Vegetable Gardening Glossary


All members of this family of plants bear clusters of flowers, each cluster on a stalk radiating out from a central stem, rather like an umbrella. Members of the family include caraway, dill and coriander, usually grown for their seeds, and parsley, fennel, chervil and lovage, grown for their leaves.


To the fruit gardener, union refers to the point where the scion, or top part of the tree, is joined on to the rootstock, or bottom part, either by grafting or budding. When planting a tree, it is important to recognize the point of union, which should be placed at least 10 cm (4”) above the soil. If the scion comes in contact with the soil, it may produce its own roots, bypassing the rootstock and thus eliminating the results desired from grafting.


In the system of classification for plants, the variety is the one «y which most concerns the home grower. It is important to choose varieties of a species of fruit or vegetable which are suitable for a particular purpose. The choice depends on such factors as the desired cropping period, conditions in the garden and local climate. In the fruit garden, certain fruit trees will not produce fruit if pollinated by a tree of the same variety, so trees of different varieties must be planted. For example, and are two different varieties of sweet cherry which will cross pollinate. Where a succession of year-round crops, such as lettuce, is required, growing the right varieties is all-important.


A weed is any plant growing where it should not grow. By this definition, a tomato growing in a strawberry bed is a weed. However, this term is usually reserved for certain plants which are never cultivated, but appear in the garden. There are three main groups: annuals, which germinate in the spring and die in the autumn; biennials, which can store food for a second year of growth; and perennials, which live for more than two seasons. Weeds are a nuisance because they overgrow and shade cultivated plants, deprive them of minerals and moisture, and harbour pests and diseases.


English: Umbelliferae: Apium leaves and tiny i...

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Zineb is a dithiocarbamate fungicide which is useful against a wide range of fungal diseases in the garden, including downy mildew, blights, leaf moulds and spots, and rust diseases. It is an ingredient of many proprietary fungicides.

Trace Elements

Many substances necessary for healthy plant growth are required only in minute quantities, or traces, by the plants. These elements include iron, manganese, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum, chlorine and cobalt. Disturbance of the balance of trace elements in the soil can lead to chlorophyll deficiency, causing the leaves of growing plants to turn yellow. Shortages, or excesses, of trace elements can also lead to other trouble, including stunted growth, and even death. Fortunately, trace elements are generally present in sufficient quantities in most soils, and any imbalances can usually be corrected by ensuring that a good mixture of organic matter and fertilizers is applied to the soil. Fritted forms of trace elements can be applied in extreme cases.


Training is a way of controlling the shape and size of growing plants by means of pruning, or by tying to supports such as stakes and wires. Fruit trees are nearly always trained to control their growth and cropping. Growing climbing plants such as beans and peas against post and wire supports, and pinching out the sideshoots of tomatoes, are also forms of training. Plants rarely grow as the gardener would like them to on their own accord. Training is the way in which he makes them grow in the way most convenient to him.

True leaves

True leaves can be defined as the leaves on a mature plant. It is important to distinguish the true leaves from the seed leaves, or cotyledons, of a young plant. The seed leaves, either one or two, are the first leaves to appear on a seedling, and they differ from the true leaves in that they are simpler, and have entire margins. Instructions for pricking out usually refer to either the seed leaf stage, or to the time when, or just after, the first true leaves appear. All the leaves produced by a plant after the first one or two, the cotyledons, are true leaves.


This is a general term applied to a cluster of fruit, such as a truss of tomatoes. It is usually applied to fruit from plants where the flowers are also formed in clusters. Tiny fruit, such as currants, are also borne in clusters, but these are usually referred to as strigs. Likewise grapes, which are borne in clusters, are called bunches rather than trusses.


The reduction of the number of seedlings, plants, buds, flowers, fruitlets, stems, branches or trees can all be referred to as thinning, which is an important process in the garden. Thinning of seedlings is the most common operation; a certain number of the young plants are removed at an early stage to avoid overcrowding and poor crops. Young fruitlets are also reduced in numbers for the same reasons; it is done to ensure that the individual fruits remaining have room to develop to a good size.


