vegetable garden plantsGardening enthusiasts have their own set of jargon, just like many other hobbyists. Some of these terms can be confusing, especially to the gardening newcomer. So here’s a brief list of terms that all gardeners should get familiar with.

Annual — Plant that completes its life cycle from seed germination to seed production in one growing season.

Biennial — Plant that completes its life cycle over two growing seasons; usually produces only vegetation its first season, then flowers and fruits the second season, and then dies.

Bulb — Underground plant structure made up of modified stem and leaves for storing carbohydrates.

Bud — Undeveloped shoot with leaves (vegetative) or flowers (floral).

Conifer — Plant whose fruiting structure is a cone.

Cultivar — Cultivated variety; chosen for a feature(s) that varies from its species.

Deciduous — Plant that loses all of its leaves annually.

Dormant — Reduced state of physiological activity.

Evergreen — Plant that retains at least some of its foliage throughout the year.

Herbaceous — Plant that dies back to the ground at the end of the growing season (can be annual or perennial).

Horticulture — Art and science of growing ornamental plants, vegetables and fruits.

Hybrid — Result from the interbreeding of two distinct species, cultivars or varieties.

Invasive — Growing aggressively and outcompeting other plants in the same area; difficult to control.

Invasive Species — A non-native species whose aggressive character does, or is likely to cause harm to the environment, economy, or human health.

Mulch — Cover placed on top of soil and/or around growing plants to suppress weed growth, conserve soil moisture, and/or modify temperature.

Native plant — Plant species indigenous to a specific geographic area and, thus, usually best adapted to those local conditions.

Vegetation and pondPerennial — Plant that lives for more than two growing seasons; can have multiple seed stages.

Photosynthesis — Process by which plants convert light energy, carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates.

Pinch — Removal of young stem tips.

Plant Propagation — Increase in the number of plants, using seed, stem, leaf, root or other plant tissue.

Shrub — Woody perennial plant with multiple main stems, generally smaller than a tree.

Tree — Woody perennial plant with one or very few main stem(s).

Wildflower — Plant species that grows and reproduces on its own, without human intervention.

Woody Plant — Plant whose stems persist from year to year, adding layers of cells each season


December Garden Calendar

Check houseplant leaves for brown, dry edges, which indicates too little relative humidity in the house. Increase humidity by running a humidifier, grouping plants or using pebble trays.

Extend the lives of holiday plants such as poinsettias and Christmas cactus by placing them in a cool, brightly lit area that is free from warm or cold drafts.

Houseplants may not receive adequate light because days are short and gloomy. Move plants closer to windows, but avoid placing foliage against cold glass panes. Artificial lighting may be helpful.

Because growth slows or stops in winter months, most plants will require less water and little, if any, fertilizer.

If you are forcing bulbs for the holidays, bring them into warmer temperatures after they have been sufficiently precooled. Bulbs require a chilling period of about 10 to 12 weeks at 40 degrees F to initiate flower buds and establish root growth. Precooled bulbs are available from many garden suppliers, if you did not get yours cooled in time. Then provide two to four weeks of warm temperature (60 degrees F), bright light and moderately moist soil to bring on flowers.

When shopping for a Christmas tree, check for green, flexible, firmly held needles and a sticky trunk base – both indicators of freshness. Make a fresh cut, and keep the cut end under water at all times.

Evergreens, except pines and spruce, can be trimmed now for a fresh supply of holiday greenery.

YARD (Lawns, woody ornamentals and fruits)

Prevent bark splitting of young and thin-barked trees, such as fruit and maple trees. Wrap trunks with tree wrap, or paint them with white latex (not oil-based) paint, particularly on the south- and southwest-facing sides. Remember to remove trunk wrap at the end of winter.

Protect shrubs such as junipers and arborvitae from extensive snow loads by tying their stems together with twine. Carefully remove heavy snow loads with a broom to prevent limb breakage.

Protect broadleaves, evergreens or other tender landscape plants from excessive drying (desiccation) by winter sun and wind. Canvas, burlap or polyethylene plastic screens to the south and west protect the plants. Similarly, shield plants from salt spray on the street side.

Provide winter protection for roses by mounding soil approximately 12 inches high to insulate the graft union after plants are dormant and temperatures are cold. Additional organic mulch such as straw compost or chopped leaves can be placed on top.

To protect newly planted or tender perennials and bulbs, mulch with straw, chopped leaves or other organic material after plants become dormant.

Store leftover garden chemicals where they will stay dry, unfrozen and out of the reach of children, pets and unsuspecting adults.

Once the plants are completely dormant and temperatures are consistently below freezing, apply winter mulch to protect strawberries and other tender perennials. In most cases, 2 to 4 inches of organic material such as straw, pine needles, hay or bark chips will provide adequate protection.

Check produce and tender bulbs in storage, and discard any that show signs of decay, such as mold or softening. Shriveling indicates insufficient relative humidity.

Clean up dead plant materials, synthetic mulch and other debris in the vegetable garden, as well as in the flowerbeds, rose beds and orchards.

Make notes for next year’s garden.