Saturday, May 7, 2016

Gardening glossary for urban vegetable growers A-Z

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Are you new to vegetable gardening? 

When we started growing our own vegetables last year, there were so many terms and expressions that we had never heard about. "Thinning? Yeah sure... ehm, sorry, what?" Or the expression that the spinach might 'bolt' in warm weather... what is that supposed to mean? A plant can't physically run away! As you can imagine, we felt beyond clueless ;-)

The gardening glossary below covers basic terms and expression commonly used in vegetable farming. Enjoy! :-)
Gardening glossary for urban vegetable growers
Gardening glossary for urban vegetable growers

Allotment garden - also called community garden. A piece of land available for individuals, commonly found in urban areas.

Beneficial insects - insects that are good for pest control and pollination of plants. Includes ladybugs, earth worms, bees, spiders and ground beetles.

Biodynamic gardening - developed by Rudolf Steiner. A biodynamic farm is considered as an entity, and structured around lunar and astrological cycles.1 As opposed to organic farming where you may purchase sources from the outside (ex. organic seeds), a biodynamic farm must produce everything on the site. Biodynamic farming is always organic, but organic farming is not always biodynamic.

Bolting - bolting in plants can be caused by hot weather and increased day length. Before you've managed to harvest the edible part, the plant has gone from mostly leaves to mostly flowers.2  Plants that are prone to bolting are spinach, cabbage and lettuce. Plants that have bolted are normally inedible, unless you enjoy the bitter taste ;-)

Carbon - carbon dioxide is fundamentally important for plants. The carbon dioxide is what makes plants grow, by converting the chemical into energy.3 Carbon adds structure to the soil when you're composting, and is found in leaves, thatch and paper.

Companion planting - pest control method in organic gardening and also a natural method for vegetable plants to encourage each other's growth. To give you an example; onions planted with carrots, help the carrots against the carrot flies.

Compost - used for fertilizing and improving the soil, and is a mixture of decomposed organic matter.

Crop rotation - you grow plants at different places every year, to reduce the risk of plant diseases. Other gardeners switch places every third or fourth year.

Crown (plant) - where the stem meets the roots. The crown should be at soil level and not buried below soil level. If you bury the crown, the plant might rot!
The 'red crown' on a strawberry plant
The 'red crown' on a strawberry plant

Direct sowing - you sow the seeds exactly where you want them to grow, normally outdoors.

Earthing up - common expression for growing potato plants. Potatoes exposed to the sun turn green and contain a poisonous chemical called solanine. For the potatoes to avoid sun exposure as they grow, we need to cover them with a ridge of soil.

Fertilizing - either synthetic or natural. Fertilizers add extra nutrition to the soil. Organic fertilizer may be organic compost, coffee grounds, animal manure, nettle leaves and so forth.

Full sun - the plant requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
Radish seedlings and leaf lettuce in direct sunlight
Radish seedlings and leaf lettuce in direct sunlight

Germinate - when a seed sprouts.

Growing season - the period of time when the climate is excellent for plants outdoors. The growing season varies from place to place, and from year to year.

Sowing calendars for the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Harden off - a plant that has been grown inside needs to get accustomed to the outdoors climate, starting slowly with a couple of hours on a sheltered location. In the evening you bring the plant inside, and the next day you continue to expose them to the climate outdoors. It is often said that you should harden off the plants one week before they get a permanent spot in the garden or on the balcony.

Humus - considered as the most important part of the soil, and consists mainly of carbon.4 Humus is what it is left when organic matter has decomposed.

Hydroponics - an old method of growing vegetables using water that contains mineral nutrient solutions. Soil is not needed.
Vegetable hydroponics. Copyright: zenstock / 123RF Stock Photo
Gardening glossary. Vegetable hydroponics. Copyright: zenstock / 123RF Stock Photo

Mulch - a layer of grass clippings, leaves or bark to retain the moisture in the soil. An excellent method of water conservation if you're going away on vacation :-)

Nitrogen - considered as the most vital nutrition for plants and essential for growth of stems and leaves. If the plant looks pale and "sickly-looking", then it probably lacks nitrogen.5

Organic vegetable gardening - follows the organic principles of not using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the garden. In the bigger picture, organic gardening is a philosophy that nourishes an ecosystem, and not only focusing on making the plants grow. Natural pest control and improving the soil with organic matter are common in organic gardening.

Partial sun - the plant requires at least 3-6 hours of direct sunlight.

Pests - insects, animals, fungi and viruses considered harmful to agriculture, including vegetable crops.6 Insect pests feed on crops, and includes the cabbage butterfly larvae and the carrot fly.

Seed leaves - the first pair of leaves when the seed has germinated, which actually function as food source for the sprouting seedling.7 Eventually the seed leaves will die and fall off as the true leaves will become responsible for feeding the plant.

Seedling - the first greenery when the seed has germinated.

Read: Guide on how to avoid tall, leggy seedlings.
Carrot seedlings with their seed leaves, grown in milk cartons
Gardening glossary: Carrot seedlings with their seed leaves, grown in milk cartons

Stratification - giving your seeds a temperature treatment before sowing, normally by placing the seeds in the refrigerator. Seeds that need stratifying include lavender and cat mint. Click here to read more about stratification.

Thinning - removing excess seedlings. Thinning might seem like a cruel practice, but this is necessary for the seedlings to grow without having to compete for nutrition and space.8 Best practice is to remove the weakest seedlings. If you don't want to thin out seedlings later, sow the seeds according to the seed package (look for 'plant distance').
Thinning out crowded beets
Thinning out crowded beets

True leaves - after the seed leaves have grown, the first true leaves will appear. They will look like the leaves of an adult plant.
True leaves and seed leaves on spinach and wild arugula.
Gardening glossary: True leaves and seed leaves on spinach and wild arugula.

Transplantation - you dig up a plant and move it to another location, also called repotting. You transplant a seedling/plant to a larger pot for the plant to grow larger and healthier.

Vertical planting - is growing vegetables vertically, on the walls, fences or from the ceiling. A pretty nifty way when you're living in small spaces.

Did I leave out something? Let me know and I'll get back to you! :-)

Continue to read:
22 signs that you may have an eco-conscious lifestyle.

12 nifty apartment balcony garden ideas.


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