Glossary of Terms

Term Definition
Amendments Soil-conditioning substances indirectly promoting plant growth by improving soil qualities such as porosity, moisture, retention, and pH balance.
Annual Having a life cycle lasting only one growing season.
Axillary Bud The bud that occurs in the leaf axis or upper angle where the leaf joins the stem. Tomato suckers arise from the axillary bud.
Beneficial Insects and other organisms that are predators to garden pests. Example: Ladybugs are natural predators to aphids; thus, they are beneficial to have in your garden.
Biennial Plants that require two growing seasons to produce a flower. After making flowers, most set seed and die.
Biomass Plant or animal material that is added to the soil to create organic matter.
Bolting The process by which a plant goes to seed prematurely due to day length or other environmental clues. Common with winter vegetables planted during the summer season, when temperatures rise to an intolerable degree.
Bottom Watering Allowing seedlings/plants to absorb moisture from the bottom by placing them in containers filled with water.
Brassica Any plant belonging to the genus Brassica of the mustard family. Brassicas include many vegetable garden crops like cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, and mustard.
Chill Hours The number of hours of cold temperatures a particular plant needs to flower and produce fruit. Chill hours are especially important for fruit trees.
Cloche A bell-shaped glass cover placed over a plant to protect it from frost and improve its growth.
Closed System Farming Farming with techniques that promote and sustain self-reliance with little to no outside inputs.
Cold Frame A four-sided framed enclosure protecting plants from the cold or other elements while keeping plants in or near the ground. Cold frames are made with a removable glass or plastic top to allow sunlight in and retain heat.
Companion Planting The planting of different crops in proximity (in gardening and agriculture), on the theory that they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity. Companion planting is a form of polyculture. Farmers and gardeners use companion planting in both industrialized and developing countries for many reasons.
Container Gardens Growing a garden of outdoor plants in containers, typically on a rooftop or a small city plot.
Cotyledons Embryonic leaves in seed-bearing plants, one or more of which are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed.
Crop Failure The failure of crops to produce a marketable surplus.
Crop Rotation The practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.
Cultivar Abbreviation for "cultivated variety," usually a named variety.
Curing (Garlic) A process of allowing the plant to dry for longer preservation.
Cut-and-Come-Again This technique uses the act of cutting the outer leaves or topping off the leaves of greens about an inch above the soil without pulling up the entire plant by its roots so the plant may continue to produce leaves.
Days to Maturity The number of days a crop takes to develop from seed to harvest.
Determinate Having the primary and secondary axis ending in a flower or bud, thus preventing further elongation. A determinate vegetable has the characteristic of the fruit ripening at the same time allowing for a singular large harvest. Preferred by commercial growers.
Direct Sow Planting directly in the ground soil, no transplanting necessary. It is not recommended for vegetables with smaller seeds or non-root crops.
Dry Farming A system of growing crops in arid or semiarid regions without artificial irrigation, by reducing evaporation and by using special methods of tillage.
Fertigation To fertilize and irrigate at the same time by adding fertilizers to the water supply.
Foliar Fertilization A method of feeding a plant by spraying product directly onto the foliage.
Food Forest Forest gardening is a low-maintenance, sustainable, plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems. It incorporates fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines, and perennial vegetables, which have yields directly beneficial to humans.
Furrow A narrow trench made for planting or irrigation.
Growing Season The part of the year during which a region's frost-free days allows frost-tender plants to grow.
Harden Off Allowing seedlings that have been growing under protective/indoor conditions to acclimate to outdoor conditions in preparation for being transplanted to an outdoor garden.
Hardy Description of a plant that can take many degrees of freezing temperatures before dying.
Heirloom Cultivar of a vegetable or fruit that is open-pollinated and is not grown widely for commercial purposes. An heirloom often exhibits a distinctive characteristic such as superior flavor or unusual coloration.
Hyrbid The offspring of two animals or plants of different breeds, varieties, species, or genera, especially when produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics.
Indeterminate Having the axis or axes not ending in a flower or bud, thus allowing further elongation. Indeterminate vegetables have the characteristic of the fruit ripening individually, providing a long harvesting season. Preferred by home gardeners.
Monoculture The agricultural practice of producing or growing a single crop or plant species over a wide area for many consecutive years. This practice is widely used in modern industrial agriculture, and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from minimal labor. However, this ratio remains true only when the accounting for labor required is limited to the number of workers employed on the farm. If the indirect work of employees involved in producing chemicals and machinery is taken into account, the labor ratio to output is higher.
Mulch A covering of straw or compost spread on the ground around plants to prevent excessive evaporation or erosion. Mulch enriches the soil and prevents excessive weed growth.
Nematode A microscopic parasitic worm that lives in the soil and causes varying degrees of damage.
Node The part of the plant stem where plant leaves and axillary buds sprout and grow.
Open-Pollinated Pollination by wind, insects, birds, or animals, not by human manipulation. Open-pollinated plants or seeds are also referred to as non-hybrid. An open-pollinated plant will grow true to type each year. It produces offspring exactly like its parents. An open-pollinated plant can also be pollinated by itself if it has perfect flowers.
Organic Any substance, such as a fertilizer or pesticide, deriving from animal or vegetable matter.
Perennialization Describes the occurrence of an annual plant whose life cycle can be conditioned to live for more than one growing season due to the mild weather conditions.
Permatculture The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable or self-reliant.
Perrenial Having a life cycle lasting more than two years.
Pinch To remove or shorten buds or shoots to promote a particular shape of the plant, improve the quality of the bloom or fruit, or increase buds' development and the plant's strength.
Pistil The female organ of the flower made up of the stigma, style, and ovary.
Planting Zones USDA Plant Hardiness Zones show the extreme low temperatures an area of the country may get. Sunset Western Garden climate zones are more detailed planting zones with microclimate information. (Make sure a link to USA plant zones is on every product.)
Polyculture An agriculture system in which the diversity of natural ecosystems is imitated by planting multiple crops in the same space and avoiding large stands of single crops or monoculture. It includes crop rotation, multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping.
Row Cover A lightweight fabric that protects crops.
Scoville Scale A rating scale used to determine the gastronomic measurement of the hotness or pungency of chili peppers.
Seed Scarification Scratching the seed coat to speed up germination. Larger seeds like sweet peas benefit from scarification. A nail file is an effective tool.
Self-Pollinated The transfer of pollen from an anther to a stigma of the same flower.
Sharply Drained Soil Soil that allows water to drain reasonably quick without pooling or puddling.
Side Dress To apply a liquid or granular fertilizer on a growing plant's sides to give added nutrients during critical growth stages.
Soilless Mix A sterile potting mix typically composed of organic matter. A soilless mix may include a combination of peat moss (or coconut coir), perlite (and/or vermiculite), and bark/wood chips.
Stake A stick or post pointed at one end for driving into the ground for use as a boundary mark, part of a fence, support for a plant, etc.
Sun Scald The burning of plant skin caused by overexposure to the hot sun.
Transplant The process of taking a single seedling from its original place of germination and placing it into a large container or directly into the soil.
True Leaves Any leaves of a seed-bearing plant other than the cotyledons.
Vernalization A cold period in which some plants will not flower without first going into dormancy for a certain number of days at a minimum cold temperature. The low winter temperatures the plants are exposed to initiates flowering. Plant species and varieties have different requirements for temperature and chill time.