This is a useful dithiocarbamate fungicide which is used to control a wide range of plant fungal diseases. Thiram seed dressings reduce the risk of damping off of seedlings, while thiram sprays on certain vegetables and soft fruit are helpful in controlling grey mould. Thiram is also used against downy mildew of lettuce, raspberry cane spot, and rusts and leaf spot currants. Thiram is non-toxic, although if improperly handled it can cause inflammation of the skin, eyes and throat. It can also affect the flavour of fruit which has been bottled, tinned or frozen, so never use thiram on crops intended for preserving.


This is the name used to describe the structure of the cultivated surface of the soil. Good tilth is produced by careful cultivation of the soil; it is free of large stones and clods of earth, and has a fine, crumb-like texture. A good tilth is necessary for seed sowing and for transplanting young seedlings. Generally prepared after winter digging, soil in good tilth must be well drained and will also need regular dressings of well-rotted animal manure or garden compost to remain in good tilth.

Top Dressing

Any dressing applied to the surface of the soil, without disturbing the roots of growing plants, is a top-dressing. Lime is often applied as a top-dressing on the vegetable plot in winter or early spring; fertilizers are also applied to improve the nutrient content of the soil. Top-dressings can also consist of bulky materials, such as well-rotted manure, garden compost, peat or straw; it’s purpose is to feed growing plants, improve soil structure, retain moisture, and discourage weed growth. There is little difference between this type of top-dressing and a mulch, except that the term ‘mulch’ lends to be used for spring and summer applications, and the former for autumn and winter treatments.


In the garden, systemic describes a substance which enters a plant through the roots, leaves, etc., and then spreads throughout the tissues of the plant to combat pests and diseases. The substance is taken into the plant’s sap and, hence, systemics are commonly used to kill sap-sucking insects such as aphids. There are also systemic fungicides.

Tap Root

When a seed germinates, it begins growth by extending down into the soil. This extension is the tap root, from which the plant draws its nourishment. Fine, hair-like growths may appear on the surface of the tap-root; these are called Tap roots can grow very deep into the soil; some weeds, such as docks, are particularly difficult to eradicate for this reason. In the vegetable garden, tap roots of biennial plants are grown and harvested as food crops; these include carrot, parsnip, turnip and swede.


In gardening, ‘tender’ refers to a plant which is liable to be injured by frost, or by the cold of an average winter. As a general rule, the planting of tender crops should be timed so that they do not have to survive a winter in the ground, or, alternatively, are given protection if frost threatens. However, plants which are tender in northern climates may not be classified as such in southern districts, so it is difficult to make a general rule applicable to a particular plant under all possible growing conditions. Fruits and vegetables which are native to the tropics or sub-tropics are virtually always tender in temperate climates, and are usually grown as greenhouse crops; peppers, aubergines and melons are examples.


Terminal is applied to the bud, leaf or flower at the end of a branch. This location distinguishes it from other buds, leaves and flowers which grow laterally (to one side) further down the stem. Terminal buds on fruit trees may either be wood buds, which will produce further vegetative growth, or flower buds, which will be followed by fruit.


This is a mother plant used solely for propagation purposes. The main stem is cut down to a stump in autumn; the stems which form from the buds produced at the base of the stump or just below soil level are earthed up as they grow. This encourages roots to appear on the stems, which can then be detached in autumn and used as stocks. Stooling is mainly used for apples and quinces.


Stopping is the severance of a growth on a plant so that the plant ceases to produce further growth in the same direction. If the growth is soft and green, then the stopping can be done with the finger and thumb, and is called ‘pinching’ or ‘pinching out’. If the growth is more mature, a knife or secateurs may be needed, and, in the case of trees, a saw may be necessary. Stopping may be done in the training of fruit trees, or in plants like tomatoes, in order to limit the growth of foliage and shoots. This forces the plant’s energy into the production of flowers, and hence, fruit.

Successional sowing

Successional sowing is a means of prolonging the harvesting period of a particular vegetable or fruit. It involves sowing or planting the same, or different, cultivars of the same plant at intervals which follow regularly one after the other. Cropping then extends over a long period. For example, successional sowings of quick-growing crops such as lettuce and radish can be made on and off throughout the summer to ensure a continuous supply of salad plants. Sowing first-early, then second-early, and finally maincrop potatoes, is a form of successional sowing, as is growing summer, autumn and winter cultivars of cauliflower. In the fruit garden, summer-fruiting strawberries can be followed by autumn-fruiting, or remontant fruit.


