double as a decorative trellis for nearly as vining crop, especially moonflower and grapes.
- Ramada/Pavilion: A freestanding structure with a closed roof often used to cover outdoor cooking and living areas.
- Trellis: A flat metal, wood, or plastic support for upward and vining plant growth. Crops such as cucumber, pea, pole bean, and gourds are exclusively reliant on trellises.
- Botanical Garden: An institution for plant research, usually including a large collection of plant material that is often open for observation. While there are dozens of prestigious botanical gardens in the United States, some of the most well-known include the Portland Japanese Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
- Butterfly Garden: A garden geared towards providing and improving habitats for butterflies and related insects. Wildflowers such as butterfly milkweed, wallflower, cosmos, and marigold are found in most butterfly wildflower mixes.
- Children's Garden: A garden designed for interaction with children usually chalk full of fun and easy daisies, sweet pea, and strawflower. For example they would be able to smell, play with, and physically disturb this space safely.
- Community Garden: A single area that is cultivated by a community together, or broken up into individual plots that are managed by individuals and families. Check out our favorite, Wasatch Community Gardens, to learn more about what a community garden can do for your neighborhood.
- Container Garden: A garden that is composed of confined containers. This method limits the mature size your garden can manage, making it necessary to select plants that will thrive in this type of environment. Container gardening is ideal for nearly any type of herb as well as most members in the nightshade family including tomato, pepper, eggplant, and tobacco.
- Fairy Garden: A garden created to tell stories through scenes including plants, statues, and structures. Fairy gardens are traditionally home to many kid-friendly flowers like pansies, petunias, bee balm, and yarrow.
- Flower Garden: A garden comprising different flowers which are designed for visual aesthetics.
- Herb Garden: Whether inside or out, an herb garden is designed to provide an array of fresh herbs to be used for immediate culinary and therapeutic use.
- Indoor Garden: A garden created indoors for easy access harvests. Indoor gardens can either be 100% hydroponic or 100% soil-based, either way requiring the necessary equipment such as grow lights, trays, and careful plant placement for the best results. Depending on the size and type of garden a separate structure may be required to maintain environmental control.
- Moon Garden: A garden designed with light colored plants or plants that are known to give off a fragrance during the evening hours such as evening primrose, moonflower, jasmine (nicotiana), and four o'clock.
- Patio Garden: A garden designed within a casual outdoor living area and environment. Typically this type of garden utilizes containers to create a more natural feeling environment among the living space. Patio gardens are known to include some of the most popular fruits & vegetables, herbs, and ornamental flowers known to naturally thrive in containers.
- Raised Garden: Because many overpopulated regions naturally lack fertile soil, large handmade containers are utilized to produce food for families and communities. A raised garden utilizes organic manure, store-bought or DIY soil blends to provide the best nutrient balances for growth. Soils in raised beds can still just as readily be fortified with organic means such as the addition of worm castings, cover crops, and DIY composting.
- Rock/Zen Garden: A garden created with the purpose of relaxing and interacting with to bring a sense of balance to one’s life. Rock/Zen gardens have often been used by Japanese Monks to absorb and contemplate religious teachings. Although sometimes thought of only having "rocks" present, contemporary rock gardens are best thought of as efficient xeriscaped gardens featuring some of the most drought tolerant flowers such as alyssum, ice plant, sedum, creeping thyme, and festuca grass.
- Therapeutic Garden: Gardens have been proven to affect our well-being including our mental and physical health. Gardens can be created with the intent to help balance various stressors imposed on our bodies. These gardens may include spaces designed for use by medical professionals to discuss treatments and results, provide rehabilitation exercise, and to simply escape the synthetic sterile environment into nature. Therapeutic gardens are often interchangeable with herbal "tea gardens" which feature some of the most commonly used medicinal tea herbs including chamomile, echinacea, feverfew, and bergamot.
- Vegetable Garden: A vegetable garden is one created for the purpose of producing fresh fruits and vegetables for home use or Farmers' Market. These are typically created in a backyard or within a smaller patio space. Many vegetable crops such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and herbs thrive just as readily in patio containers as they do having been grown in the garden bed.
- Victory Garden: During World War II it became increasingly difficult to cultivate food for communities or personal use across the world. Americans quickly turned to "Victory Gardens" to help stabilize local sources of food. Regardless of how much space was available, families soon turned their extra real estate space into a garden for themselves and their community. These efforts resulted in a greater popularity of heirloom varieties which became openly pollinated and produced seeds that could be stored for future seasons.
- Xeriscape Garden: Manmade landscapes and gardens intentionally designed to grow drought tolerant ornamentals and herbs to help local water conservation efforts. While cacti and succulents are some of the most popular drought tolerant crops, plants such as alyssum, sedum, creeping thyme, and purslane. While our natural potable water supply is beginning to dwindle, it is becoming more important to grow crops native to your region, which is why many desert climates are home to xeriscaped gardens and front yards.
Genetically Engineered (GE): Most commonly known as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), genetic engineering describes the high-tech methods used in recent decades to incorporate genes directly into an organism. The only way scientists can transfer genes between organisms that are not sexually compatible is to use recombinant DNA techniques. The plants that result do not occur in nature, thus are "Genetically Engineered" by human manipulation. While there are adaptive benefits to growing GMO crops, here at True Leaf Market, we do not sell any GMO seeds. Ever.
Germination: The process of a seed being triggered by environmental factors to end dormancy and begin growth. Depending on type, seeds have a wide variety of days to germination anywhere from 2 days up to several months. The point of germination is determined when the seed coat cracks open and a sprout emerges. It often looks like a little white tail behind the seed and many seeds are edible at this stage and dense in nutrient content. If you want to grow sprouts for culinary use, simply use a sprouting jar,, sprouting tray,, or seed starting trays for transplanting.
- Edible: These gourds can be used for consumption when cooked and prepared. While gourds are most widely known to be ornamental, crops such as pumpkin, watermelon, butternut squash, and acorn squash are techincally gourds that are more than ideal for eating.
