Common Gardening Words


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Learn the language of gardening from these gardening terms

There are various gardening terms used in Horticulture that is sometimes bewildering to the Home Gardener. As the ranks of the latter are increasing and the terms explained here are used throughout this website, this explanatory list is included with a view of educating the meanings of some of the common words and terms used in gardening.

BALL – Plants are always lifted, if possible, with a good “ball,” which means with sufficient soil adhering to the roots to prevent undue shock.

BLEEDING – As a rule this refers to the flow of sap following the cutting of shoots at the wrong season, though some plants will ”bleed” at almost any time if cut; the India rubber plant, for example.

BREAK – A shoot is said to break when it makes visible growth after it has been pinched or stopped. A natural break occurs when fresh growth is produced in a natural manner without pinching.

CALLUS – This is a ring of tissue that forms at the base of a cutting, usually in a few weeks after it is inserted; subse­quently roots issue from the callus.

COMPOST – A compost is a mixture of leaf mould and soil used for potting plants.

CLOSE – A close atmosphere means a warm, moist atmosphere without ventilation.

CLUMP – A clump indicates good-sized  root of some herbaceous plant, such as Phlox, Michaelmas daisy, etc.

CROWN – This means a growth possessing a bud, usually or in the soil, from which growth springs annually.

CROWN BUD – In reference to chrysanthemums, the crown bud is the flower bud produced at the end of the first growth made direct from the cutting.

DAMPING DOWN – This is carried out in greenhouses by wetting the floors and other vacant spaces. The object is to keep the atmosphere sufficiently moist for the needs of the plants, and it is essential chiefly in hot weather.

DAMPING OFF – Seedlings “damp off” when they are kept in a close atmosphere and are over watered, especially if they are growing thickly together. Under such conditions they are attacked by a fungus, as indicated by the stems turning black and decaying at the soil level.

DRAWN – Plants are said to be drawn when the growth has become elongated owing to insufficient light, or owing to their being placed too far from the glass.

DRESS – To dress ground is to apply manure or any other substance, such applications being termed dressings. The term is also used when referring to arranging any petals of a flower that are misplaced. Carnations are usually dressed for show.

DUSTING – The application of lime, soot, and similar materials to soils or plants as a protection against or remedy for insect attacks.

FORCING – This term explains the process of bringing plants to maturity out of their natural season by means of a heated glass house or frame.

FLAG – Plants flag when their leaves lose their stiffness and droop, a condition usually caused by dryness at the roots.

HARDEN OFF – Plants raised in a warm temperature require to be inured to cooler conditions gradually if they are to be planted outside later, and this process the gardener terms “hardening them off,” or sometimes merely “hardening.”

HOTBED – A hotbed is a large bulk of fresh manure, often with leaves added, and made into a square or oblong bed, for the purpose of providing bottom heat for the cultivation of various plants by cuttings or seed.

LEGGY – Synonymous with drawn, already explained, but also used occasionally to describe plants of which the stems have become bare owing to the loss of the lower leaves.

LEAF MOULD – This useful ingredient of most potting soils is formed by placing a quantity of leaves in a heap to decay a process which usually takes 12 months.

PINCH – A plant is said to be pinched when the growing points are removed to induce the formation of side shoots.

PLUNGE – Plants in pots are plunged when placed, just as they are, in ashes, soil, or other material; bulbs when potted for indoor flowering are plunged in ashes, and pots of cuttings, etc., are sometimes plunged in cocoanut fiber.

POTTING ON – This work consists of repotting    plants into larger pots than those previously occupied.

POTTING OFF – Cuttings or seedlings growing several in a pot or box are said to be potted off when each is given a small separate pot.

PRICK OUT – Seedlings are pricked out by transplanting so that they may have more room for development.

PROPAGATOR – A propagator is a name often given to a propagating case, which is a box-like contrivance with a glass cover and heated from underneath. It is used for the propagation of cuttings which need a close atmosphere to ensure the formation of roots. Seeds may also be germinated in such.

REPOT – When a plant is repotted it is tipped out of its pot, and after some of the old soil is removed, it is repotted in another and usually a larger pot.

ROSE – An appliance for placing on the spout of a watering can to ensure a spray of water, instead of one heavy stream, as would be the case otherwise.

SAPPY – Sappy growths are soft and flabby, and are usually caused by excessive manuring, by over-watering, or by soil not sufficiently firm.

 SET – This term indicates the formation of fruit after the flowers have faded.

SIDESHOOTS – Growths that develop from buds situated in the axils of the leaves on a main growth are termed side-shoots.

SPRAYING – This is another word for syringing, the water emitted in the form of a spray; or, more correctly, it has reference to the use of a spraying machine.

START – Plants are started into growth by being placed in a warmer temperature and given more water than hitherto.

STOCK – The word has a double meaning for gardeners. It may be used to indicate a number of plants, often of one kind, and it is also the name given to a plant upon which another is bedded or grafted.

STOP – The growth of plants is stopped temporarily by pinching.

STRIKE – A cutting is said to strike when it forms roots.

TAKING BUDS – A Chrysanthemum bud is taken when it is left! It is really secured by removing all the smaller     buds on the same growth.

 TOP DRESSING – This indicates  an application of soil – usually rich – manure, or other substance over the roots of plants or upon a grass lawn.

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