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Gardening Terms (Glossary)

Acidic Soil, Alkaline Soil - The chemical composition of the soil can be either acidic, neutral or alkaline, depending on the concentration of hydrogen ions. The relative concentration of hydrogen ions is shown by pH. A pH of seven means that the soil is neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline. A pH below seven shows acidity, and above seven, alkalinity.

Annual - A plant that has a life cycle of one year, or less, is called an annual, for example, marigolds and zinnias.

Bone-meal - This is a slow-release fertilizer made from crushed bones. It provides calcium and phosphorus.

Bonsai - This is a Japanese word and means the art of growing carefully trained, dwarfed trees in containers. The miniatured trees resemble those grown naturally.

Bracts - These are modified leaves that grow just below a flower or a flower cluster, usually green in color, but sometimes conspicuous and colorful, e.g. bougainvillea and poinsettia.

Bud - A flower bud develops into a blossom. A growth bud can be at the tip of a stem (terminal) or along the sides of a stem (lateral). These buds give new, leafy growth

Bulb - Bulb is an underground bud, made of scale leaves or leaf bases, that stores food and grows next season's flowers, e.g. onion and tuberose.

Chlorophyll - This is the green pigment found in leaves and stems of plants, which is necessa.ry for photosynthesis.

Corm - Corm is a thickened underground stem base that acts as a storage organ from which a new plant can grow, e.g. gladiolii.

Cuttings - These are parts of stem (in some cases of leaf or root) that can be induced to form roots and develop into new plants by putting in moist soil or water.

Deciduous - A plant that sheds all its leaves at one time each year, usually in autumn or winter, e.g. bauhinia.

Dieback - In this disease the stems die starting at the tips. It is caused by insufficient water, nutrition deficiency, and the plant not adapting to the climate in which it is growing, or severe insect, mite or disease injury.

Dividing - The fastest way to multiply (propagate) perennials is by dividing. Bulbils and offsets can be separated from the 'Mother' bulbs. Plants which have clumps of stems can simply be divided into roots and replanted, e.g. ferns, canna, bamboo.

Dormant Period - This refers to a time of rest for the plants when they literally go to sleep shutting down the activity of growing. Leaves may fall off partly or totally. Basal metabolic activity, however, goes on.

Double Flower - This is a flower with a large number of petals that make it appear very full and dense, e.g. double zinnias and double roses.

Drainage - This is the movement of water through the soil in a plant's root area. The soil can be well,drained or poorly,drained, depending on how quickly the water is drained through the soil.

Evergreen - This plant does not lose all its leaves at one time.

Grafting - In this method of propagation, a stem,section of one plant (called the scion) is inserted into a stem of another plant, that is the root plant (stock).

Ground Covers - Ground covers are substitutes for lawns which can be used to cover the ground, especially where foot passage is undesirable. Many plants can be used as ground covers, for example, trailing varieties of juniPers and lantanas, vines like bougainvillea and pyrostegia venusta, perennials like gazania, sedum and tradescantia.

Hardy - This is the plant's resistance to, or tolerance of frost or freezing temperatures. It does not mean that the plant is pest or disease-resistant.

Heading Back - This means cutting a branch to a side branch for more dense growth of the plant.

Hormones for Plants - Plant hormones are essentially of two types. One type is used for speeding up the formation of roots in cuttings, for example, seradix and rootex. The other type induces flowering, prevents shedding of buds, flowers and fruits, enlarges fruit size, increases yield per acre and improves the quality of plants. An example of this is alpha naphthalene acetic acid, available under the brand name planofix. Around 2.5 ml per 10 litres of water can be sprayed over the leaves to prevent fruit drop.

Humus - This is the soft brown or black substance that is formed at the last stage of decomposition of animal or vegetable matter, as in manure.

Hybrid - This is a plant produced by crossing different species, or distinct forms within a species. These plants give higher yields, better flowers, fruits or vegetables.

In situ Planting - To sow seeds in the place where the plants will grow,without having to change their position.