- Ornamental: Winter gourds such as Apple gourds, Long-Handled Dipper gourds, Turks Turban gourds, and Shenot Crown of Thorns are primarily used for home decoration both in and out of the garden as they are thick-skin, store for several months, and come in a wide variety of exotic textures and shapes.
- Utilitarian: These gourds have been specifically cultivated to fulfill a utilitarian use such as carrying objects such as food, drink, as well as dozens of other items including musical instruments. For example, when harvested and left to dehydrate, the Luffa Sponge gourd, has been traditionally used to create organic and natural bathing luffas. Other gourds such as Birdhouse gourds make for ideal birdhouses while others such as the Corsican gourd and Bushel gourd can be easily crafted into canteens and water jugs.
Graft Union: The location where a scion and rootstock are healed together. Grafting is most commonly used for perennial trees and stone fruit trees rather than tender garden annuals. Most annual and perennial herbs can be easily propagating through simple cloning techniques rather than grafting.
Grafted plant: Plant grafting is the process of joining a scion (stem) with a rootstock. This is very common with woody plants and perennial trees but may also be done with some herbaceous plants as well. Grafting has become a popular practice as it allows desirable plant varieties to be more widely cultivated and shared. When you graft a scion and rootstock together, the rootstock is responsible for controlling the size and resistance of the plant. This allows for more tender varieties to be grafted as a scion onto a hardy variety rootstock allowing many plants to survive colder climates that previously would have died. Because the scion controls the fruiting characteristics you will continue to get fruit that is true to the desired variety. Just be sure to prune any suckers emerging from the rootstock plant.
Grains: Grains are home to some of the oldest cultivated food sources in all of civilization and can best be described as a grass that produces an edible head of seed (grain) such as wheat, oat, rye, barley, and the popular wheat-rye hybrid known as triticale.
Green manure: Similar to nutritive properties of livestock manure, "green manure" is the common practice of exclusively using decayed plants to till back into your soil for vital nutrients. Cover crops is a generic term for a small selection of legumes and grains such crimson clover, buckwheat, crimson clover, hairy vetch, and alfalfa specifically grown overwinter to be cut and tilled in the spring as an organic alternative to commercially-produced fertilizers.
- Baby Leaf: Leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula, spinach, and mustard (among others) are popular for harvesting at the baby leaf stage for delicious and tender eating. Not to be confused with cotyledons, baby leaves are best described as maturing "true" leaves that have started to develop while the plant as a whole has yet to reach maturity. These leaves tend to be more tender and are found in countless premade and commercial salad blends.
- Mature: Mature plants produce fruit, flowers, or seed regardless if they are perennial or annual. The term "fruit" being used here is simply the harvestable component of gardening crops such as a tomato, strawberry, flowering artichoke, or even a single grain of wheat.
- Microgreen: Seeds grown like grass in trays and harvested at the seedling stage when they have their cotyledons; the initial two leaves right after a seed has sprouted.
- Sprout: Seeds that are harvested within a few days of germination. They are valuable for their nutritious content as they have been called a miracle food.
Growing Season: The period between the last frost of spring and the first frost of fall. During this time plants are able to thrive. In areas without the danger of frost the growing season may last all year or be limited to periods absent of extreme heat. While extreme heat (above 86 °F) is not a marker for the growing season, it does impact your ability to propagate plants and develop fruit successfully. Each fruit or vegetable seed will be labeled with the days it takes to reach maturity. Being aware of how many days it takes to grow something will help you make the best choice of seed for your area. Many varieties and cultivars are developed to provide growers and gardeners with the best success for local climates.
Grub: A beetle larvae that lives in the soil and feeds on plant roots.
Gynoecious: Gynoecious plants are bred to only have female flowers thus increasing fruit yield. It is most commonly seen in cucumber or squash crops as they primarily produce male flowers.
- Bush: Low growing multi stemmed plants.
- Herbaceous: Plants with non-woody stems with growth above ground that dies back at the end of the growing season.
- Low-Growing: Plants that have short growth habits staying low to the ground.
- Mounding: Growth equal in height and spread creating an overall rounded shape.
- Upright: Growth directed upwards with limited horizontal spread.
- Vining/Trailing/Climbing: Plants with extensive stem growth allowing large areas to be covered including vertical growth.
Hardening Off: The process of acclimating newly grown plants in a controlled climate to the natural outdoor conditions. When plants are grown in greenhouses or cold frames it is necessary to expose them to the natural climate of your area in phases. By allowing the plants a few hours each day to be in open air and returning them to the controlled environment you condition the plant to develop hardier stems and leaves that can withstand natural wind, heat, and moisture levels.
Hardiness Zone: Hardiness Zones are areas with similar annual minimum winter temperatures. This information can generally help you select plants that will grow well in your area. While it is a great guide you should know this is not the only factor that determines if your area is suitable for a given plant. Other microclimate factors such as wind speeds, high temperatures, annual rainfall, soil type, and salt concentrations will greatly affect the success you can have with a plant. If you are considering a plant you are unfamiliar with find out if there are any special considerations that your area can not meet.
Heat Tolerance: Heat can have a great impact on plants. Typically 86 °F is the benchmark for when plants stop growing because it is simply too hot. At this point many plants begin to bolt or die. Heat tolerant plants however can continue to live while mainly pushing reproductive growth or development until temperatures begin to cool. To get a better idea of what your area is like check out the American Horticultural Society Plant Heat-Zone map. These zones can help you identify what plants will do well in your area regarding how much time your region spends over 86 °F.
Heirloom Seed: Generally defined as an open pollinated variety that has resulted from natural selection rather than a controlled hybridization process. Some sources say an "heirloom seed" variety must be at least 50 years of age to be considered an heirloom and this topic still seems to be hotly debated. Seed saved from an heirloom produces plants with the same characteristics as the parent.
Herb: An herbaceous plant with fragrant properties that are often used in cooking and medicinal applications. Typically they are very easy to grow with some doing very well indoors.
Horticulture: The art and science of growing, designing, and maintaining plants of all kinds.
Hot Pepper: These peppers contain higher amounts of capsaicin, a natural chemical that causes the variety of spicey flavors found in hot peppers.
