The first step to understanding your garden is knowing the keywords and terms associated with gardening practices. Whether you are new to gardening, or just brushing up on the subject; it can be quite confusing what all the various gardening terms mean. Every term you all learn will become a tool in your Grocers bag. To help out we’ve added an A to Z list of frequently used gardening terms and keywords. The keywords will be broken up into groups, with commonly associated terms listed below each group
1. Growing Mediums
The material that your plants grow in is called the “growing medium or media” The term 'substrate' is also used and means the same thing.
Growing medium has three main functions-
1- provides roots with nutrients, air, and water,
2- allow for maximum root growth
3- physically support the plant.
A soil, compost, or liquid with a pH between 0 and 7.0 (on a scale of 0.0-14.0). Often referred to as “sour” soil by gardeners
Any method of loosening soil or compost to allow air to circulate.
Describes organisms living or occurring only when oxygen is present.
A soil with a pH between 7.0 and 14 (on a scale of 0.0-14.0). Often referred to as “sweet” soil by gardeners.
Describes organisms living or occurring where there is no oxygen.
Able to decompose or break down through natural bacterial or fungal action. Substances made of organic matter are biodegradable.
The tiniest particles found in soil, less than .002 millimeters in size; clay excels at holding both nutrients and moisture, though soils with excessive clay content drain poorly and become rock-hard when dry.
Completely decayed organic matter used for conditioning soil. It is dark, odorless and rich in nutrients
A liquid fertilizer made by soaking compost in water to extract the nutrients; an aerator is often used to encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the brew
Controlled Release Fertilizer :
Also called Time Release Fertilizer. Fertilizer comes in pellets and is an improved version of Slow Release Fertilizer. Fertilizer is released based on soil temperature itself (not microbe action) and tends to be more exact than Slow Release Fertilizer.
Sowing seeds where they are to grow, as opposed to sowing them in pots and transplanting them later
A special technique used to prepare a planting area, which creates an extra deep bed of loose, rich soil
The ability for water to pass freely through the soil; without good drainage, which can be achieved by building raised beds or adding soil amendments, the planting area becomes waterlogged
A natural product used to reduce the pH of alkaline soil so that it will support the growth of a wider range of plants; sulfur is also used as an organic insecticide and fungicide
To add nutrition to your plants using either commercial or non-commercial fertilizers or compost.
Fertilizer + Nutrients
An abbreviation for the three main nutrients or “macronutrients” that are necessary for plants to survive and grow. These are (N) nitrogen,
(P) phosphorus, and
These are often found as the three numbers on fertilizer labels, and represent the percentage per volume of each nutrient. For example a 10-5-2 fertilizer contains 10% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 2% potassium.
Spraying the foliage of plants with a liquid fertilizer; pores on the underside of leaves can absorb the nutrients directly from the liquid
A small trench made in the soil for planting seeds; may also refer to the depression between raised planting beds
Growing plants that accumulate nutrients and organic matter, which are tilled into the earth to improve soil quality; the terms green manure and cover crops are often used interchangeably
A soil amendment that is mined from the ocean floor; it is a natural, organic source of potassium and numerous micronutrients
Organic fertilizer made from the excrement of seabirds and bats; available in both high-nitrogen and high-phosphorus forms, guano is mined from dried deposits found beneath historic nesting areas in some parts of the world
A soil that contains a high proportion of clay and is poorly drained
A fairly stable, complex group of nutrient-storing molecules created by microbes and other forces of decomposition by the conversion of organic matter. Typically its dark loamy earth
A substance containing beneficial soil microbes; commercial inoculants are used for a variety of purposes, from hastening the rate of decomposition in a compost pile to improving soil fertility
A soil amendment that corrects chlorosis, a condition characterized by yellow leaves with green veins; iron chelate is available in both organic and synthetic forms
A soil amendment made from dried, ground seaweed; it is a natural, organic source of potassium and numerous micronutrients
Fertile, well-drained soil; loams have an ideal balance of sand, silt, and clay particles, along with abundant organic matter and humus content
Other mineral elements that are needed by plants but only in very small amounts. They are boron (B), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), and chlorine (Cl)
It can be any material that is spread over the soil surface around plants in the garden. There are two basic kinds of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic mulches include formerly living material such as chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, shredded bark, sawdust, pine needles, and even paper. Inorganic mulches include black plastic and geotextiles The main purpose of mulch is to help the soil retain moisture so fewer waterings are required and to help prevent weeds from growing and competing with your plants. Mulches made of organic material also contribute to the improvement of the soil as they are broken down.
Substances that come from living things, normally from plants or animals. When added to your soil, organic matter helps to improve soil structure and supplies nutrients to your plants. Examples: compost, wood chips, straw, and manure.
A common ingredient in potting soil, peat moss is the decomposed remains of plants that have collected over millennia at the bottom of northern bogs; this spongy material has exceptional water holding capacity and is also used to lower the pH of soils for acid-loving plants.
A lightweight, organic soil amendment that can be used to improve drainage and aeration in potting mixes. Commonly seen in potting mixes, perlite is the little white material you see that often in potting mixes.
A scale from 0-14 that explains the degree of acidity or alkalinity of the water or soil. Soil pH is very important because it affects the availability of nutrients to plants and the activity of microorganisms in the soil
Sandy soil is composed of many irregulars to rounded tiny grains of sand, as opposed to the many tiny plate-like soil particles that make up clay soil. Sandy soil drains very quickly and doesn't hold on to fertilizer well.
A technique used to eliminate weeds without digging or herbicides; a layer of newspaper or cardboard is spread over the ground followed by mulch on top, smothering the weeds below
Intermediate soil particle, .002 to .05 millimeters; silt combines the best traits of both sand and clay particles, retaining moisture and nutrients effectively while draining freely
Slow Release Fertilizer:
A granular fertilizer that has been coated with a substance that prevents the nutrients from leaching into the soil all at once
Material added to the soil to improve its properties. This may include; water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, aeration, and structure. Soil amendments are mostly an organic matter or very slow release minerals and are typically worked into the topsoil.
The infertile layer of soil beneath topsoil that contains minerals, but little to no biological activity or organic matter; also called mineral soil
Describes the general health of the soil including a balance of nutrients, water, and air. Soil that is healthy and has good physical qualities is in good tilth.
The practice of using earthworms to break down and convert food scraps and other organic materials into worm castings, which are used as fertilizer in the garden.
Another lightweight mineral with similar a similar use to perlite, but ranging in color from brown to bronze to yellow instead of white. Vermiculite is a sterile soil amendment created by heating mica at very high temperatures until it expands. This expanded form contains lots of air and can retain moisture very well. For this reason, it is most often added to container potting mixes to help aerate the soil and aid in moisture retention.
The digested organic waste of red worms. Gardeners consider them the most nutrient-dense organic compost available.