A sucker is a secondary shoot which emanates from below ground level, usually from a root, at or near the base of a plant. Although suckers are sometimes desirable, as with raspberry suckers which are used for propagation, usually they are unwanted and must be removed to avoid excess and useless growth. Suckers are sometimes encouraged to appear by hoeing too deeply, which damages the roots; eliminating them often means severing completely the portion of root from which the sucker is growing. Suckers are particularly troublesome with trees and shrubs which have been grafted, as is the case with most fruit trees.


In the fruit garden, spur refers to the fruit buds which form in clusters on a short length of shoot. One spur may develop out of another, and thus a spur system, a collection of short fruiting shoots, begins to form. On older branches of apple and pear trees, spur systems can become very complex, and the fruit will be congested and small from over-cropping. To avoid this, spur systems should be shortened during autumn or winter pruning, and the oldest systems should be removed completely. The word spur is used botanically for the tubular part of a flower which contains nectar, and which attracts insects.

Staking and Tying

When plants are not sturdy enough to support themselves throughout growth, they must be held upright by tying them to stakes. Young plants, in particular young fruit trees, may need “staking until the root systems become established. In the vegetable garden, plants such as runner beans and peas need stakes, and sometimes a trellis, to climb, while tomatoes require staking because the plants are not strong enough to support the weight of the crop.

Bamboo canes are most commonly used for staking, although heavy plants and trees will require stronger stakes. Plants can be attached to the canes with soft cord or twine, or with special rubber or plastic ties. Care should be taken that they are not tied in too tightly, or the plant may be damaged.


Standard is a gardener’s term for a tree or shrub grown on a bare stem 1.5-l.8m (5-6’) high. Half-standard trees have a shorter bare stem about 1.3 m (4ft) long. Fruit trees are often trained as standards or half-standards by removing the lower shoots as the tree grows. In any case, most trees left untrained will assume a standard habit as they age, as the lower and older branches tend to die first.


This word has two meanings to the gardener. A plant which is incapable of bearing seed is described as sterile; male plants are automatically sterile. Sterility can also occur because of distortion of the sexual parts of the plants, or because the pollen is malformed. Some plants, particularly certain varieties of fruit, are unable to set fruit if they are pollinated by their own pollen, and these are described as self-sterile. They set fruit only if pollinated by another variety. Sterile is also used to describe soil which has been treated either chemically or mechanically so that the insects, bacteria, fungi and any seeds present in it are killed.


Soil can be broadly defined as the natural medium for growth of all land plants. The rocks in the earth’s crust are broken down by weathering, and this provides the mineral content of the soil. Organic matter must then be added, either through the natural decay of living matter, or by the addition of humus, manure etc. The composition of soils in different areas varies widely, from sandy types through rich loams to heavy clays.

Soil can be divided into two layers—topsoil and subsoil. The topsoil, quite literally the soil at the top of the ground, is the most fertile layer, which can be anything from a few centimetres to a metre or more deep. The subsoil is that part of the soil which lies immediately below the topsoil surface. It is less fertile than the topsoil, sometimes completely sterile, although its fertility can be improved with the addition of organic matter.

Soil testing

Soil testing can mean any examination of the soil, such as rubbing it between the fingers to assess texture, or digging a hole to determine drainage. Generally, however, soil testing refers to analysis to determine the chemical make-up of the soil, particularly the amount of lime, phosphates and potash. Various testing kits are available to the home grower for carrying out these chemical tests.


This is a gardener’s term denoting one spade’s depth of soil, and instructions for digging are usually given in spits, ie, dig the soil to one spit deep. A conventional spit is 25-30 cm (10-12”).


In gardening, sport refers to a plant which differs in character from the normal members of the same type. The biological term for this change is ‘mutation’ and it takes place because of a change in character of one or more genes carried in the chromosomes of the plant. A sport can sometimes be vegetatively propagated by taking cuttings of the particular plant which has changed.


