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Understanding Frequently Used Gardening Terms

Understanding container gardening in itself can be a bit overwhelming. Not to mention having a conversation with a more experienced gardener, only to leave the conversation feeling like you understood half of NOTHING.

Well, BGGC is here with the dictionary! So no worries!

ANNUALS Varieties that complete their life cycle in one year or less, requiring sowing every year. Annual flower varieties often bloom profusely and over a long period of time.

BIENNIALS Varieties, both flowers and vegetables, that complete their life cycle in two years, usually just showing only leaf growth the first year, and flowers the next.

BABY GREENS Young, leafy vegetables or herbs that are harvested at 2"–4" tall.

BOLTING The condition of premature flowering in edible crops, often making the plant unpalatable.

BURPLESS CUCUMBERS Cucumbers that do not produce, or produce very little of a chemical called cucurbitacin, which produces a slight bitter flavor mainly concentrated in the skin and causes minor indigestion in some people.

COLD CLIMATES Botanical Interests defines cold climates as those that experience freezing temperatures; generally, USDA zones 9 and cooler.

COLD FRAME A four-sided frame placed on the ground or in a garden bed that has a clear top. By design, it increases temperatures over the ambient temperature and is used for growing seedlings for transplant or for food crops, extending the harvest season.

COMPANION PLANTING Planting different plants together that benefit one another. For example, sowing a plant that attracts pollinators next to a plant that requires pollination.

COMPOST Organic matter often made from decomposed/broken down plant material. Compost can be used to replenish soil nutrients and introduce soil biology to a growing area or simply to reduce landfill waste.

COVER CROP Fast growing plants, usually grains, legumes, or grasses that are utilized for one or more of their soil-enhancing qualities. These crops are usually worked into the soil or removed before they produce seed.

CROP A plant that is cultivated for harvest, like cutting flowers or vegetables.

CULTIVAR A species that was selected or bred by humans for a particular feature. Cultivars carry a specific name in addition to the scientific name and/or common name, e.g. 'Brandywine'.

DAYS TO EMERGE Number of days, on average, that it will take a seedling to emerge from the soil or medium in favorable conditions.

DAYS TO HARVEST Number of days from sowing (or transplant) to harvest.

DEADHEADING Cutting spent flowers off a plant, encouraging the plant to bloom again; extending the bloom period.

DETERMINATE Describes tomatoes that stop growing when fruit begins forming from the topmost flower bud, making them more compact at around 3'–4'. Most of the crop ripens within a couple weeks time, making these a great choice for canning.

DIRECT SOW Sow seeds directly in their permanent growing space.

DISEASE RESISTANCE Exhibiting less susceptibility or an immunity against specific diseases as compared to other varieties.

DISEASE TOLERANCE Better ability to thrive with the stress of infection as compared to other varieties.

DROUGHT TOLERANT Ability to survive or thrive in low water conditions. Also known as "water-wise."

ETIOLATION Characterized by lanky, weak, pale plant growth, resulting from low or no-light conditions.

FAIRLY DROUGHT TOLERANT Ability to survive or thrive in low water conditions, but to a lesser extent than "drought tolerant" plants.

FROST TOLERANT CROPS Crops that tolerate some cool weather and even frost, although the amount of tolerance varies between crops and even varieties.

FROST SENSITIVE CROPS Crops that are not frost tolerant and will die as a result of exposure to freezing temperatures.

FRUIT A seed capsule that emerges from a flower, such as a tomato or melon.

FULL SUN Six or more hours of sunlight.

GERMINATION The moment when a seed begins to grow.

GMO Stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Commonly means genetically engineered, indicating that the variety was manipulated at the gene level in a laboratory.

GYNOECIOUS A plant with only pollen-accepting flowers. A pollinator plant with pollen-producing flowers is required for fruit production. These varieties are generally very productive and fast to mature.

HARDENING OFF The 7 to 10-day process of acclimating plants started indoors to outdoor conditions.

HARDINESS The degree to which a plant can withstand cold temperatures. Botanical Interests uses "hardiness" to also indicate the lifespan of a plant, e.g. annual, biennial, or perennial.

HEAT TOLERANCE The ability to resist heat-triggered issues like poor pollination, bitterness, premature flowering, and lack of fruit-set.

HEIRLOOM Botanical Interests considers open-pollinated varieties over 50 years old to be heirloom.

HYBRID Modern F1 (filial 1) type hybrid. Two specific parent varieties are bred to achieve a first generation hybrid offspring. F1 hybrids are not open-pollinated. Traditionally, "hybrid" indicates any variety that had been made by cross-pollinating, even if that was completed by hand or an insect.

