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Gardening Wiki

You will hear many words and phrases as you learn about gardening. Our Gardening Wiki is a reference guide on gardening terminology to help you better understand terms used by gardeners, horticulturalists etc. so that you wouldn't feel overwhelmed.




A plant that completes its entire life cycle in one year



Plants that are dug up from the ground after they enter dormancy and are stored without any soil around their roots until replanted (for example, strawberries can be purchased bareroot)

Beneficial organisms, beneficials

Organisms that help plants survive e.g. they help with pollination or pest control (ladybugs eat aphids and other pests.


Bolting is when a plant goes to seed due to increased daylight hours and/or high temperatures. The plant puts all of its energy into reproducing and stops putting energy into the edible parts of the plant, potentially causing them to become bitter

Broadcast sow

Sprinkling seeds without purposefully placing them in a spot


Cold frame

A box-shaped frame with four sides and a glass or plastic top, used to extend the growing season by allowing plants to be warmer than the surrounding area and protect the plant from the harsher environment. 

Cold season crops

Crops that grow in cool temperatures, usually in the spring and fall, and bolt in high temperatures

Cold stratification

see Stratification

Companion planting

Companion planting is the practice of growing different plants together for mutual benefit such as to prevent diseaset and insect infestation, or for nutrients.


The product of decayed organic material, used as a fertilizer and soil amendment


A significant part of the embryo within a seed. Cotyledons help supply the nutrition a plant embryo needs to germinate and become established as a photosynthetic organism and may themselves be a source of nutritional reserves or may aid the embryo in metabolizing nutrition stored elsewhere in the seed.

Cover crop

a plant that grows just above the soil level, when compared to other plants near it. It is used to prevent soil erosion, and add organic matter to enrich the soil.

Crop rotation

The practice of rotating crops so that the same plants are not grown in the same space for more than one season It is also used to manage pests in organic gardening.


A variety of plant developed through selective breeding. Most vegetables are cultivars as they have been selectively bred over generations to produce desirable characteristics

Cut and come again

Used to refer to plants such as greens and herbs that allow you can cut leaves from the plant, and the plant will continue producing. It allows you to harvest for one plant over an extended period of time.


To take part of the stem, roots or leaves of a mature plant and place it in potting soil to grow a new plant. It is also called a slip.


Damping off

A seedling diseases. It is when the stem of the young plant rots off at the soil level due to a fungal attack. To avoid this, make sure that your seed starting containers are clean. If you are reusing containers, be sure to wash them thoroughly between uses.


The removal of dead blossoms in order to encourage the plant to produce more flowers, or to prevent the plant from self-seeding.



Plants that retain their foliage all year round.


Frost date

Dates for your average first and last freeze. You can find yours here.


A word used to describe the leaves and branches of a plant.

Full sun

At least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Many warm-season crops need 8-10 hours of direct sunlight.



Germination is when a seed first starts growing. This marks the end of a seed’s dormancy, or time of inactivity.

Good drainage

Soil that drains water well and doesn't get over-saturated.


This is when tissues of two plants are joined together to make one new plant.

Growing season

The number of days between the last average frost and the first average frost for your area. This is important because each crop has a certain number of days until it reaches maturity – usually found on the seed packet — and would help determine if a particular crop variety is suited for your area.


Hard freeze

When outside temperatures drop below -4°C for four, or more, hours (most plants need protection at -4°C or below)

Hardening off

The process of gradually acclimatizing indoor-sown plants to outdoor conditions. For most plants, begin hardening off a week before the final frost date for your area. Start by placing plants outside for a few hours one day, four hours the next day and progressing daily until they are ready to be outside all day and then planted outside to continue their life cycle


A plant variety that has been passed down within a family or community over a long period of time


Plants that do not have woody stems, only soft green stalks and leaves.


The dark, organic, nutrient-rich material created by microbes and other forces of decomposition in the soil. It is composed of a variety of living matter such as decayed leaves, twigs, animal and insect matter.


