You are here: Home > Tips & Guides > General Gardening > Common Gardening Terms

Common Gardening Terms

Whether you’re just starting a garden for the first time or have a certified green thumb, you may tend to find yourself looking up common gardening terms to refresh your memory. Below is an alphabetical list of popular terms that everyone should know. Not finding what you’re looking for? Contact us, and our friendly staff are happy to help!


Breaking up, puncturing or loosening soil to allow for better air circulation and nutrient absorption.

Annual Plant

A plant that grows, blooms and dies in a year. These varieties often bloom in abundance and for a longer time. You will need to sow these varieties every year.


Bolting, most commonly a problem for edible plants, is when a plant grows so quickly it flowers or seeds too early and yields an unpalatable crop.

Companion Planting

A method of planting compatible seeds next to each other for an added benefit. Some examples include planting basil next to tomatoes for a more robust flavor, planting mint as a natural insect/pest repellent and planting seeds next to each other that have a similar growing pattern for better space utilization. Companion planting is the smart way to garden! Be aware, however, that there are plenty of plants that are incompatible. Understanding what doesn't grow well together is crucial for success. For a list of vegetables that grow well together and those that don’t, click here.


Organic matter used to enrich soil. Aside from adding natural nutrients to your soil, compost can be a great way to reduce landfill waste as it can be created by using kitchen scraps that you would normally throw away.

Cover Crop

Cover crops are quick-growing plants that are planted to enhance the soil, typically after harvest and before the next round of sowing. Cover crops can be grains, legumes or grasses and are a great way to keep your soil healthy.

Days to Emerge

This is how many days until a seedling will emerge from the soil in the recommended conditions. You can use this metric to plan as well as check the progress of your seedlings.

Days to Harvest

This is how many days until your plants are ready for harvest. This term is used interchangeably with "days to maturity." In regard to vegetables, this is the time until they are ready to be picked. In terms of flowers, this is the time until you will see flowers.


Deadheading is the process of removing the dead flowers from a plant. Aside from cleaning up the appearance of the plant, this will encourage the plant to bloom again and prolong the overall blooming time.

Direct Sow

Directly sowing seeds means to plant seeds in their permanent home wherever you choose that to be. Also known as "direct seed." These plants will not be transplanted or started indoors.

Disease Resistance

As the name would imply, disease resistance describes how susceptible a plant is to disease. This is often printed on the seed packet and will tell you how resistant the plant is to relevant diseases.

Drought Tolerant

Plants that are considered drought tolerant require less water to survive. These hardy plants are great for especially dry areas and for those looking to reduce their water usage.


Foliage is the broad term to describe leaves, flowers, stems and branches. Most people will use it in reference to the greenery in their area.

Full Sun

Plants that require full sun need at least six hours of direct sunlight.


Germination is the process of a seed sprouting roots or simply growing. Some gardeners will germinate seeds before planting to speed up the overall process.


GMO is an acronym for “genetically modified organism” and indicates that the seed's genes were changed to produce a certain desirable characteristic.

Hardening Off

Hardening off is the process of helping plants that were started indoors to acclimate to the outdoors. This usually takes a little more than a week to do and includes leaving the new plants outside for a few hours and then bringing them back inside.


A plant's hardiness describes its ability to withstand colder temperatures. If a plant is considered hardy, this can mean that it will do well during colder months. To learn more about gardening during the winter and what vegetables will do well, click here.


Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated and come from a long lineage of plants. Heirloom implies a certain amount of time; however, there is debate as to how many years are required to earn heirloom status.


Hybrid means the plant is a result of cross-pollination. This can be done by hand or naturally.

Organic Seeds

Organic seeds are grown using guidelines created by the USDA. These seeds must follow strict soil, pest, weed and additive requirements to be deemed "organic."

Open Pollinated

Seeds that are open-pollinated are said to "breed true," which means they will grow plants nearly identical to the parent. These seeds are the opposite of hybrids.

Part Sun

Plants that require part sun require between three and six hours of sunlight.


Perennial plants will flower for multiple years. Perennials may lose their blooms during the colder months and rebloom the following season, or the entire plant may die and come back.

Soil Amendment

The organic matter you add to your topsoil to improve its overall composition is called a soil amendment. You may consider amending your soil to improve drainage, retention, nutrient content, oxygen flow and more.


It is a good idea to sow more seeds than you need to give yourself a higher chance of growing a full harvest. As your seedlings start to sprout, it's time to do some thinning. Thinning is the process of removing excess seedlings to give the remaining seedlings adequate space to grow.


If you start your seeds indoors or buy seedlings from a nursery, they will need to be transplanted. Transplanting is the process of moving a plant from one space to another. This can also be done with potted plants that you move to a bigger container to encourage growth.

Untreated Seed

Untreated seeds are untouched by any chemical, physical or biological treatments. If you want to grow organic plants, you will need untreated seeds.


Variety is a name used to differentiate multiple types of a plant within one species. For instance, beefsteak, cherry and roma are all tomato varieties with distinct characteristics.


Xeriscaping is a type of landscaping that has gained popularity because it is low maintenance and requires little to no water. This style of landscaping utilizes native plants combined with rocks, concrete or artificial turf.