Humus: Organic soil material made of decomposed matter that is rich in nutrients and improves plant growth.
Hybrid: Hybrid / F1 or first generation hybrid occurs when a plant breeder selects two pure lines (plants that produce identical offspring when self-pollinated) and cross-pollinates them to produce a seed which combines desirable characteristics or traits from both parents. Common traits plant breeders work to increase in hybrids might include, for example, disease resistance, uniformity, earliness, or color. Hybrid seeds are often more expensive, due to the high cost in production. Seeds can be saved from hybrids; however, plants grown from that seed will not come true. In other words, they may lack the desirable characteristics of the parents.
Hybrid Vigor: The tendency of hybrid plants to greatly outperform either parent. This occurs because of the way plants are inbred. The more a plant is inbred to ensure the desired trait being bred for is passed down, the weaker the resulting child plant can become. To counter this issue the inbred child containing the desired trait is crossed with another plant inbred for a desired trait. Because this cross breaks the chain of inbreeding hybrid vigor occurs creating a stronger, healthier, and often larger plant.
Hydroponic: The practice of growing plants in soil-less media. This method allows you to have greater control over your growing conditions as you are able to control nutrients, light, and water availabilities. Because it is so easy to create favorable growing conditions hydroponics are becoming more popular for the kitchen, apartment, and city gardeners. Because your growing season isn't limited by local climate factors you can grow all year long in a space as simple as a shipping container. As hydroponics are becoming more and more popular we are seeing more restaurants and communities being offered local produce at an affordable price.
Indeterminate: Plants that continue to grow and produce fruit over the growing season before weather or other outside factors kill the plant. This is commonly seen in tomatoes that produce over the entire growing season rather than all at once.
- Catkin: A flower cluster lacking petals with a spike inflorescence.
- Corymb: The same structure as a Cyme, however the oldest flower develops on the peripheral pedicles.
- Cyme: Pedicles attach to the peduncle at different points with the oldest flower developing central to the peduncle. The flower takes on a flat shape as the pedicles are different lengths that rise to an equalized level.
- Inflorescence: The type of clustering of flowers from a single stem.
- Panicle: A branched raceme structure.
- Raceme: Several pedicles attach to the peduncle at different locations developing shorter pedicles as you reach the top.
- Single: An individual flower develops at the top of a stem.
- Spadix: A fleshy spike with clusters of unisex flowers with a single stamen or pistil and a funnel shaped modified leaf.
- Spike: An unbranched indeterminate flower that is directly attached.
- Umbel: Several pedicels extend from a single attachment to the peduncle creating an umbrella shaped flower.
Inoculant: The process of treating seed with bacteria that aid legumes in forming nodules in their roots. These nodules are responsible for converting Nitrogen into a form that can be used by your plants. It doesn't take much to make a positive impact. The inoculant should be applied just before planting. If you wait past the active period you may not experience the results you want so be sure to plant promptly. When deciding what type of inoculant to use, match one with your crop for the best results.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM): The practice of using preventative measures to reduce pest problems by monitoring for population size, setting threshold levels for action to be taken, and treatments focused on using non-chemical methods first. This practice is gaining popularity as organic gardening is becoming favored by many people.
Intercropping: Mixing fast maturing plants with slower growing ones to make better use of an area. The quickly maturing plants will be ready for harvest before the slow growing ones need growing space they take up.
Invasive: A non-native species that is known to overtake native vegetation and compete for needed resources.
Landscape Architect: A licensed professional who is trained to design landscapes for different situation, including those requiring specific building codes are met. They are able to do anything from designing, building, and planting projects that may require heavy construction.
Landscape Contractor: A supervisor of new landscape construction and planting.
Landscape Designer: Person who designs landscapes either by hand drawing or by using a computer program to draft to scale plans.
Latin Name / Scientific Name: The nomenclature used to individually label a plant. Becaue common names can be shared among multiple unrelated plants based on cultural use, it is important to have a set standard when naming plants that can't get confused. The Latin / Scientific name is made up of 2 parts. The first is the genus which is always capitalized. The second is the specific epithet which identifies an individual plant. The specific epithet includes the species and sometimes a cultivar specified with single quotations or a variety. For example there are multiple cultivars of tomatoes so a specific tomato such as the pineapple cultivar would be identified by the genus Solanum, followed by the species lycopersicum and cultivar 'Pineapple' (not italicized). Similarly if you have multiple varieties of a plant, instead of labeling it as you would a cultivar it would be written with the abbreviation var. name (italicized). A cultivar will not necessarily produce true to type seed while a variety will.
Legumes: Legumes are plants that bear fruit inside pods such as peas and beans. They are popular not only for their fruit but for their nitrogen fixing properties that are utilized when planted as a cover crop or companion plant.
- Butterhead: Characteristics include round, loosely packed leaves with a smooth texture.
- Cos/Romaine: Characteristics include long crunchy leaves with a prominent white rib.
- Crisphead: Characteristics include tightly packed crisp rounded heads.
- Iceberg: Characteristics include round, tightly packed, and crispy leaves.
- Loose Leaf: Characteristics include loosely packed elongated leaves that grow as a rosette shape.
- Annual: Plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season. This means that the seed germinates, sprouts, matures to seed within a year.
- Biennial: Plants that complete their life cycle in two years. In the first year they put on vegetative growth followed by reproductive growth the second year.
- Can Be Grown As Annual: Perennials that are hardy to a warmer zone range but can be grown as an annual in areas with warm summers.
- Hardy Annual: Annuals that can withstand cool temperatures, usually thrive in the spring and require minimal care.
- Perennial/Tender Perennial: Perennials are plants that have persistent growth and live longer than 2 years. Many perennials die back during the winter months and come back from the same root system the following growing season. Tender Perennials are perennials that are used in climates below their appropriate growing zones as annuals.
- Tender Annual: Annuals that thrive in warm soil and air temperatures above 55 °F.