A seed is an embryo plant, consisting of a root and shoot as well as a store of food. Seeds are produced after the fertilization of the flower, and are the principle means by which plants are reproduced. In order for a seed to germinate, moisture and warmth are usually necessary, but other factors are also involved. The moisture will be taken in through a hole in the protective seed coat (the testa), and the food reserve provides the energy for growth of the embryo before the root develops. Once the root appears, it can absorb food from the soil, and anchor the tiny plant, while the shoot begins to grow. Germination does not necessarily have to take place with a seed buried in soil; different plants vary in their requirements for germination as far as amounts of light, warmth, soil quality, water, etc. are concerned. Seeds sold commercially are usually treated in various ways to ensure germination.


A seed-bed is a specially prepared site where seeds are sown. It may be in a frame or in the open ground. There are two types of seed-bed. In the first type, seeds are sown to provide seedlings for transplanting elsewhere at a later date. In the second type, plants are permitted to grow to maturity where the seeds are sown, and the excess seedlings are removed while still very young. In both types of seed-bed, a good tilth and well dug soil are necessary. It is also very important that the surface of the soil has been levelled, so the seeds are not sown at widely varying depths.


A seedling is a very young plant which has been raised from seed. These young plants produce seed leaves, which are the first to appear after germination, and can be produced singly or in pairs. Seed leaves are very simple and quite unlike the true leaves, which are the next leaves to appear.

Seedling can also be used to describe a mature plant which has been raised from seed, when it is usually reproduced by vegetative propagation. Such a plant will not be identical to the parent plants, and may be quite different. If it performs well, it can be given a name and denoted as a new cultivar, which will itself be vegetatively propogated.


Set has two meanings to the gardener. In the fruit garden, set refers to the condition of the blossom after pollination, when the fruit begins to form. The old expression ‘a good set of fruit’ means that pollination has been successful. To the vegetable grower, the term refers to the tubers used for potato planting, and to small bulbs of the onion family ready for planting. Onion sets have always had their growth interrupted, by heat treatment, so they do not sprout prematurely.


The root system is a vital part of all growing plants. Roots have two main functions: they anchor the plant into the soil, and they absorb nutrients and water from the soil. In addition, they transport water and nutrients for the growth of the above-ground parts of the plant and, in some instances, roots act as a storehouse for plant foods. Certain vegetables, such as carrot, beetroot, radish, swede and turnip, are the root of the plant, and are known as ‘root crops’.


To the fruit-grower, rootstock refers to the root system upon which a particular cultivated variety has been budded or grafted. This grafted-on part is known as the scion, and if the scion were allowed to form its own roots, growth would not be satisfactory. Grafting onto an established rootstock ensures that the tree will be of suitable size and vigour for successful cropping. Special rootstocks have been bred for apples and pears, as well as for certain ornamentals. Grafting or budding onto a suitable rootstock is also a method of propagation for varieties which would otherwise not breed true from seed.


In gardening, runner describes that part of a plant which grows along the surface of the soil. The runners produce one or more plantlets, which may form roots at the buds or nodes. These plantlets are a quick and easy way of increasing stock, since these portions of the stem may be detached and planted elsewhere, or potted on when the roots have formed.


This term refers to the young growth cut from a plant for the purpose of increasing that plant. The scion, which must contain a bud growth, is grafted or budded onto the trunk, branch or root of a related plant; this provides the stock. The branches, leaves, flowers and fruit are all provided by the scion, and the roots are provided by the stock. Normally the stock does not influence the character of the scion beyond determining vigour.


Pyrethrum is one of the most widely used insecticides in the home garden. It is obtained from the flower-heads of a daisy-like flower grown mainly in East Africa. Pyrethrum is a safe insecticide to use on food crops, as it is practically harmless to humans and pets, and can be used where crops are soon to be harvested. It is available in various forms, such as dusts, aerosols and sprays, and is useful against a wide range of insect pests. Pyrethrum’s main effect is ‘knock-down’ but, mixed with slower-acting insecticides, as it often is, produces very effective results.


Ridging is a method of digging on heavy soils. Instead of leaving the soil level, as happens in ordinary digging, the soil is thrown up in ridges, with furrows between them. The plot resembles a ploughed field, and there is consequently a greater surface of soil exposed to weather.