Layering - This is a method of propagation of plants where a branch is rooted, while it is still attached to the plant. There are two types of layering-one is air layering, where roots are grown in a ball of moss and the second is ground layering, where a portion of the stem is put into soil to root.

Leaf Mould - Leaf mould constitutes partially decomposed leaves that can be dug into the soil as organic manure. This makes the soil light, but does not provide many nutrients.

Leaf Spot - It is the name given to fungal or bacterial diseases that cause discolored patches on leaves.

Light Soil - This is the soil that has relatively large particles packed loosely together, e.g. sandy soils.

Malathion - This is a synthetic insecticide which is effective against most plant pests. It is foul-smelling but the toxicity is non-persistent, i.e. it becomes harmless after several days.

Mulch - A mulch is any loose, organic material (ground bark, sawdust, straw, leaves) placed over the soil to reduce evaporation of moisture, prevent weed growth, insulate the soil from rapid temperature changes, prevent mud from splashing when watering with a hose, protect falling fruit, or make a garden bed tidy. Black plastic sweets or pebbles can also be used.

Node - This is the joint in a stem from which leaves, buds and side shoots grow. It looks like a knot.

Offset - This is a young plant that appears naturally alongside the parent plant. It can be detached easily and provides a simple way of propagation.

Perennial - A plant that lives for more than two years, flowering and seeding annually.

Photosynthesis - It is the light, requiring process by which plants manufacture their food (also see Chlorophyll ).

pH Value - This is the value given to soil according to the concentration of hydrogen ions in it. (Also see acidic and alkaline soils). Most plants prefer a soil of pH 6.5 (mildy acidic).

Pinching Back - The tips of branches can be nipped off by using the thumb and forefinger. This makes the plant more dense because it grows many ,more side branches as a result of pinching.

Propagation - These are the various methods by which plants are multiplied. These include planting from seeds, from cuttings, layering, dividing, budding and grafting.

Pruning - Pruning is the cutting of a plant in a controlled way to keep it in good shape, to promote dense growth and flowering, and to maintain it at a manageable size. (See also Pinching Back).

Rhizome - This is a creeping stem that grows underground, or on the surface of the soil. It acts as a storage organ. Examples are canna and ginger. Rhizomes can be used for growing new plants.

Root Bound - When a plant has grown for too long in a pot, the roots become tangled and matted, filling up the entire pot space and the plant becomes "root bound". It is necessary to untangle the roots, and trim some of them if the plant has to be repotted or grown in the ground. If this is not done, the roots will not grow properly, or they may not grow at all which in turn will affect the health of the entire plant.

Rootstock - It is the plant that furnishes the root system for budding or grafting.

Salinity - An excessive salt content of the soil.

Setting - This is the swelling of the ovary of a flower after fertilization and is seen as a very small fruit or seed pod.

Single Flower - This flower has the minimum number of petals, usually four to six.

Spore - Spore is a simple type of reproductive cell which can produce a new plant. Certain plants like algae, mosses, fungi and ferns are reproduced by spores.

Succulent - Plants like cacti that develop fleshy stems or leaves to store water.

Sucker - A sucker growth originates from the rootstock of a budded or grafted plant. In trees, any strong, vertical shoot that grows from the main trunk or branches is sometimes called a sucker.

Thinning Out - This means removing some of the entire branches back to the main trunk or a side branch. In growing plants from seeds, this means removing excess plants so that the ones left behind are properly spaced out.

Top Dressing - This means applying manure or fertilizer to the surface of the soil where the plants are growing. It also can refer to applying manure to a lawn.

Transplanting - Transplanting is simply removing a plant from .one site and replanting it at another. This could apply to seedlings grown in seed-beds as well as fully developed plants.

Tuber - Tuber is the natural swelling of an underground root or stem that acts as a storage organ, e.g. potatoes.

Variegated - It describes plants having leaves marked or mottled with other colors, thus making the foliage more attractive.
   
  

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