Annual: A plant that germinates from seed, that grows, flowers and sets seed all in one year. The plant then dies.
Biennial: A plant that germinates from seed, that grows, flowers and sets seed all in two years. The plant then dies.
Catch crop: A quick-maturing crop that can be grown on a piece of ground before the main crop is planted.
Crop rotation: It is important not to keep growing the same vegetable type in the same place year after year. This can deplete the soil of specific plant foods and increase the possibility of diseases. A very basic way to group the different vegetables for rotation is by the parts that we eat – fruit or seeds, roots and leaves. Rotate your crops in that order each year and you will get a better harvest as the plants in each group have similar growing requirements.
Cut and come again salad leaves: These are varieties of salad leaves that will keep producing there edible leaves throughout a harvesting time if cut regularly.
Earthing up: Potatoes are earthed up as they grow to prevent the tubers turning green near the surface, where it is light. Green potatoes are poisonous. Earthing up can be done in several stages, or when plants are about 23cm high. Soil is drawn up around the stems to around 10-13cm. Leeks and celery are also earthed up to produce whiter stems.
Eye protection: One of the most common causes of accidents in the garden can occur when a person bends down and catches their face, neck or eye on the top of a cane used to stake a plant. Reduce the risk of injury by shielding the top of the cane. There are a number of ‘cane- toppers’ on the market, made of plastic, or terracotta. You can make your own using small pots, film containers, yoghurt pots, etc., which can be placed upside-down on the cane.
Green manures: Are crops which are usually grown over winter and then dug into the soil in early spring to improve soil fertility. Some suitable plants include: broad or fava bean, grazing rye (Seakale cereal), winter tares (Vicia sativa) and various clovers, including Essex red clover (Trifolium pratense).
Harden off: This term is used to describe letting plants grown inside, or with heat, become accustomed to conditions outdoors. If you don’t harden off your plants, the shock of the cooler conditions can damage them. You can harden off your plants by putting them in a cold frame and leaving the lid open for short periods, gradually increasing the time, until they are more able to cope with the temperature outside. Or you can put plants outside for short and then longer periods in the warmer part of the day. Try to harden off when danger of frost is passed.
Hardy plants: These survive the winter unprotected, but half-hardy plants will need protection. Tender plants will not survive any exposure to frost.
Horticultural fleece: Is an opaque, lightweight material that can be used to cover and warm the soil, or to protect crops against frost/cold or as a barrier against pests. It is available from good garden centres.
Horticultural membrane: A woven, permeable material that is laid down onto soil to suppress weeds. It is useful to lay over areas of ground that you are not using. You can also cut ‘cross’ slits in the membrane and plant through. This works well with more permanent crops such as fruit bushes. Spread a shallow mulch, e.g. bark chippings, over the top to hide the membrane.
Intercropping: The sowing or planting of a fast-growing crop between or alongside a slower-growing crop. The fast-growing crop is cleared before the slower crop requires all the space for its latter stages of growth. E.g. Lettuce with broad beans or radishes with parsnips.
Liquid feeds: Usually sold as a concentrate or as soluble granules or powders that you dissolve in water and then water on to moist soil or compost. They have been developed to contain the correct nutrients to feed plants, particularly at flowering or fruiting time. They need to be diluted at a specific rate as labelled. There are organic liquid feeds, liquid tomato feed, and various others.
Mulch: Is material used to cover the soil. Common loose ‘organic’ mulches are garden compost, shredded bark and cocoa shells. Spread your mulch over the vegetable plot in spring, when the ground is wet. Mulching will suppress weed growth and conserve moisture in the soil. You will need at least 5cm (2-inches) depth of mulch for a good effect. Sheet mulches do the same job, and can be used in combination with a loose mulch or decorative layer, to hide the sheet. You can use plastic, old carpet, or proprietary semi-permeable matting. Planting holes can be made through the sheet. Lay the matting down when the soil is moist.
No-dig beds: It is possible to avoid digging altogether by using a no-dig method. A very thick layer of compost, and usually straw, is put over the ground and plants are planted into this. The action of worms and micro-organisms ‘do their bit’ and you can hang up your spade forever!
Organic growing: Gardening without the application of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and other treatments. Crops are kept healthy by using good practice, such as crop rotation, composting, and timing plantings to avoid pest populations. You can also buy organically produced seed.
Perlite: A mineral that has been heat-treated to expand and become lightweight. It can be mixed with compost to improve aeration and drainage. Vermiculite is a similar material that has a high water- holding capacity.
Perennials: Plants that go on growing year after year. Perennials are divided into two types: Herbaceous perennials – where the plant dies down to ground level each year. Shrubby perennials – where the plants do not die down, such as shrubs and trees.
Plug Plants: This is a small plant grown in a tray with its own separate cell of compost so that root disturbance is kept to a minimum. The smallest are called mini-plugs, while large maxi-plugs are almost ready for hardening off and planting.
Potager: A potager is an ornamental vegetable garden where crops and companion flowers are laid out like bedding plants, usually within a formal geometric arrangement of small beds.
Propagation: Is the increase of plants. This may be by vegetative propagation i.e. cuttings, or division, or by seed.
Sizes of flower pots: Relate to the diameter across the top of the pot. You can fill 58x9cm (3 1/2- inch) round pots from a 20-litre bag of compost. You can fill 13x40cm module seed trays from the same size bag of compost.
Seed leaves: Are the first pair of leaves produced by a seedling, and are a simple shape. The true leaves come through next and have the characteristic shape of the plant’s mature leaves.
Successive sowing: Means sowing in succession, to prevent the crop maturing all at once and producing a ‘glut’. It is often used with fast-growing crops such as lettuce, radish, spinach and turnips. As a general rule, sow a moderate amount of seed and sow the next amount when the first seed has started to show, and so on.
Top-dressing: Is the application of compost, manure or fertiliser on top of the ground around plants. The top-dressings can be lightly raked or hoed in, and the nutrients are gradually washed down to the plant roots. The top-dressing principle can also be applied to plants grown in containers.