Ring Culture

This is a method of cultivation used primarily for tomatoes. In this method of cultivation, the top 15 cm (6”) of soil in the greenhouse border is replaced with an aggregate of washed clinker, weathered sand or similar draining material. Young established plants are placed in bottomless, stout paper rings filled with good potting compost and the rings are placed on the aggregate, where the root system becomes established.


Ringing, or bark ringing, is a method of slowing down the growth of fruit trees which have produced vigorous woody growth at the expense of fruit. Ringing involves removing two narrow strips of bark and cambium, 1.2 cm (1/2”) wide, from the tree trunk, deep enough to reach the hard wood beneath. This is carried out by removing two narrow semicircles of bark on opposite sides of the tree and a few inches apart. Another way is to remove a spiral strip. In all cases, protective paint must be applied to the wound, to prevent fungal or bacterial infection invading the tree.


Propagation is the increasing or multiplying of plants.

In nature, plants are propagated both vegetatively and by seed, but the latter is not always possible with cultivated plants. Therefore, it may be necessary for the gardener to propagate plants vegetatively by one of the many methods available. These methods include division, layering, budding, grafting and taking suckers and cuttings.


In the garden, a propagator is a closed container in which seeds and cuttings are placed, and is used to encourage germination and rooting when conditions outdoors are not favourable. A propagator is usually a shallow container, either wood or plastic, with a glass or clear plastic cover. Artificial heat can be supplied with some makes of propagator so that conditions for germination and rooting are even more favourable.


Pruning, cutting back woody growth, is an important part of the cultivation of fruit trees, bushes and canes. The main purpose of pruning is to encourage cropping in an orderly fashion. Some fruit trees may require a great deal of pruning, while others will need very little or none at all. The basic principles of pruning are the same for all fruits, although the application may differ depending on variety and other factors. Basically, pruning must remove dead or diseased shoots, take out weak or overcrowded branches, encourage a moderate amount of young growth, and reduce an excessive number of fruit’ buds. Pruning is necessary to help establish newly planted trees and bushes, and it is essential to maintain the shape and productivity of older trees.


In the fruit garden, a pyramid is a form in which fruit trees can be trained. A pyramid is obtained by growing a vertical central stem from which horizontal branches radiate. The shape is conical, rather like a Christmas tree. Certain varieties of pears grown on dwarfing rootstocks are particularly suitable for pyramid training.

PH Value

This is a scale used to measure the acidity of the soil, and it has a range of figures between 0 and 14. Each figure shows a decrease or increase of ten times the previous figure. The scale is based on the balance between the hydrogen particles and the hydroxyl particles present in the soil. A pH of 7 indicates a neutral reaction; a figure below that indicates acidity, while a figure higher than 7 indicates alkalinity of the soil. Simple kits are available to determine the pH value of the soil, and it is a good idea to test samples from different parts of the garden, as the acidity can vary slightly. A too acid soil can be corrected by liming, while one that is too alkaline can be helped with applications of flowers of sulphur.


One the essential elements for growing plants, phosphorus is a constituent of every living cell. Plants take in phosphorus in the form of phosphates, which are salts of phosphoric acid, as the element is never found in soils as pure phosphorus. Phosphates are need mainly for early root formation, and are particularly useful to seedlings and young plants, and for speeding up flowering, fruiting and ripening.

Pinching out

When the growing tip of a shoot is removed with the finger and thumb, the operation is called pinching out, or simply pinching. Pinching out is done to stop any further direct extension of growth, and to encourage the production of sideshoots. It can also help to divert the plant’s resources from producing new growth to forming and ripening fruit. A similar operation in the fruit garden is pinching back, stopping the extension growth of the young shoots early in the growing season by severing them cleanly between the nails of forefinger and thumb. This is often used on fruit grown under glass, or in fan-training stone fruit.


This is the part of the life-cycle of a plant which precedes fertilization and involves the transfer of male pollen cells to the female stigma. Pollination is necessary for fertilization to occur. Most plants rely on insects, mainly bees, to transfer pollen, although the wind or creatures such as bats and birds can also transfer the pollen. With some plants it may be necessary to use a paintbrush to transfer pollen grains; occasionally pollination must be prevented by removing the male flowers.


