How to - Gardening Basics

10 garden lingo lessons from Frankie Flowers

By
Frank Ferragine

Our beginner gardening guru explains common plant terminology


Gardening can be a whole different language for those new to getting dirt under their fingernails. While a trip to the local garden centre may seem intimidating if you lack the vocab, a few key words will have you blooming there this summer. 

Deciduous
Deciduous means “to fall off at maturity,” and in the plant world, this describes a tree or shrub whose leaves shed in the fall, such as an oak or maple. The opposite of a deciduous tree is an evergreen like a conifer or a pine.

Biennial
Taking two seasons to complete their life cycle, biennials like sweet William and foxglove grow leaves the first year, flower and set seed the second year, and then die.

N-P-K
The nitrogen (N) to phosphorous (P) to potassium (K) ratio of immediately available nutrients in fertilizer, listed on the package, commonly 20-20-20 (20% nitrogen, 20% phosphorous, 20% potassium). Remember that nitrogen stimulates green or leafy growth, phosphorous promotes flowering and root growth, and potassium stimulates the plants’ overall health.

Fungicide
“Medicine” for your plants’ fungal diseases, such as black spot or powdery mildew. For an organic option, consider copper sulphate (Bordeaux mixture).  

Soil pH
pH indicates the level of acidity in soil and affects the amount of nutrients that plants can take up. Measured on a scale of 0-14, pH 7 is neutral, anything lower is acidic or sour, and anything above is alkaline or sweet.

 

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