Beginner’s Gardening Glossary

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Annuals
Plants that complete their life cycle in one year or less, requiring sowing every year.

Bolting
The stage when a plant sends up a flower stalk to produce seeds; leaves become smaller, tougher, and bitter. Leafy greens should be harvested prior to bolting for optimal taste.

Cool weather crop
Crops that need cool weather to germinate, grow and mature.

Determinate
A growing pattern in tomato plants. Determinate tomatoes, also known as “bush types,” set all their fruit in a shorter period of time, do not need to be pruned, grow well in a cage, and do not require staking.

Direct Sowing
Sowing seeds directly in their permanent growing space. Plants that prefer this method include those that require weathering and those with fragile root systems.

First Frost Date
The date of the first light freeze (32°F) that occurs in fall. Optimal sowing time is often calculated from frost date.

Full Sun
Six or more hours of direct sunlight. Locations that receive full sun include an open field and the south-facing side of your home.

Germination
The sprouting of a seedling from a seed.

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Hardening Off
The process of gradually exposing tender plants to outdoor conditions. This is done prior to transplanting in order to prevent transplant shock, in which seedlings become stunted or die from sudden changes in climate.

Hardiness Zone
A number letter combo from 1a-13b based on the historical average lowest winter temperature in specific geographic US areas. Developed by the USDA, hardiness zones characterize climate and indicate what plants can be grown and at what time.

Heirloom variety
Open-pollinated plant varieties that are over 50 years old. Unlike hybrid seeds, seeds produced from heirloom varieties retain the same characteristics as the mother plant and can be saved and planted in following seasons.

Indeterminate
A growing pattern in tomato plants. Indeterminate tomatoes, also known as "staking tomatoes," produce fruit all season, should be pruned, and require staking to keep tomatoes off the ground.

Last Frost Date
The date of the last light freeze (32°F) that occurs in spring. Optimal sowing time is often calculated from frost date.

Non-GMO Seeds
Seeds that are natural and do not come from genetically modified organisms, organisms whose DNA has been modified using genetic engineering methods in a laboratory.

Perennials
Plants that live for more than two years. Plant them once and enjoy them for many years.

Pruning
Selectively removing parts of a plant to promote new growth.

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Scoville heat units (SHU)
A measurement of the concentration of the chemical compound capsaicin which gives spiciness to a pepper. The higher the SHU, the spicier the pepper.

Staking
Inserting a stake beside a plant in order to provide its stem with support while it grows.

Sun to Part Shade
Three to six hours of sunlight. Locations that receive part sun include but are not limited to the east-facing side of your home and west-facing side of your home.

Thinning
Removing extra seedlings so that remaining plants are spaced properly. It is common practice to plant multiple seeds in the same location (to ensure at least one robust seedling emerges) and then thin extra seedlings thereafter.

Transplanting
Growing seeds in small trays or containers and then transferring plants to a larger and permanent growing space. This allows you to control the germination environment, maximize use of garden space, and stagger planting.

Trellis
A framework of light wooden or metal bars that support climbing plants such as beans.

USDA organic seeds
Seeds harvested from plants grown without synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides in accordance with USDA organic requirements.

Variety
A subclassification of plant species with distinct features. For instance, some varieties of cucumbers are better for slicing and others are more suitable for pickling.

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