Medium: Medium horticulturally refers to the growing material being used. Soil and hydroponic mats are the most common however materials such as rocks or clay pebbles are also used. Within soil there can also be a plethora of materials mixed together. Some of the most popular are mulch, organic matter, perlite, vermiculite, and worm castings.
- Canary: Oval shaped fruit with a bright yellow corrugated rind. The flesh is light green with an orange seed cavity. The flavor is sweet with a late maturity.
- Cantaloupe: This is a vining plant that develops sweet rounded large fruit with a webbed outer rind.
- Casaba: Rounded yellow melons with furrows that run lengthwise towards a pointed end. The flesh is pale green and sweet with a subtle scent.
- Christmas: Melon with a rugged green and yellow rind with a creamy yellow-green sweet flesh and an orange seed cavity.
- Crenshaw: Yellow and green corrugated large melons with a rough rind and a tender pinkish orange sweet flesh. The fruit is elongated acorn shape with a late maturing habit.
- Honeydew: A rounded fruit that is typically 4-8 pounds at maturity with a green to creamy yellow smooth outer rind.
Microgreen: Microgreens are plant seedlings that have not matured. Because new sprouts and seedlings contain the highest amount of nutrients for many plants they have become popular for culinary use. Microgreens usually take 1-3 weeks to grow to harvest time.
Microgreen Grow Medium: The materials that can be used to grow microgreens.
Mild Climates: Mild climates lack extreme periods of hot or cold temperatures. These are also recognized as temperate regions.
Monocot: A plant with a single cotyledon and develops flower parts in groups of three.
Monoecious: Monoecious plants carry the organs or flowers of both sexes making a perfect flower. With these you only need one plant to harvest fruit.
Mulch: A biodegradable cover spread over the soil and around plants to reduce weed growth, prevent soil erosion, retain moisture, and maintain stable soil temperatures.
Mutation: A sudden heritable genetic change. Mutations may happen naturally as a result of environmental conditions or through genetic engineering.
N-P-K: N-P-K stands for the concentrations of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium a fertilizer contains. Any standard fertilizer you purchase will contain this label with the associated concentrations. If it does not explicitly say NPK, the concentrations listed will always follow this order.
Native: Native plants occur naturally within a region and have adapted to the climate and natural conditions. These plants typically give growers less trouble as they are able to naturally thrive under local climates.
Natural: Unlike organic, which has a clear set of standards, the FDA has never actually created any regulations for what "natural" actually means. On food labels USDA allows the use of the term "natural" to be used in meat and poultry labeling on products that contain no artificial ingredients or added color. The product also must be only minimally processed. The label must explain the use of the term natural, for example, no added coloring; minimally processed. There is not a definition for seed that we are aware of. There is Certified Naturally Grown. Certified Naturally Grown is based on the "Participatory Guarantee System" model of certification. These requirements are much less strict than Certified Organic. So currently the word "natural" or "100% natural" means a whole lot of nothing on a seed label.
Neem: Neem is plant that produces natural fungicide and insecticide properties. The oil is used for both of these purposes as an organic method of pest control.
Nematode: A microscopic roundworm that lives in the soil. Some are pests, while others are actually beneficial in attacking larvae pests in the soil.
No Till Gardening: The practice of no till gardening is gaining popularity as it is a great way to reduce soil erosion and maintain healthy soil. No till practices include mowing down previous crops, including cover crops, and planting directly into the soil. Planting may be made easier by creating a furrow for your seeds at the needed depth. Soil health and structure is often overlooked as we see soil as simply a holding structure for our plants. It is so much more than that as it is the avenue by which plants take up nutrients, water, and stability. It is essentially our plants home. You could look at the perfect soil as one that contains a well-draining physical structure, biological environment, and chemical properties. The biological environment is made of living components like earthworms, bacteria, insects, fungi, and any thing that contributes to decomposition and soil building. Chemical properties are those that contribute to the nutrient content and ability to access those nutrients. This includes the type of rock in your area as well as local water mineral concentrations.
Nocturnal: Plants that open their flowers at night. These plants are often used in moon gardens.
NOP-compliant: The National Organic Program (NOP) is a series of guidelines established by the USDA to ensure products labeled organic have actually followed proper procedures. When a product is NOP-compliant it has passed these guidelines and can be certified organic if reviewed by another third-party authority.
Nursery: A garden center that sells grown plants, trees, and seed. Depending on the size of the business other services and products may be offered.
OMRI: The Organic Materials Review Institute was created by organic certifiers as an independent expert to specialize in materials. Their mission is to increase trust in the global organic community as they bring transparency to what goes into your organic products. Their board is made of industry professionals and those in academia to bring you trusted information.
- Bunching: Bulbless and often known as scallions with a milder flavor than larger common onions.
- Day Neutral: Best form bulbs around 14-16 hours of light but are able to handle some variations making them a great choice for gardeners in or near latitudes between 37-47 degrees.
- Intermediate Day: Bulbs form at 12-14 hours of light. Do well when planted in the spring of areas between 32-42 degrees latitude. Known for their sweet flavor.
- Long Day: Bulbs form at 14-16 hours of light. Do well when planted in the late winter or early spring of areas between 37-47 degrees latitude. Known for their sweet flavor and long storage capacity.
- Short Day: Bulbs form at 10-12 hours of light. Do well when planted in the fall of areas between 25-35 degrees latitude. These are harvested in the spring, the earlier they are planted the larger they will be at harvest.
- Standard: Common for culinary use. Usually of the yellow sweet onion varieties.
Open-Pollinated (OP): Open pollinated seed varieties are those that result from pollination by insects, wind, self-pollination or other natural forms of pollination. If you save seeds from open-pollinated varieties and grow them, they will come true, meaning that the seeds will produce plants with characteristics or traits like the parent plant from which the seeds were harvested (Assuming they did not cross pollinate with another of the same family.
Oregon Tilth: Oregon Tilth was started because it believed that our food and agriculture should be sustainable providing the food we need while preserving the soil with the best sustainable practices. It now provides organic certifications, education, and advocacy to continue evolving agriculture practices to best benefit people and the planet together.
