Gardener's Glossary

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Bok Choy

A Chinese cabbage variety used in many Asian cuisines. 


The term bolt is typically used for vegetables and herbs grown for their leaves, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, basil, and cilantro. It is the process of the plant going to seed. It is significant because this usually marks the end of harvesting. The leaves of a bolting plant tend to develop an undesirable flavor or texture.  You can tell when a plant is starting to bolt when taller shoots develop and flowers emerge. By the time the flowers emerge, the plant is considered to have bolted, and it's no longer producing good-tasting leaves. You can delay bolting by cutting off the emerging flower shoot as soon as you recognize the shoot; however, this technique is not always successful. Once the plant has bolted, you can remove it from your garden. 

If you would like to collect the seeds from one of these plants, allow the plant to bolt, flower, grow seeds, and wait for the seeds to mature. 



"Cloche" is the French word for "bell." A garden cloche is a protective cover for a plant, often shaped like a bell. They are often made of clear or translucent material such as plastic or glass. These types of cloches help a small plant stay warm in cold weather. Other garden cloches are open, made of a plastic or metal mesh. These types of cloches act like a cage to protect the plant from physically being knocked over, crushed, or eaten by small mammal pests (squirrels, mice, etc.).

Community Garden

community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. Community gardens utilize either individual or shared plots on private or public land while producing fruit, vegetables, and/or plants grown for their attractive appearance. Around the world, community gardens can fulfill a variety of purposes such as aesthetic and community improvement, physical or mental well-being, or land conservation. From Wikipedia 10 January 2020


Compost (as a noun) is plant waste rotted and decomposed over time by bacteria, worms, and insects in the environment. The breakdown of the plant waste introduces nutrients into the mix. This makes compost an excellent fertilized for growing new plants. In the United States, in urban and suburban areas, compost is sold in bags at garden centers for people to boost the quality of their soil for growing plants. It can also be used as a mulch.

When compost is used as a verb, it means to enable to decomposition of a material by bacteria, worms, and insects. "Composted manure," for example, is animal waste that has been left in the environment for a period of time to allow the bacteria, worms, and insects to transform it. The process of composting animal fecal waste reduces the odor and significantly reduces the presence of potentially harmful bacteria. 

Cut and Come Again

A harvesting technique in which individual leaves are picked off (harvested) the plant, but smaller leaves are left on the plant. The plant will continue to grow, the smaller leaves will mature, and the plant will produce more new leaves. This technique is often used in the context of leaf vegetables. You can extend the harvest using this technique up to a point. Eventually the plant will go to seed (bolt) or die. You can use this harvesting technique on crops such as arugula, kale, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and other greens. 


Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight means when the light, or rays, from the sun are hitting the leaves of the plant (or surface).

A related term is "indirect sunlight." An example of indirect sunlight is when light from the sun illuminates, but the rays from the sun are not hitting the plant (or surface).  


Gai Lan

A relative of broccoli sometimes called "Chinese Broccoli" or "Chinese Kale." It has flat leaves and small florets.

Garden Manager

The garden manager is a volunteer who oversees the operations of the garden during the growing season. They usually answer questions, resolve issues with garden facilities, communicate with the member gardeners, and enforce the rules of the garden. They accept applications for new gardeners, and they may be involved in the selection process. They maintain records of members in good standing. 



Hardening Off

Hardening off is a process of strengthening seedlings. When seedlings are grown in a protected environment like a greenhouse or in your own home, they are not accustomed to the conditions outside - wind, bright sunlight, and rain. Before planting the seedlings in the garden, they should be placed outside for increasingly longer periods of time over a few days, up to a week. This will expose them to the stressors in the environment, help them grow stronger and more able to tolerate the outdoor conditions. They will be more likely to survive transplant into the garden. 


A hod is a type of basket or container with a handle, usually in a rectangular shape. The basket part is made with a screen or perforated material (wood, metal, plastic) intended to allow water to flow through or to allow debris to fall through. Often used to carry harvested vegetables from a garden.  



Manure is the composted fecal waste of an animal. In non-farming locations such as suburbia and cities, manure is commonly sold in bags at garden centers as a soil amendment. Gardeners work manure into the soil to improve the nutrients for the plants. In the United States, the types of manure commonly found at garden centers include cow manure, chicken manure, and horse manure. 

The manure is composted, which improves its usefulness as a fertilizer. This means it has sat around in a natural environment for a period of time. Bacteria and worms have broken down the fecal matter such that it doesn't smell as bad and any noxious chemicals in the manure are reduced. 


Mulch is a layer of material placed on top of soil in a garden or landscape. Mulches are used to hep the soil retain moisture, to inhibit growth of weeds, and to improve the appearance of a garden or landscaping bed. Organic (natural) mulches are made from natural materials such as compost, shredded leaves, straw, grass clippings, or wood chips and tree bark. Sometimes shredded newspapers or cardboard can be used as mulch. Inorganic mulches are usually a type of plastic sheeting or landscape fabric. Gravel and rock can be used as an organic mulch that doesn't break down easily. 



OMRI is the Organic Materials Review Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to organic integrity. This organization reviews products and how they are made. When a product has the OMRI Listed logo, it attests that the product has been produced using organic materials and processes. For more information see the OMRI website.


Pelleted Seed

Seed companies sometimes modify certain tiny seeds by coating them with clay. This is called pelletizing the seed and it is done to make seeds larger and easier to handle. Pelleted seeds make planting by hand easier. The coating should not impact the viability of the seed - it should germinate, sprout, and grow as easily as non-pelleted seed. 


plot is a defined section of land within a community garden which can be rented or leased. Usually they are identified by a number. 


To prune is to cut off or remove part of a plant as a way of controlling or limiting growth. The parts you prune from a plant are considered extra or undesired.



Root Bound

A potted plant is root bound when the plant has grown too large for the pot. The roots have no place to grow, so they bump into the pot and coil back on itself. Root bound plants are unhealthy and in most situations, they will not grow well once transplanted. Avoid purchasing them if possible. If you have purchased a root bound plant and can't (or don't want to) return it, sometimes the plant can recover and grow well. See article Too Many Roots? How to Fix Root Bound Plants at Birds & Blooms.




As in Onion Sets - small dormant bulbs that can be purchased to grow full-size onions. They look like tiny onions. 


To sidedress is to apply fertilizer to the soil next to an established, growing plant. If the fertilizer is granular or powdered, it is often lightly mixed into the soil using a cultivator. It is not dug deep into the soil because the digging would disturb the roots of the plant. 


To sow a seed is to plant it. The term has a connotation of planting a large number of seeds in a farming context, for example "a farmer sows his fields." However, it could mean planting just a few seeds. This term generally refers to seeds, not starter plants or transplants. 


As in Onion Starts - small onion plants that can be purchased to grow full-size onions. They look like small scallions, often trimmed short. 




A taproot is a primary, or main, root of a plant. It tends to grow long and straight down into the soil. Some root vegetables are actually a taproot of the plant; most notably carrots, parsnips, radishes, beets, and turnips. 


Internet abbreviation for "too long, didn't read."

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