Potassium is one of the major essential elements necessary for the manufacture of starches and sugars. It is associated with the maturity of the plant, and, hence, with the production of fruit, and it also improves the colour and flavour of certain fruit and vegetables. Potassium is absorbed from the soil in the form of various potassium salts; clay and silt soils tend to be fairly rich in these. Soils which contain little clay or humus need to have the potassium content improved with applications of potash-rich fertilizers. Plants suffering from potassium deficiency are more vulnerable to disease and frost damage. However, too much potassium can produce a magnesium deficiency in the plant, which should also be avoided.

Potting (and Potting on)

One of the stages in the cultivation of many plants is growing in pots, and the placing of plants in pots is known as potting. For most plants, this is temporary and is done before planting out in the ground, although many plants will complete their lifecycles in pots. Successful potting depends on the use of a suitable mixture of soils and/or other ingredients, and any of a number of potting composts can be used, depending on what is being grown. Pots must be thoroughly clean before potting, and the drainage hole should be covered with crocks, gravel, etc. The pot is then filled with potting compost, and the plant or seed carefully put into it and firmed,, Potting on means simply moving a plant into a larger-sized pot. This is important to keep the plant from becoming pot-bound, thus restricting the root growth and eventually killing it.

Pricking Out

This is a stage in the cultivation of plants , which have been raised from seed. Seed is usually sown in seed trays or boxes, but if the seedlings are left there for too long, the plants will become drawn and straggly, and will not grow into healthy specimens. Therefore, as soon as the seedlings are j large enough to handle, they are ‘pricked out’, or moved, into deeper boxes or the ground. Pricking out is usually done with the aid of a dibber to lift the plants without damaging the roots. The new planting holes should also be made with a dibber, and the young plants placed in them gently to the correct depth, without doubling up the roots. After replanting, the seedlings should be watered lightly and shaded from strong sunlight.


A herbaceous plant is one which has a soft growth, rather than a woody stem. Herbaceous plants are annuals, that is, the top growth of the plants die back to the ground each autumn. Most vegetables are classified as herbaceous.


A herbicide is a chemical used to kill or control weeds. The chemicals can either be either selective (killing weeds among other plants) or non-selective (killing all vegetation). The type used depends on the variety and extent of the weeds to be destroyed. Herbicides kill vegetation by burning it or because the poisons are absorbed through the leaves and circulated through the plant. Application can be by watering can, foliar spray, hand spray or granules.

Hot bed

A hot bed is a pile of decomposing organic matter which produces heat while it rots. Once widely used in gardens as a source of heat, the hot bed has now been largely replaced with electric warming cables. However, a frame can be placed over a hot bed for an inexpensive way of producing out-of-season crops. Horse manure and well-rotted straw or leaves are the best constituents of a hot bed; build them into a conical heap which will rot down and produce heat.


This is a term used to describe the organic matter in the soil. Humus may consist of decayed vegetable or animal waste, which still shows traces of the leaves, stems, bones, etc., or it can be completely broken down into a blackish, powdery substance. Adequate quantities of humus in the soil are essential for successful crops, as humus is important for supplying nutrients and for moisture retention. As all soils lose organic matter, humus must be added periodically in the form of peat, leafmould, manure, compost, seaweed, well-rotted straw, spent mushroom compost, or a compound fertilizer.


This is a gardener’s term for decayed leaves, referring to the blackish material that results from stacking fallen leaves and allowing them to decompose over a period of time. This process takes about a year, and when it is complete there should be only fragments of leaves, with no whole ones remaining. Leafmould is a good source of plant foods, and it can be used as a top-dressing, dug into the soil to improve the humus content, or used in potting composts.


This is a family of plants which is characterized by the pro duction of seed borne in a pod, which is sometimes woody.

Members of the family in the vegetable garden include peas, beans and other vegetables, which are commonly referred to as legumes.

The seed-pod is also called a legume.


In gardening, lime refers to a calcium-containing material which is capable of reducing the acidity in the soil. Very few plants will thrive in a too-acid soil because the amount of food available is reduced, while too many harmful substances are taken in. Liming the soil helps to correct these imbalances, as well as improving the tilth and helping to control certain pests and diseases. Legumes and brassicas, in particular, prefer soils which have been limed.


