Dictionary of Gardening Terms

Windowsill Planter

Gardening Terms to Keep You "In the Know"

Gardeners who want to “Walk the Walk” need to know how to “Talk the Talk”. We have listed below the common gardening terms and what they mean. So, next time you “walk”, you can also “talk”!

AnnualA plant that grows for one year.
BiennialAny plant that grows two years. The first year is the year plant growth stage. The second is the flowering or fruiting stage.
Broadcast SeedingA process of spreading seeds across a wide area by taking a handful and gently releasing them across the area you intend to seed. It is generally used on lawns, wildflowers in fields and in gardens where seed is very small, or fine and you are sowing them into a seedbed for thinning and later transplant.
ColdframesA frame or enclosure that is covered with plastic or glass, to create a greenhouse effect, and to provide sunlight and warmth to seedlings prior to transplanting in your garden.
Companion PlantingCompanion planting, or companion gardening is the practice of planting two different plants in close proximity to each other on the theory that they help each other in some way.
Container GardeningThe planting of flowers or vegetables in a pot or other container. It is perfect for apartment owners and people with small yards. The list of flowers and vegetables that can be grown in containers is many and varied. It is limited by the size of the container and the space you can afford it.

Crop Rotation


An important farming method for commercial growers and home gardeners. Crop rotation concept teaches planting your crops in a different area and rotating them over a three year cycle. More info
Cross PollinationThe process where pollen from one variety of a species of plants reaches and pollinates the female flower of another variety. The result, carried in the seed, is a cross of the genetic traits of both parents.
Dead headTo remove spent or dead flowers off a plant. This promotes new flowering.
Drip LineLook at the “canopy” of leaves. Draw an imaginary line straight down to the ground from the edge of the leaf canopy. This circle around the plant is called the “Drip line”.
Force or ForcingTo force a plant to bloom. This is done by creating an artificially natural type of environment that will induce the plant to bloom. Common examples are poinsettias and Christmas Cactus.

Floating Row covers


Tender vegetables are those that can be harmed or destroyed by frost. Floating row covers are very lightweight coverings that can be quickly placed over a row of seedlings or plants. Their light weight minimizes any damage to tender plants.
FriableAn old gardening term for soil that is soft and crumbly.
Frost Free DatesFor areas that get frost and freezes, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has mapped out a number of areas for the country and posted a normal range of dates for the last date there is a chance of frost n the spring and the first date for frost in the fall. While a great guide, it can vary significantly within a given zone due to many factors.
FurrowsA long, trench along the row where you will plant your seed.
GerminationThe sprouting of a seed above the soil. The germination period is the time it takes from planting to the time it sprouts form to the time it emerges from the soil. Note, the germination period can vary greatly due to a number of factors, but largely due to soil temperature and soil moisture.
Hardening OffA process of exposing an indoor grown plant to the outside elements over a period of time to harden it to wider climate conditions. Hardening off is usually performed over several days with increasing time outside each day.
Heirloom SeedAn old fashioned favorite seed, handed down from generation to generation.
Hills, HillingA gardening method where a small round hill is created six or seven inches high and seeds are planted. This aids seeds to germinate through better drainage and warmer soil.
LeachIn gardening terms, this means for minerals and nutrients to move out of the soil by water washing or oozing them out.
LeggyIf seedlings and plants do not get enough sunlight, they grow tall and thin stalks as they seek sunlight. These “leggy” plants have a difficult time supporting the weight of the plant and is easily damaged.
ManureGardener’s gold! This is a mineral an nutrient rich by product of animals. Click here for more
Maturity DatesThe normal average number of day for a plant to produce fruit. It is normally counted from the day of germination or transplanting into your garden.
PerennialA plant that grows for years. Many perennials once planted will last for many years. As they regenerate more plants, it make for a permanent plant.
pHAn important measure of the balance of alkalinity versus acidity of your soil. Most plants grow best in the mid range. Yet, there is a specific ideal range for each plant.
Plant Hardiness ZonesThe USDA has divided the U.S into several zones indicating different high and low temperature ranges to aid in the selection of plants suitable for your area. Click here for more.
PropagationIn the plant world, we often refer to reproduction as plant propagation. Plants are propagated by creation of seeds, cuttings, separation of roots, and a few other methods. Most plants propagate by one of these means, but some can be reproduced by two of these methods.
Raised BedsA gardening method where beds are created inside landscape timbers or other frames to raise the soil above the level of the ground. This has several advantages, including better drainage, warmer soil temperatures and it is aesthetically pleasing in appearance.
Root BoundA condition where a plant or seedling’s roots have grown compacted and entwined in the pot and has no room to grow. This condition results in stunting the plants growth and potential. The solution is a larger pot or transplanting outdoors.
Seed BedA prepared bed where seeds are planted and seedlings are nurtured prior to planting in your garden. It can be in or out of your regular garden area.
Seed StratificationSeed Stratification is the process of storing seeds in a manner that simulates the natural environment the seed would experience outdoors over the winter months, and prior to sprouting in the spring.
Seed TapeThis is popular with small seeds that are hard to space. Seeds are on a bio-degradable tape, space the appropriate distance. Make your furrow, rollout the tape and cover the seeds. Voila!
Soil- SourThe term used for soil that is acidic, or too low. Do not worry, everybody gets these two terms mixed up.
Soil- SweetThe term used for soil that is too high in alkaline.
SolubleCapable of being dissolved in water. Plants need minerals and nutrients that are in your soil. But if they are in a form that can not be dissolved in water, the plant can not ingest them.
Succession PlantingA great way to spread out your harvest! Plant, smaller crops in one to two week intervals to prolong the harvest over a long period of time.
TilthAn old gardening term for the tilled condition of your soil.
TransplantTo move a plant from one location to another.
Transplanting ShockWhen transplanting seedlings from one place to another, the roots are often disturbed and occasionally the change in climate can cause the plant to slow down or appear to stop growing. This is transplant shock. It is really redirecting it’s energy to re-grow lost roots and to get accustomed to a change in temperature that it hadn’t experienced before.
ViabilityA measure of seedling germination rate and health.
Squash Fruit
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