INDETERMINATE Describes tomato varieties that continue to grow and produce tomatoes all season until first frost: therefore, you can find tomatoes at all stages on the plant at one time. Also called "pole" tomatoes because supports are helpful in guiding plants that can easily reach 6' or more.

LATIN NAME/SCIENTIFIC NAME The two or more part name that is unique to a specific species. Scientific names are consistent in any language, whereas a species may have several common names that may even vary by region.

MEDIUM For horticultural purposes, a medium is the material plants grow in. (e.g., soil)

MICROGREEN Young, leafy vegetables or herbs that are harvested just above the soil line when the plants have their first pair of leaves, called cotyledons, and possibly the just-developing true leaves.

MILD CLIMATES Botanical Interests defines mild climates as those without freezing temperatures; generally, USDA zones 10 and warmer. By using microclimates and protections some cooler USDA zones can also use mild climate sowing instructions.

MONOECIOUS The attribute of a plant producing both pollen-producing and pollen-receiving parts.

NATIVE Botanical Interests identifies varieties that are native to the U.S. as "native".

ORGANIC SEED Describes seeds grown on certified organic property, following strict USDA guidelines regarding soil quality, pest and weed control, and the use of additives like fertilizers.

OPEN POLLINATED Varieties that produce seeds that are "true", growing into nearly identical plants as the plant they were harvested from (if they are not cross pollinated). Unless a Botanical Interest variety is identified as a hybrid, it is open pollinated.

PART SUN/PART SHADE 3 to 6 hours of sunlight.

PARTHENOCARPIC The attribute of a variety producing fruit without fertilization. Cultivars produce seedless fruits when flowers are unpollinated, making them ideal for greenhouse production where pollinators may be excluded. When pollinated, these types produce seeded fruit.

PERENNIALS Varieties that live for two or more years.

PHOTOPERIODISM/DAY LENGTH RESPONSE Refers to a reaction some organisms have to the length of day or night. In plants this reaction is usually flowering.

POLLINATION The fertilization of a flower by wind, insect, birds, etc. where the male pollen reaches the female stigma, resulting in a seed, sometimes surrounded by an edible fruit like a pepper.

POLLINATOR An organism that transfers pollen. (e.g., bees)

ROW COVERS Fabric that is used to either exclude pests or raise temperatures of the area beneath it. "Remay" is a type of poly-spun row cover material commonly used in farm and garden settings and it comes in several different thicknesses. Row covers may or may not have hoops under it to create a "low tunnel".

SCARIFICATION The process of breaking through a hard outer covering of a seed to allow moisture to penetrate.

SELF-SOW To drop viable seeds to the ground. In some varieties, often annuals, if seeds are allowed to drop, those seeds will germinate, perpetuating the variety. The subsequent seedlings are often referred to as "volunteers".

SEMI-DETERMINATE Growth type of tomatoes that falls between determinate and indeterminate types. They produce a main crop that ripens within a couple weeks, but also continue to produce up until frost.

SPROUT Germinated seeds that are not grown in medium but instead rinsed in water and drained several times a day.

STRATIFICATION The process of subjecting seed to a moist and cold treatment to break dormancy, which occurs naturally when seed is sown outdoors in the fall and experiences a winter period.

SUCCESSIVE SOWING Sowing at least once more after the initial sowing, which extends the harvest. Three ways to successive sow: 1. Staggering sowings of the same crop 2. Sowing two varieties of the same crop with different maturing dates 3. Replacing one finished crop with a different crop.

TENDER PERENNIAL A perennial that is not cold hardy in all zones. For Botanical Interests purposes, perennials hardy in only USDA zones 7 and higher are called tender perennials.

THINNING The act of reducing extra seedlings so that remaining plants are spaced properly.

TRANSPLANTING Transferring a plant to a different growing space.

UNTREATED SEED Seed that does not have a chemical treatment such as fungicide applied to it.

USDA HARDINESS ZONE The historical, average, lowest winter temperature in specific geographic US areas. Perennials are rated using the USDA zone system, indicating the coldest temperature and USDA zone in which they can survive.

VARIETY A species that has naturally formed a unique characteristic, for example from cabbage (Brassica oleracea) came kale (Brassica oleracea var. viridis) and kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) which both adapted unique, characteristics that differ from cabbage and so the variety ("var.") name was added to the species name.

VERNALIZATION A cold treatment, such as found in cold winter conditions, that induces flowering in some varieties.

VOLUNTEER A plant that emerges from being self-sown or sown by an animal rather than by the gardener. (e.g., acorns)


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