Organic: These products must contain 95% or more of ingredients that are certified organic. These product must not contain any (0%) genetically modified organisms (GMO) and are also subject to inspection and other restrictions. Organic products may use the term “Organic” on the front label, (but not “100%” or “certified”) and may use the USDA Organic seal.
Organic - Made with Organic Ingredients: These products must contain 70% or more of ingredients that are certified organic. The remaining non-organic products must be GMO free, and are subject to inspections and regulations. These products may not use the USDA Organic label, and can say no more than “Made with Organic Ingredients”.
Organic Certified: When you see the phrase "Certified Organic" on a seed packet, it has distinct legal meaning. It can ONLY be used for seed by growers who are in compliance with all the detailed rules and regulations specified by the USDA's National Organic Program. This is the only certification that authorizes a product to use the term "100% organic". While other countries have their own systems, in the US, organic regulations specify that the land in which crops are grown cannot have had prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest, and the operation must be managed according to an Organic System Plan that is approved and regularly inspected by a USDA accredited certifier. Organic seeds are grown strictly without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; the use of sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering are also prohibited.
Parthenocarpic: The production of fruit without fertilization or seed formation and can be seen in some pineapples, bananas, cucumbers, and grapes. These varieties are most popularly used in greenhouses or high tunnels as they don't require pollination allowing them to thrive in more controlled environments.
- Shelling: Also known as English peas, shelling peas require their pod to be removed before consumption. They have a high nutritional value making the work to remove the pod well worth it.
- Snap: Snap peas have a pod and peas much like that of shelling peas however, their pods are edible when the string from the opening seam is removed like that of the snow varieties.
- Snow: Snow peas are very thin with small peas within the pod. They are commonly used for cooking after the string from the opening seam is removed if not picked early.
Pelleting: The process of coating seeds in inert clay creating a uniform size and shape for ease of planting, especially with the use of equipment.
Perfect Flower: A flower that contains all of the male and female organs making it self-pollinating.
Perlite: An inorganic mineral (does not contain carbon) soil additive that has a neutral pH, no toxic chemicals, porous, retains moisture, and is approved by the National Organic Standards Board for organic use. Perlite is comparable to vermiculite however it has more porosity and better drainage. It is not a source of nutrients as it is an inert material meaning it simply provides a stable structure for your plants to grow in.
Pesticide: According to the EPA a pesticide is, "Any substance or mixture intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, mitigation of any pest, plant regulation, defoliant, or desiccant." Pesticides may be synthetic (man-made) or organic (naturally occurring). Organic pesticides typically are easily broke down by weather or microbes quickly reducing the chances of harmful contact. There are a few exceptions when there isn't a naturally occurring alternative.
Pheromone: A natural chemical given off by animals and insects for communication purposes. A synthetic pheromone can be used to lure insects to a trap, or to disrupt mating patterns. This is helpful in preventing insect damage in the larval stage.
Phloem: The sugary nutrients delivered throughout plants to sustain their lives.
Photoperiodism / Day Length Response: Photoperiodism is the response plants make to changes in light duration, usually in reference to flowering. There are several categories of plant that require different periods of light. Short day plants require less than 12 hours of light a day. Long day plants require more than 12 hours a day. Day neutral plants are the least restrictive as they grow well varying light conditions. Light conditions can also affect the coloration that plants display such as the common Poinsettia. A Poinsettia can live a very heathy normal life without turning red. However, these plants have been made popular during the holiday season for their bright red leaves (bracts) that appear red because of a dark period that lasts 14 hours a day in complete darkness over a span of 8 weeks.
Phytosanitary certificate: An official document verifying the inspection of a product by an authorized person to be free of pests and pathogens.
- Bract: A modified leaf that may display colors and attract pollinators as petals would. For example the red portion of a poinsettia is actually red colored bracts, rather than a flower.
- Carpel / Pistil (Ovary, Ovule, Pollen tube, Style, Stigma): The female reproductive part of the flower. The stigma is the top section that collects pollen. This is connected to the style which connects to the ovary. Along this connection a pollen tube extends allowing the pollen to travel to the ovary for fertilization.
- Node: Central locations where petioles and buds attach to the main stem. Nodes also house many of the hormones important to shoot and root growth. When propagating plants via cuttings it is important to cut near these points to facilitate new growth.
- Petal: A colorful and sometimes scented structure that often distinguishes one flower from another.
- Receptacle: The tissue at the end of a stem where the reproductive organs are found.
- Seed: A ripened ovule and covering with stored food for plant growth upon germination.
- Sepal: A leafy looking structure at the base of the flower which protects the bud as it develops.
- Stamen (Anther, Filament): The male reproductive part of the flower. The Anther holds the pollen and is supported by the filament.
- Stem: A support structure for upward growth which also houses the vascular tissue to deliver essential nutrients throughout the plant.
- Early Fall: September.
- Early Spring: February-March.
- Early Summer: June.
- Early Winter: December.
- Late Fall: October-November.
- Late Spring: May.
- Late Summer: July-August.
- Late Winter: January-February.
Plant Variety Protected (PVP): The Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970 protects intellectual property such as newly developed seed varieties. This means that a protected variety can only be produced by the breeders for up top 25 years. These seeds may not be saved. This is done in an effort to allow breeders to make back their investment in developing new varieties. This process encourages new developments by protecting the financial investments benefitting all involved while propelling further discoveries and study to feed our future.
Pollination: The process of moving pollen from an anther to the stigma of a flower enabling fertilization to produce fruit and seed.
Pollinator: Pollinators are the individual creatures that transport pollen from plant to plant. This group includes many animals and insects including birds, bees, bats, flies, beetles, butterflies, and small mammals.
Potpourri: Dried or preserved plant parts that are used to spread a delightful scent throughout a space.
Potting Soil: A mix of soil-less media such as Sphagnum Peat Moss, Perlite, vermiculite, or Dolomitic Limestone. These mixes typically provide good drainage, porosity, and moisture retention. However, they usually do not contain a high nutrient content requiring plant food or fertilizer to be added.
