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Vegetable Glossary

List of common gardening terms used when growing Vegetables and Herbs

Fruit Glossary

As with many specialised subjects, when reading about growing vegetables you will inevitably come across a term you will not have heard before. Below is a list of terms with brief explanations of what they mean. Whilst it's not a definitive list, it should enable you to understand most of the terminology used in articles on this site.

Over the coming months, we will be adding more in-depth articles about growing edible crops. As and when these are published, links to them will be added to any corresponding terms below.   See also the "Fruit Glossary".


Acidic soil A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil.  See pH below
Aerate Loosening  soil to increase water penetration often with a garden fork
Alkaline soil A soil with a pH higher than 7.0 is an alkaline soil. See pH below
Annuals Plants whose life cycle lasts one year -  from sowing to blooming to seeding then dying
Balanced fertilizer Plant food which contains a balance of all three  primary elements i.e. nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
Bare root Plants sold which have had all of the soil removed from their roots
Biennial A plant which lives two years, usually producing flowers and seed in the second year
Bolting Vegetable plants which flower quickly rather than producing the crop.
Bud Early stages of development of a flower or shoot
Broadcast seeding The act of scattering seeds, by the handful, across a large area. This process is typically used for seeding of lawns and wildflower gardens.
Cold frame A small enclosure which is covered with glass or clear plastic, used to create a greenhouse effect for young plants.
Bulb The dormant immature part of a plant which is planted to grow new plants e.g. garlic (also sometimes called sets)
Canes, bamboo Sticks of various lengths made of bamboo used for supporting or training plants and trees
Catch Crop A fast-growing crop that is grown simultaneously with, or between successive plantings of a main crop
Chlorophyll The green pigment in leaves
Companion Planting The placing of different types of plants in the same vicinity for beneficial purposes e.g. certain types of flowers which will attract pollinating insects
Compost A planting medium which is the  result of decomposed of organic matter.
Cover crop See Green Manure
Crowns The name given to certain dormant usually bare rooted plants which are sold for planting e.g. Asparagus
Crown The point where a plant's roots and top growth join
Cultivar A cultivated variety or strain of a plant produced by horticultural techniques and not normally found in wild populations
Cultivate The breaking up of soil  and removal of weeds in preparation for planting.
Cuttings A method of obtaining new plants  using sections of stems, roots or leaves from existing plants - propagation
Damping off A fungus which usually affects seedlings causing the stem to rot at soil level.
Dead head The process of  removing faded blooms to prevent plants from setting seed
Dibble stick A pointed tool used to make holes and drills  in soil for sowing seeds or planting bulbs and young plants.
Disease A bacterial or fungal infection which has a detrimental affect on a plant
Deciduous A plant which looses its leaves for part of the year (usually in winter)
Dividing A method of obtaining new plants by splitting up the roots of existing plants
Dormant The time in a plant's life when growth slows or stops allowing the plant to rest
Double digging Preparing the soil by systematically digging an area, usually in trenches, to the depth of two shovels.
Erosion The wearing or washing away of soil usually referring to wind or water
Fertiliser Organic or inorganic plant foods which may be either liquid or granular added to soil or compost to improve the quality of plant growth.
Foliar Feed Fertilizer applied  in a fine liquid spray  to a plants leaves
Forcing The process of hastening a plants growth
Germinate The sprouting of a seed
Glut, a Where a large amount of crops are ready to harvest at the same time
Green Manure Plants grown in the absence of a normal crop to control weeds and which is then dug into the soil to add humus prior to regular planting.
Growing season The amount of time between the average date of the last harsh frost in spring and the first harsh frost in Autumn
Hardening off The process of gradually acclimatising indoor grown plants to outdoor conditions
Hardy The ability of a plant to survive low temperatures or frost without protection
Heirloom plant A plant, vegetable, or seed that has been in cultivation for several years.
Herbaceous Describes a plant with soft rather than woody stems
Humus The brown or black organic part of the soil resulting from the partial decay of  other substances
Hybrid The offspring of two plants of different species or variety created when the pollen from one plant is used to pollinate a different variety resulting in a plant which shows characteristics of both parent plants
Inter-cropping Growing a  fast-growing crop between other slower growing crops
Leaf mould Partially decomposed leaves used as a soil conditioner
Leggy Term used to describe a plant-or a portion of a plant-that has grown long, thin stalks. This is usually due to lack of adequate sunlight.
Loam A rich soil composed of clay, sand and organic matter
Manure Organic matter excreted by animals, which is used to enrich, condition and and fertilise soil.
Microclimate The climate within an area which may differ from the general surrounding area usually due to influences such as windbreaks, hills, structures or dips in the terrain
Micro nutrients Mineral elements which are needed by some plants in very small quantities. Sometimes referred to as "Trace Elements"
Mulch Loose material placed over the soil to control weeds and conserve soil moisture such as  bark, manure or compost. Plastic sheeting can also be used in certain circumstances
Node The part of a stem from which a leaf or new branch starts to grow.
Organic material Any substance which originated as a living organism. (i.e. peat, compost, manure)
Perennial A non-woody plant which lives for more than two years
Perlite A mineral which  forms light granules used mainly for container potting mixes
Pest An insect or animal which is detrimental to the well being of a plant
Pinching back The act of using the thumb and forefinger to nip back the very tip of a branch or stem.
Pollination The transfer of pollen from the stamen (male part of the flower) to the pistil (female part of the flower), which results in the formation of a seed which eventually becomes a fruit/vegetable
Potting Compost A soil mixture designed for use in containers. Usually light and sterile.
Propagation Methods of starting new plants e.g.  by sowing seed, division, cuttings, layering
pH The measure of the amount of lime (calcium) contained in soil. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil: a soil pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline.
Repotting The act of transferring a pot grown plant to a larger pot
Root ball, a The network of roots with soil on a plant
Root-bound This occurs when a potted plant has outgrown its container and the roots become entangled and matted together eventually causing restricted growth of the plant.
Rooting hormone A powder or liquid growth hormone, used to promote the development of roots on a cutting
Roots The part of a plant which is under the soil consisting of fibrous growth
Sets The dormant immature part of a plant which is planted to grow new plants e.g. onions
Shoot The new soft growth from a stem
Soil pH The measure of the amount of lime (calcium) contained in soil. See pH
Sphagnum A bog moss which is collected and composted and used for lining hanging baskets
Staking The practice of driving a stake, usually a sturdy piece of wood, into the ground close to a plant as a growing support
Succession planting Sowing or planting a small amount of a crop at any one time then sowing/planting again a couple of weeks later to ensure a longer harvesting period without any gluts
Systemic A chemical which is absorbed directly into a plant's system
Tap root The main, thick root growing straight down from  plants such as carrots and parsnips. Not all plants have tap roots
Tender plants Plants which are unable to endure frost or freezing temperatures
Tendril A thin twisting and/or clinging growth on plants such as vines, which enables the plant to attach itself to supports such as canes, trellis or wires
Thinning Removing excess seedlings or plants to avoid over crowding and allow sufficient room for the remaining crops to grow to full size
Topsoil The top layer of quality soil.  Also applies to good quality soil sold at garden centres
Trace nutrients Mineral elements which are needed by some plants in very small quantities. Sometimes referred to as "Micro Elements"
Transplanting The process of digging up a plant and moving it to another location.
Tuber The dormant fleshy underground part of certain plants e.g. potatoes, which are planted to create new plants
Variegated Leaves which are marked with multiple colors.
Vermiculite  An addition to container soil or compost  mixes which helps retain moisture and makes the mix lighter


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