18 Terms Every Gardener Must Know

A simple vegetable gardening glossary containing common terms and definitions.

  1. Annual - regarding vegetables, an annual is a plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season. It will grow from seed to vegetable to seed within that single season.

  2. Aerated - well-aerated soil is loose, well-worked soil that allows air to circulate within.

  3. Bolt - when a plant begins to produce seed and stop growing.

  4. Double-dig - double-digging is a method of soil preparation for growing plants. The general steps include digging a trench that is ~12 inches deep and putting the topsoil to the side. Next, the soil at the bottom of the trench (to a depth of another 12 inches) is tilled with a fork, and compost can be mixed in at this point. Once this is done, a second trench is dug beside the first, filling the first with the topsoil from the second. Now till up the bottom of the second trench as you did the first. The steps are repeated until the entire garden has been double-dug. The last trench is filled with the topsoil from the first trench.

  5. Fertilizer - fertilizer is usually labeled with a number system like "#-#-#" (ie. 5-10-10). In order, these numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate and potash in the bag. For example, "10-10-10" represents 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphate, and 10% potash. The remainder of the bag is usually a filler such as sand or limestone.

  6. Fibrous - contains or resembles fibers; may tend to have a tougher texture noticed while eating.

  7. Friable - if you pick up a handful of soil, it is friable if you can crumble it into smaller pieces. Primarily you want to ensure that your soil is not saturated with water.

  8. GMO - "Genetically Modified Organisms" For a definition, please visit the Non GMO Project

  9. Loamy - loamy soil contains relatively equal parts of sand, silt and clay. This allows the soil to retain adequate amounts of water for your plants, but still drains well. Often this mixture is 20% clay, 40% silt, and 40% sand.

10. Perenial - a plant that grows and produces vegetables for multiple growing seasons.

11. Perlite - A natural occuring volcanic glass that when heated produces a lightweight material that retains moisture yet promotes drainage. It has no know toxicity, does not decompose, and does not contain weeds, disease or insects.

12. Porous - full of tiny spaces. For example, sand is porous. Clay is not.

13. Spaded Fork - a forked tool that usually has flatter tines than a pitchfork.

14. The Ground Can Be Worked - This term refers to the time in spring when the soil is no longer frozen or wet. If you dig down about 4 inches, try making a ball with the soil. If you can drop this ball from waist high, and it crumbles when it hits the ground, "the ground can be worked". Another general guideline is that the soil temperature will be around 5°C/40°F.

15. True Leaves - when a plant grows from seed to seedling, the first set of leaves you will see are called cotyledons. These are are an initial food source for the seedling, and will whither off and be replaced by leaves that photosynthesize. These are called true leaves and will look very different from the cotyledons.

16. Tuber - An enlarged plant structure used to store nutrients for the plant during the winter months. A potato is considered a tuber.

17. Vermiculite - An odorless, moisture-retaining, mineral substance. This substance was once controversial because it contained trace amounts of asbestos. Vermiculite potting soils are now regulated and labeled for ingredients. Use at your own discretion.

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