Propagation: Growing new plants from sexual and asexual pathways. Sexual propagation develops plants that are individual as a cross between two parent plants while asexual propagation produces a genetic clone. This can be accomplished by methods involving the vegetative plant parts (stems, leaves, and roots). Some of the most common methods are stem or root cuttings.
- Giant: These pumpkins are known for their abilities to grow large and heavy up to several hundred pounds. They are available in white and orange tones with shape partially dependent on growing practices.
- Small: Commonly used for decorative purposes, these pumpkins while small come in a range of shapes, sizes, and textures.
- White: White pumpkins have a pail outer skin with a white flesh as well. They are good for cooking in addition to decorating with.
- Midwest: The region which lies between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges. This region also includes the Missouri and upper Mississippi rivers.
- Northeast: Region of the United States bordered by the Atlantic ocean, Canada, the southern states, and Appalachian Mountains.
- Pacific Northwest: This region is bound by the Pacific Ocean over to the northern Rocky Mountains of the U.S. It is recognized as the upper portions of Oregon and Idaho as well as Washington and portions of British Columbia Canada.
- Southeast: Region of the United States that is bordered by the Atlantic ocean, Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast.
- Southwest: This region includes those states west of the Mississippi river and Rocky Mountains along the southern U.S. border up to the southern portions of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.
- Western: The region west of the Rocky Mountains, excluding the Southwest and Pacific northwest.
Resistant / resistance: Resistance does not mean a plant is immune to a pest or disease. Instead it means a plant has an ability to some degree to overcome the effects of a pathogen.
Rhizome: Underground stems that spread horizontally sending new shoots up away from the central stem.
Root Bound: The formation of a dense and entwined root ball that occurs when a plant is left in a container for too long and it has become too small for its growth. If teh roots have started to wrap around the container in a circular direction make small cuts to the root ball before replanting. This will stimulate new root growth encouraging a more natural rooting habit when the plant is placed in a larger container.
Row Covers: Row covers are a mesh type of screen that is used to cover crops protecting from the affects of pests, cold temperatures, and sun damage. They come in various weights and thicknesses which will affect the amount of light allowed through or the degree of cold protection.
Scarification: Weakening or opening the seed coat to encourage germination. Because some seeds have hard seed coats it is harder for these to germinate. This can result in low germination rates or inconsistent crops. Scarification methods typically include scratching, etching, burning, etc. The goal of scarification is to penetrate the seed coat enough that water and other substances in the soil will be able to interact with the seed to germinate.
Scoville Scale: A scale developed which ranks peppers based on their capsaicin levels associated with the level of spiciness that can be found with each pepper.
Seed: The ripened ovules of a plant containing an embryo and nutrients needed for germination until foliar growth can do photosynthesis. Seeds carry a mix of genetic material from the parent plants that can generate consistent results grown with open pollination over several years.
Seed Bank: Organizations around the world who preserve old seed varieties, keeping them available to growers. These are typically located near research facilities and climates conducive to their preservation (cold and dry).
Seedling: The stage after germination takes place. The seed will have sprouted with two small cotyledons showing. These are the embryonic leaves that developed from the nutrients provided in the seed.
Self-pollination: A flower containing both male and female parts can use its own pollen, or pollen from other flowers of the same type for fertilization.
Self-Sow: Self-sowing means a plant is able to drop its seeds for the next season. This is commonly seen in some annuals as a method of perpetuating the next generation. These plants are great for people who want a plant to come back each year. While this is not the most reliable method for retaining a plant it is important to be aware of. To prevent a plant from self-sowing remove flowers before they go to seed.
Sets: Bulbs that are grown the previous growing season, harvest immaturely, and are good to be planted. This method is most commonly seen in onion propagation. They tend to grow very quickly making it a popular method.
Slips: A cutting taken to propagate a new plant or a cut used to graft two plants together.
Smother crop: A smother crop is essentially a cover crop used to smother persistent weeds. This can be very beneficial when preparing a large weed covered field for use. Cover crops with deep tap roots can help loosen the soil while other crops can be used to enrich the soil with nutrients.
Sprout: Sprouts are germinated seeds that are simple to grow and nutritious to eat. To grow you simply need to soak the seeds for a few hours, rinse periodically, and wait for them to germinate. They can then be eaten plain, on sandwiches, or salads.
Square Foot Gardening: An organized growing technique made popular by Mel Bartholomew that follows a planting pattern that fits in a single square foot, ultimately optimizing your garden potential within small spaces.
- Summer: These squash varieties have tender skins making them delightful when harvested before reaching full maturity in the warm summer months.
- Winter: Winter squash fruit should be left until reaching its full maturity before harvest, resulting in larger squash than summer varieties. They are usually ready from the end of summer until winter sets in. Some types may be stored for winter use.
Stratification: Stratification is the process of pre-treating seeds to break their dormancy and start germination. Usually these processes mimic natural conditions the seed would experience in a native setting. To encourage these seeds to germinate various scarification processes can be used such as soaking, heat, freeze-thaw, mechanical, or acid applications. The best process for a specific seed will vary as different methods tend to mimic conditions a seed would normally encounter in its native habitat. For example many people struggle with germinating strawberry seeds. This is largely due to the fact that strawberries naturally grow well in cooler weather. To encourage germination it is best to leave strawberry seeds in a freezer for about a month, then sow your seeds and allow to germinate at room temperature. Without the freezing period you are likely to experience low germination rates.
Successive Sowing: Successive Sowing is a means of having a continual harvest. There are a few different methods to achieve this. The classic method is to simply stagger your sowing dates causing each group to mature at different times. The second method is to plant two varieties of the same vegetable with different days to maturity. Essentially you are reaching the same results with the first method with one planting date. And third, you can plant in succession meaning you plant a new crop in the place of one that has just been harvested.
Succulent: A plant with a thick leaves that store water. These plants are popular in warm climates.
Suckering: The tendency for a plant to grow roots that sprout from underground. This habit is often an annoyance to those wanting to maintain a plant within specific bounds.
- Either: This plant is very versatile and can thrive in various amounts of sunlight.
- Full Shade: 3 hours of sunlight or less.
