University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
VEGETABLE GARDENING TERMS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
off, dessicate, direct seed. Do you know
what these and other terms mean that you may come across in seed
vegetable gardening books, and online websites?
Understanding a few of the main terms will help you to understand
descriptions and cultural directions.
the first set of terms, which apply to flowers as well, relate to
life cycle. Those that complete their
life in one year, from seed to flower to seed (if a sufficient
die, are "annuals." This
includes many vegetables, and some herbs such as basil and dill.
Some vegetables such as asparagus, and herbs
such as thyme and mint, are "perennials." They come back each year,
dying back to the
ground in winter. Some herbs are "tender
perennials," such as rosemary or bay, not living over winter in cold
climates but surviving where warmer.
that take two years for this life cycle are "biennials." This
includes many of the root crops such as
turnips and onions and carrots, and crucifers such as cabbage and
kale. But don't get confused, as these are grown for
their roots or leaves to harvest the first year, so are treated as
crops. Parsley is biennial too, so if it
overwinters and then dies after flowering the second year, that's
terms refer to the part we harvest, or family grouping, as above.
"Root crops" such as onions are
pretty obvious, as are "leafy greens" such as lettuce.
"Crucifers" are those in the crucifer or mustard family and include
such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, horseradish,
broccoli. These may be seen too as
"Cucurbits" refer to the family containing squash, melons, pumpkins,
season crops. "Umbellifers" are yet another family, those with flat
flower clusters such as parsley, dill, and fennel.
are often grouped by the general temperature they need to grow
best. "Cool season" crops such as carrots
and greens are best in spring or fall.
"Warm season" crops such as melons, squash, tomatoes, and corn
grow best in warm temperatures of summer.
Don't plant the latter too early (many gardeners plant on or after
Memorial Day), as planted too early they won't grow and may get
stressed. They're sensitive to cold nights, so if you do plant
early, keep some
frost protection handy such as lightweight frost protection cloths,
couple of climate terms you should know are "frost date" and
"hardiness zone." The frost
date is the average expected last frost in your area, which of
course may vary
yearly. This may be early May in warmer parts
of Northern New England, for instance, early June in colder regions.
perennials, you'll need to know their hardiness zones, and yours.
Each zone refers to the average, annual
minimum winter temperature, and can be found from the USDA hardiness
zone map (www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html).
choosing vegetables, for those that get serious diseases, look for
are "disease resistant." These
are ones that have had resistance bred into them for a particular
they tend not to be infected. Often
you'll see letters denoting such resistance in the plant
descriptions, with symbol
key in the catalog, such as F for fusarium wilt, LB for late blight,
verticillium wilt, or TMV for tobacco mosaic virus.
plant is a "hybrid," it is a cross between at least two other
plants. This means that in order to get
the same plant, you'll need these other plants.
Sowing seeds of the hybrid usually will not give you the same
plants. F1 and F2 refer to the
generations of crosses to make the hybrid.
"Open pollinated" are plants whose seeds come about from
plants crossing on their own,
so often yield similar plants when their seeds are sown.
start your own seeds indoors, often you transplant into larger pots
plant has at least two "true leaves", compared to the first couple
"seed leaves" ("cotyledons") which often look quite
different, usually being rounded. But,
if you sow seeds directly into the garden, this is "direct
seeding." Usually, when direct seeding, you sow “thicker”
or more seeds than needed in case some don't germinate. If so,
you'll need to "thin" or
remove weaker plants to allow proper spacing.
deciding where to plant, practice "crop rotation." There are
several variations on this, but
basically it means not planting the same crop in the same place for
at least a
couple years, three is better. By
rotating different crops in the same space over the years, you'll
soil quality and to prevent diseases.
start seedlings indoors, you'll want to gradually acclimate them to
temperatures and light-- "hardening off." If you keep seedlings too
wet, they may get a
disease which makes them topple at the soil line, termed "damping
off." On the other hand, too dry
and they'll dry out or "dessicate", which may be permanent.
fertilizing plants in the garden, sprinkling fertilizer uniformly
over a whole bed is "broadcasting,",
while "banding" or "sidedressing" is applying fertilizer or
compost along a row of plants-- the latter being on the surface, the
slightly below soil level.
are only a few of the more basic terms to get you started. More,
and full details on crop culture, can
be found in references such as Vegetable
Gardening for Dummies, by Vermont author Charlie Nardozzi.