Loam is a type of soil which is composed of sand, silt and clay in roughly equal proportions. Soils classified as loams can vary between sandy loams and clay loams, depending upon the exact proportions of the constituents. Almost all crops in the kitchen garden will thrive on loams, as they are fertile, moisture retentive and rich in nutrients.


In the fruit garden, maiden is a term which describes a grafted or budded plant in its first season of growth, before any pruning has been carried out. The term is usually applied to young fruit trees, although strawberry plants in their first year of growth, before they have fruited, are also called maidens.


This is a method of propagation by which a long, healthy new season’s stem from a parent plant is pegged down on to the soil and encouraged to form roots and thus a new plant. Sometimes the stem needs to be notched, but others begin to form roots even before coming in contact with the soil. Strawberries, loganberries, blackberries and figs can all be propagated this way.


When soluble plant foods are washed out of the soil, the process is described as leaching. Fertilizers can be lost through leaching if they are applied at too great a concentration, or if they are applied at the wrong time. A certain amount of leaching is inevitable, particularly in districts where the rainfall is heavy, but some can be avoided by adding partially decomposed manure to the ground before planting, so that it will be fully decomposed by planting time and will be able to release plant foods. The manure also acts as a sponge’ and retains moisture and plant foods. Green manuring is also useful to prevent leaching.


The leading or terminal shoot at the end of a branch is known as the leader. When pruning, it is important to distinguish between leaders and laterals, or side-shoots, as they require different treatment. Leaders if left unpruned will continue to grow and extend the branches in the same direction as the one in which they were growing.


The leaf is one of the main parts of a plant where food is manufactured. Chemicals absorbed by the roots travel up the stem to the leaf, which is usually a lateral outgrowth, where chemical changes brought about by photosynthesis is produce food for the plant. Because the leaf serves such an important function, the gardener should take care not to damage or allow pests and diseases to damage leaves, and not to remove too many leaves from a growing plant.


This is a term for a plant which produces fruit, usually seedless, without fertilization. Some plants, such as certain varieties of grapes, produce fruit naturally without seed, but it is necessary to induce this in certain other plants. Tomatoes and strawberries, for example, can be made to produce seedless fruits by means of hormone sprays. Greenhouse cucumbers should not be allowed to become fertilized, as the resulting fruits are bitter. Unfertilized cucumbers may still have seeds.


Peat is partially decayed organic matter formed when the remains of plants collect in waterlogged areas. This process takes many hundreds of years. Decay is incomplete because it takes place under conditions which lack oxygen, hence preventing any great bacterial activity. There are two main kinds of peat. Sphagnum peat (peat moss) holds up to 15 times its own weight of water and is very acid. Sedge peat, which is less spongy, it holds up to eight times its weight in water and has a pH varying from 3.5 to 7.0. The main value of peat is that is can be dug in the soil or used as a mulch to -improve the soil structure.


A perennial plant is one which does not die after flowering and persists for several years, in contrast with an annual which flowers once and dies after setting seed, and a biennial which takes two seasons to complete its lifecycle. Perennial can be applied to shrubs and trees, but it is more often used in conjunction with the term ‘hardy herbaceous’; most such plants are grown as ornamentals. Most plants in the vegetable garden are not allowed to be perennials, although in the wild they may be. Fruit trees and bushes are woody perennials; strawberries are short-lived perennial plants.


Any creature which causes damage to garden plants can be regarded as a pest. Most garden pests are insects or insect-like creatures, and virtually every plant is subject to infestation and damage by some kind of pest. The damage is usually caused by the pest feeding on the host plant. Pests can weaken plants and spread virus and other diseases, and they can attack the plant at almost any part— roots, leaves, etc. Other pests include rodents, birds and, occasionally, larger animals such as dogs, cats and deer, which not only do damage by feeding, but also by mechanical injury, such as digging up plants or rubbing the bark off trees.