- Full Sun: 6 or more hours of direct sun a day.
- Partial Sun/Shade: 4-6 hours of direct sun a day, usually in the morning to afternoon.
Sustainable Gardening: Gardening using practices to preserve soil health and reduce damage requiring excessive inputs for continued use.
Sweet Pepper: These peppers lack significant levels of capsaicin making them a great option for culinary use without added heat. A variety of colors can be found depending on how long the pepper is left on the plant to ripen.
Systemic (Insecticide): Systemic insecticides are those which can be taken up through the roots and delivered throughout the entire plant. This type of insecticide is beneficial in reducing populations of chewing or sucking pests as they ingest the insecticide with the plant material.
- Cold Weather Hardy: Plants are able to endure cold temperatures by reducing growth rates or experience a dormancy period. The hardiness can be identified by observing the zone rating assigned to the plant. The lower the zone value assigned to a plant the lower the temperatures it can endure.
- Heat Tolerant: Plants are able to withstand excessive heat.
- Prefers Cold Climate: These plants rely on cool temperatures as their optimal growing conditions. Excessive heat, especially that of 86 °F or more, will result in decreased plant quality and eventual death.
- Prefers Warm Climate: These plants prefer warm weather because cold temperatures may cause devastating damage to plant material. Temperatures above 86 °F may also cause damage or slowed growth as this plant is not heat tolerant and relies on adequate moisture levels.
Terra Cotta: Terra Cotta is a type of potter that is commonly used for plants because the clay material is porous enough for air and water to pass through preventing root rot and disease.
Thatch: A layer of organic matter that develops around the base of plants, most commonly grass, and prevents proper water and fertilizer access by the root systems.
Thinning: Removing young plants to make room for others to grow stronger and healthier. By removing a few plants that are too close together you enable better root development, access to light, and prevent stunted growth that can occur when plants are densely packed together.
Tolerant / tolerance: A plants tolerance refers to non-disease stress that affects a plant. For example environmental factors such as drought, heat, cold, salt, and pests put stress on a plant that will affect its growth potential. Some plants are naturally more tolerant of these condition than others making them desirable in specific climates.
- Beefsteak: Large, firm but juicy tomatoes that are great for slicing, canning, or can be used for sauces.
- Cherry/Grape: Cherry tomatoes are small, juicy, and just big enough for a single bite making them great for snacks and salads. Grape tomatoes are very similar with an oblong shape less juicy as they have more flesh.
- Early Season: These varieties are larger than cherry varieties yet smaller than most summer maturing varieties. They have a tangy flavor and are available in deep reds or variations with orange striping.
- Orange: These tomatoes come with an orange skin and flesh. Their acid content is usually higher than most yellow tomatoes.
- Paste: Paste tomatoes are known for their thick and meatier fleshy inside that creates great sauces or salsa.
- Pear: Known for their teardrop or pear shape these tomatoes are small, and sweet. Yellow varieties are the most common while orange and red varieties are available as well.
- Pink: These tomatoes come with a pink skin and are sweet tasting.
- Processing: These varieties are known to hold up to consumer standards of color, firmness, juice content, and a lack of large blemishes.
- Purple/Black: With darker skins and flesh these tomatoes have a unique sweetness as they contain less acid than your common red varieties.
- Red: These tomatoes come with a red skin and flesh.
- Saladette: Commonly used as a processing tomato saladette varieties are less juicy with a high flesh content making them great for cooking, canning, sauces, and salsa.
- Slicing: Slicing tomatoes are known for their superior flavors paired with juicy yet firm flesh making them great for cooking and canning.
- Striped: Variations of multiple colors are displayed on the skin of the tomato as well as some variations within the flesh as well.
- White/Green: These varieties have unique tastes to them as they are tagy and a little sour. They can be used for canning, sauce making, relishes, or to add some color to any dish. Be careful not to eat unripe green tomatoes as they can cause stomach upset.
Transpiration: The escape of water from a plants leaves causing wilt and affecting growth if not well balanced with water intake.
Transplanting: Transferring a plant to a new planting location. It is common to transplant young trees, bushes, fruits, vegetables, and houseplants. After fruits and vegetables are started indoors they are traditionally transplanted outside after the last spring frost has passed.
Treated: These seeds could be treated with pesticides or fungicides. You would not necessarily know that the seeds were treated unless you bought certified organic seeds. Current rules for the USDA certified organic program prohibit the use of treated seed. So just because it says "all natural" or even "untreated" what does that mean? Who certifies that? As you have just read, "all natural" or "natural" literally means nothing other than fluff or fancy words on a seed packet. Many seeds that are imported into this country are treated/fumigated for pest and disease in quarantine. Those seeds then go on to be put in pretty packages with all sorts of words and pretty pictures.
- Bark: The external tissue of the tree.
- Cork Cambium: The growth tissue responsible for bark development. This is the layer that is harvested for cork used for many products.
- Heartwood: The dense, dry section of wood in the center of the tree. This section is dead, however it is also a strong support that is able to withstand the stress of several tons.
- Living Phloem: The layer of living cells responsible for delivering nutrients necessary for growth throughout the tree.
- Periderm: The outer layers including the cork cambium and cork.
- Pith: The center of a tree trunk with the oldest wood.
- Rays: Pathways that have carried sap to the outside of the trunk. This has left a visible line over time.
- Sapwood: The new growth that is still living and provides a water delivery system to the whole tree. As the inner layers die they turn to heartwood.
- Vascular Cambium: The growth tissue responsible for horizontal growth of a tree.
Tree Training Methods
- Bonsai: The style of growing and training trees in a mini style. As the branches grow they are carefully formed in purposeful directions and pruned for shape. The practice of bonsai training is popular in Asian cultures as they are created to direct energy into a space, remember events or people, and spread joy.
- Cordon: A branch that has been trained to grow on a slant. This method, when used with fruit trees, stimulates greater reproductive growth resulting in larger yields per foot of space. To do this plant your young tree at a 45 degree angle. Ensure the grafting union is above ground. To maintain the Cordon shape you may secure the single branch to a wire or stake to maintain the correct growing direction. Then maintain the new growth each year by pruning away undesired branches and trimming to encourage better fruit development.