A controlled method of pollination in which the pollen of two different species or varieties is crossed by human intervention



A substance containing beneficial soil microbes that help speed up the process of decomposition to improve soil quality or fertility.

Intensive planting

Also referred to as chinese gardening, biodynamic gardening or square foot gardening, it is a method of growing plants together in close proximity — essentially ignoring the spacing guidelines you see on seed packets. It helps conserve space, water and other resources while preventing weeds and pests from establishing themselves in your garden.


Light Frost

When the temperature drops below 0°C (32°F), but greater than -4°C. Many cool season crops, like carrots or kale, become sweeter with a light frost.



An organic or inorganic material used to cover soil so that the soil holds more moisture and its temperature is regulated. It also helps reduce or eliminate weeds.


Open Pollenation

This occurs when a plant is pollinated by an insect, bird, wind, humans, or other natural mechanisms. As a result, plants that are open-pollenated are more genetically diverse and have more varieties that are specifically adapted to a local area or region.



A plant that grows for more than two years.


Insects and other organisms that eat and damage plants


The process by which plants (and some organisms) transform light energy into chemical energy for food. They use sunlight, water, carbon dioxide and minerals to create oxygen and energy in the form of sugar.


To grow plants from seed, cuttings, or grafting


Pruning is the removal or reduction of parts of a plant, tree, or vine that are not required for growth or production, are no longer visually pleasing, or are not good for the health or development of the plant. Types of pruning cuts are removal cut, reduction cut, heading cut and removal of dead branches.



When a plant’s roots have outgrown the pot it is in and can no longer stretch and expand due to being trapped, or bound, inside the pot. If you see roots poking out of the drainage holes, chances are it is rootbound.



The first stage of a plant grown from seed — when the first stem/leaves start to emerge from the seed.


A plant that does not need pollen from another plant to reproduce.


when plants spread large amounts of their seeds on their own

Sheet mulch

layering thick pieces of organic material on top of the soil to suppress weeds and build soil fertility.


see Cutting

Soil amendment

a material added to the soil to improve it for plant life — nutrients, retaining moisture, aerating etc.

Soil quality

How fertile the soil is. This describes how rich the soil is in nutrients and other beneficial factors.


A term used for planting seeds


These are immature plants that are often started inside in small trays before being put in the ground outside. These are also called transplants


Specifically cold stratification is a method of pre-treating seeds to overcome winter dormancy more quickly and reliably than leaving them to their own devices. It's the process of simulating a cold, damp winter to spur the seeds into action on a timetable that better suits a gardener's plans.

Succession planting

The practice of seeding crops at intervals of 7 to 21 days so that there is a consistent supply of harvestable produce throughout the season. Succession planting also involves planting a new crop after harvesting the first crop.



Cutting plants at the soil level to allow other (usually stronger or healthier) plants near it to grow to maturity.


Also called starts these are immature plants that are often started inside in small trays before being put in the ground outside (they are the small plants you see for sale at garden centers)

True Leaves

A “true” leaf is one that can perform photosynthesis. When a seedling sprouts, the first leaves that appear are not “true” leaves, but “cotyledons” or seed leaves. They sometimes still have the seed coat on their tip as they grow upwards.



To plant seeds in an area that already has established seeds or crops. This is to allow the new seeds or crops to slowly establish themselves before the original crops are harvested.

Urban gardening

The cultivation of plants within city environments, capitalizing on small spaces like windowsills, balconies, or shared community plots. It's a creative blend of gardening techniques, tailored to thrive amidst skyscrapers and busy streets. This practice brings agriculture into the heart of urban life, offering a sustainable means for city dwellers to grow their own food, improve the local environment, and build stronger communities. Learn more...


Warm season crops

Crops that germinate and grow in warmer (late spring and summer) weather and do not survive a freeze. These crops do not do well under 10°C (50°F).


Creating small space kitchen gardens for everyone.


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