Hybrid and hybridization

A hybrid is any plant which has been produced by crossing different species or by crossing different varieties of the same species. This process of cross-breeding is known as hybridization. Hybrids can occur naturally, as in the case of loganberries, which are the result of a natural cross between a wild dewberry and the common raspberry. Most often, however, hybridization is the result of careful and selective breeding to improve the species or variety.


An insecticide is any chemical used to control insects. The substances are marketed in various forms, such as emulsions, powders, dusts, aerosols, granules and smoke pellets, for use against various insect pests and on different crops. The range of insecticides available to the home grower is limited by regulations which restrict the use of some of the more poisonous substances available to commercial growers. When choosing an insecticide, consider the pest to be controlled, its lifecycle, feeding habits, etc., and the crop which is being attacked. In general, the home-grower should only use insecticides when it is absolutely necessary, and then use the safer ones such as derris, pyrethrum, trichlorphon and malathion, according to directions.


Intercropping is the practice of growing a quick-to-mature crop between the rows of a slower-growing crop, in order to make the best use of space in the garden. For example, rows of lettuces can be planted between rows of Brussels sprouts.


In gardening, a lateral is a side-growth, which can be either a branch or a shoot. When pruning, it is important to distinguish between the laterals and the leading or terminal shoot, the leader, which is at the end of the branch. In most methods of pruning the laterals are cut back hard while the terminal shoots are lightly pruned, unless the space available has been filled.


To the gardener, node refers to the joint on a plant stem. In most cases, leaves or flower buds arise at the nodes. When taking cuttings for propagation it is important to recognize the nodes, as the cambium layer just below the node is usually the best part of the plant for producing new roots. The spaces between the nodes are known as the In certain plants, cuttings are most successful when taken from these areas.


A nodule is a small swelling on the roots of certain plants, particularly legumes, which helps to convert the atmospheric nitrogen in the soil into a form of nitrogen useful as plant food. The nodules contain certain bacteria which do this work, a process called nitrogen fixation. In this way, legumes are able to thrive in soil which has little or no nitrogen, and soil in the garden will be richer after a legume crop is removed.

Notching (and nick-notching)

Notching consists of cutting with a knife a tiny half-moon of bark immediately above a growth bud on fruit trees to stimulate growth. If the cut is made immediately below the bud, the process is called nicking, and it is used to check growth. Notching and nicking are frequently used to build up the main framework of fruit trees in the early years.

Organic matter

In gardening, organic matter refers to materials of animal or vegetable origin used to improve and maintain the quality of the soil. Many of the materials, such as manures, are waste products, and they are allowed to rot before being added to the soil.


This is one of the most valuable of the modern chemical insecticides available to the home grower. It can be obtained as sprays, dusts or aerosols, and it is particularly effective against sucking insects such. As aphids, capsid bugs, red spider mite and thrips. Malathion is one of the safest phosphorus-containing insecticides available; produce which has been treated with it can be harvested and eaten within two days.


Manure is a bulky, humus-forming substance of animal or vegetable origin which is applied to soil mainly to improve its structure and also to supply nutrients. The fertility of most soils treated with this organic material steadily increases to an optimum level at which plants will crop to their maximum extent. Garden composts, animal wastes, seaweed and certain industrial wastes such as spent hops and coffee grounds are all manures. The various animal manures—horse, cow, pig, chicken, etc.—all have different nutrient contents.


A mulch is a cover spread over the surface of the soil, either to inhibit weed growth, to help retain moisture, or to help improve the level of nutrients in the soil. Materials for mulching include garden compost, farmyard manure, peat, straw and sheets of black polythene, depending on what is available and the crop to be mulched. A well-mulched garden needs less time and work to keep it weed-free and watered, and it will be easier to maintain the soil temperature.


Nitrogen is one of the major elements needed for successful plant growth. Although nitrogen itself is a gas, plants make use of it in the form of nitrates derived from the soil. The requirement for nitrogen differs with varying crops, and the needs of individual plants differ during their growing cycles. Plants grown in soil deficient in nitrogen will have pale green or yellow leaves and may be stunted in growth, so it is important to see that nitrates are added to the soil. Generally, an application of a good compound fertilizer will supply sufficient nitrogen, along with other necessary elements.

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03. July 2013 by admin
Categories: General Tips | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vegetable Gardening Glossary


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