- Espalier: A tree trained to grow in a flat style, or against a wall. To create this style plant your young tree as normal. If planting against a wall you may need to prune of branches that would interfere with the planting. Once planted, prune to maintain a layered look with one central leader going upward. Then train each branch to grow horizontally by using a metal or wood guide to secure each branch to. Each year you will need to prune in order to maintain this shape and encourage more fruit production.
- Fan: This tree training style will create a fan look as the tree is planted against a wall. To train first prune off needed branches to create a flat plane. Then plant the young tree as you normally would with a slight lean towards the wall. Next, secure the branches to horizontal guides to create the fan shape. Prune as needed to encourage growth and shape.
- Lattice Espalier (Belgian Fence): A tree trained to grow in a flat style while creating a lattice pattern. To create this style follow the instructions for a normal espalier style. Instead of training each branch to grow horizontally, you will instead prune for 2 leading branches initially. These will need to be trained to grow at 45 degree angles in opposite directions. As new growth occurs on each branch, prune with the exception of growth located at equal heights on opposing leaders at the inside surface of the branches. Train these new branches to grow at 45 degree upward angles. As they grow, they will create a lattice pattern when maintained.
- Multiple Cordons: A single tree that has been trained to direct multiple branches into a cordon style. To do this plant your tree as you normally would. Then prune for multiple leaders in a horizontal line, leaving space between each one. Secure each leader with wire or a stake to lean at 45 degrees. This will trigger the same growth style as a traditional cordon. Maintain new growth to preserve the cordon style.
- Palmette: This style is very similar to an espalier in that layers are created at the same levels. However, instead of maintaining a straight horizontal line like an espalier, the ends are curved up creating a U-shape at each level. Maintain for shape each year.
- Pleaching: Pleaching is the style of growing several trees in a line following the espalier style. As the trees grow closer to each other the branches are tied together creating a fence look. Maintain new growth each year.
- Stepover For this low growing style that appears as a horizonal bar you would need to step over, plant as you normally would. Then prune the branches leaving two leaders opposite each other. Using a horizontal support secure each branch to direct horizontal growth. Prune each year to maintain its shape.
Tuber: A swollen underground stem that stores nutrients. It is often composed of starchy tissue allowing for long overwintering storage.
Underseeding: Cover crops are incredibly useful in protecting and preparing your soil. Underseeding is the utilization of cover crops to prevent weed growth and acts as a mulch for your existing crop. After you are done harvesting the underseeded cover crop acts as a green manure.
Untreated: Current rules for the USDA certified organic program prohibit the use of treated seed. So just because it says "all natural" or even "untreated" what does that mean? Who certifies that? As you have just read, "all natural" or "natural" literally means nothing other than fluff or fancy words on a seed packet. Many seeds that are imported into this country are treated/fumigated for pest and disease in quarantine. Those seeds then go on to be put in pretty packages with all sorts of words and pretty pictures that basically mean a whole lot of nothing.
Variegated: Foliage with varying colors or patterns.
Variety: A plant which is related to others of its kind with a limited variation. For example a flower may come in many different colors. A specific color will share the same characteristics with the rest of the available color options except it will reliably reproduce with a true to type seed. This means that unlike different cultivars, a seed could be harvested from a purple variety flower, planted, and produce the same type of purple flower. When it comes to naming different varieties you will see it identified with the Genus species var. name. Often times you will see the variety name will describe the significant difference from the rest of the species.
Vegetable: A plant, or portion of, that is consumed. This can include the root, stem, leaf, flower, and tuber.
Vermiculite: An aluminum-iron magnesium silicate that appears like mica. It doesn't rot or mold making it a great medium to grow in. It is used in garden or potting soil to increase water and nutrient retention while contributing to the soil porosity. It is commonly used as perlite is, however it has a higher water retention ability with less pore space. Vermiculite would be recommended over perlite for plants that require higher water content.
Vernalization: Exposing seed or plants to low temperatures to stimulate flowering or seed production earlier than normal. This practice is common in warm climates that don't experience a cool enough off season. Devernalization can occur by placing vernalized plants in a hot environment reducing flowering. This process occurs in onion sets as they are stored below freezing. Be sure not to leave your sets in extreme high temperatures before planting.
Viability: The ability of a seed to germinate and produce a healthy plant.
Vigor: Ability to put on healthy growth among stress factors.
Volunteer: A plant that grows in a space that was not planted on purpose. A volunteer may occur as the result of self-seeding from the previous years crop or plantings.
Waterlogged: When water has soaked the soil down to the water table causing its rise. When the soil is this wet there is not enough oxygen and pore space for root respiration. This results in the eventual death of your plants or the inability to grow.
- Orange: While popular for its unique fleshy orange color this melon will grow oblong with an excellent taste and texture.
- Red: The inner flesh is red with a sweet flavor. These watermelons tend to be some of the largest.
- Seeded: This watermelon will contains seeds.
- Seedless: This watermelon does not develop seeds.
- Yellow: The inner flesh is yellow with a mild sweet honey like flavor. These varieties tend to be smaller than red ones.
Wheatgrass: The young grass stage of wheat. At this stage what is full of vital nutrients and is deemed a super food and praised for its many health benefits. It can be consumed by juicing and drinking small amounts daily to several times a week.
Windbreak: At least one row of trees closely planted to reduce the effects of wind on a garden or planted area.
Winterkill: The dieback of plant material due to excessively cold temperatures and other microclimate factors such as wind.
Worm Casting: Worm castings are earthworm waste or manure which improves soil aeration and drainage. It also contributes greatly to the soil because it is rich in nitrogen, phosphates, and other minerals.
Xeriscaping: Landscaping with a focus on reducing the need for irrigation by utilizing water wise plants and materials such as soil, rocks, and mulch. With recent droughts and a greater demand for potable water outside the landscape xeriscaping is becoming more popular.
Xylem: Vascular tissue of the plant that delivers water throughout the system.