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Glossary of Terms for Container Gardeners
How do we learn about "How to Garden?"
In many ways ... much like we learn about anything - by reading, watching, seeing, copying, doing, hearing and more, including our own intuition. But sometimes we miss some of these basics along the way and then we could get stuck or take the wrong action because we misunderstood a term or didn't really know what meant anyway.
For instance, someone may say "...don't forget to mulch" Or "... it's a bienniel plant so don't worry." Getting stuck can be frustrating! Here below is a variety of everyday terms and concepts used in gardening circles.
Of course any list such as this one cannot be finite and besides, you may already know many of the terms below anyway. But for novice gardeners or for reasons of a refresher-reference, the explanation and definitions that follow may mean you learn something new today (or get clarity) and that would be a good thing regardless.
ANNUAL - This is a plant, usually grown from seed, which completes its lifecycle in one year.
BIENNIEL - This is a plant that completes its life cycle over a 2-year period and bears flowers and seed and fruits in the second year of growth.
PERENNIEL - This is a plant that usually lasts for several years coming up season after season. A plant describesd as a perennial does not die after flowering and seeding once or twice. Of course it needs care, water, food etc.
BLANCHING - This term is not as used in the garden as it is in cooking, but still has a very definite place in your gardening vocabulary! In gardening circles Blanching means the practice of excluding the light source from stems and leaves of a plant (i.e. growing in the dark) like celery and chicory and endive. This practice makes these plants less bitter and more succulent.
CROWN - The point at which the stem and the root joins in any plant, usually at soil level. This terms is also used to describe parts of plants, like some succulents and other shallow-rooted plants, where you may read 'avoid getting water into the centre of the crown, or the plant may rot.'
HARDENING OFF - The process of gradually preparing plants and seedlings for transplanting into your containers outside. Especially used with seedlings that have been raised with a measure of protection. Going from 0 to 100 mph may be too much of a shock! Also used to prepare for planting fruits like pineapples, where the crowns are left for a week to a season to dry out and harden off.
IN SITU SOWING - In situ in Latin mean 'in place' so 'in situ sowing' means sowing seeds exactly where they are to grow without transplanting them from seedling trays to the 'final' container or raised bed.
TRUSS - not the verb as in trussing a chicken! A truss is a cluster of flowers or fruit on one branch. Sometimes used to describe orchids as in 'a truss of blooms...'
DRILL - A shallow V-shaped trench, often made in straight rows at specified widths, for planting seeds. Once the seeds have germinated, then the seedlings may be thinned out or transplanted to your containers or planters.
PRICKING OUT - Pinching out the growing point of a plant. Also known as STOPPING. This practice stops it from growing upwards and instead encourages it to spread with side shoots. Used in developing shrubs, for topiary and hedge shaping.
DIBB or DIBBING - Your finger can be used as a dibb stick! Usually a wooden stick of different widths and lengths used to make holes for planting seeds. Sometimes these have handles like a little spade or you can make your own - just join three pencils together with an elastic band.
BOLTING - The often premature production of a seed stalk in vegetable crops such as lettuce and beetroot. This may be desirable if you want to allow the plant to produce seeds, especially after harvesting, but not before. Sometimes the term is wrongly used to describe a plant that is stretching out in search of sunlight and therefore looks unbalanced. It coould look as if it has bolted.
CLOCHE (say klosh) A small usually glass (though can be plastic) transparent 'mixing bowl style' pot, used to cover and protect individul but established seedlings from extreme temperatures and pests. Can act as a mini green house.
PEAT - Partly decayed organic matter mostly from ancient bogs and swamps.
CROCKS - Bits of earthenware pots used at the bottom of your containers to assist with drainage. A crock has now come to include anything used for this reason like gravel, stones, garden netting. Stops the pot and container drainage holes from getting clogged by soil thus retarding good water flow.
MULCH - A layer of material (organic or inorganic) used to protect roots from excessive heat or cold, to assist with retaining moisture, to feed plants and for decoration. Peanut shells, compost, pebbles or bark chips are examples of different types of mulches.
PERLITE - A white volcanic substance that has been heat treated. Loosens the soil and helps in retaining moisture.
FRIABLE - Well worked crumbly soil that is easily raked and drains well. Not clay Friable soil is easy to plant up and work with, unlike clay. Another use would/could be to say 'you can make clay soils more friable by adding sand...'
TILTH - is friable. Tilth is the fine crumbly surface of the topsoil you get when you rake it.
WATER DOWN - Watering thoroughly so the the roots get the water deep down. Opposite to surface watering when your containers look as if they have been watered but in fact the roots are still dry. Many plants have died because they did not get enough water. Also watering down encourages good deep root development where the roots stabalise the plant well and do not grow out sideways or even upwards in search of water.
HERBICIDE - A chemical mixture used to kill off weeds and other unwanted vegetation. P.S. Never use tobacco-based products (please) and know that you can make your own natural herbicides that may work just as well.
INSECTICIDE - A toxic mix of chemicals used to control insects attacking plants. Often confused with or used instead of herbicides for the wrong reasons. It follows too that you will get the wrong results.
SYSTEMICS - Applied in a liquid form, usually onto the soil with watering. Systemic based insecticides or herbicides are then absorbed by the plant's system which then becomes distateful (literally) to the pest, often sucking style pests like aphids or mealy bug. A liquid systemic can also be used as a foliar-spray.
PHOTO PERIOD - The hours of light and sunshine required each day by a plant to reach maturity, blossom, fruit and regrow. So, you may read or hear people say the 'photo period for roses is usually 6 hours a day.'
Have you got a term whose exact meaning you are not sure about? Go to the forum right away and ask then see. Anyone of our readers and gardeners could answer just as quickly as you asked the question.
What do you want your container garden to do?
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