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Garden Jargon Buster

Gardening advice for beginners

Gardening Jargon Buster

Simplifying gardening terms

We believe gardening is for everyone. You shouldn’t need to know everything to be able to enjoy planting and growing. We’ve found that even with the best intentions, advice can sometimes be full of gardening jargon that leave you feeling more confused.

This might look like a long list of gardening terms, but don’t feel like you have to learn them all. Just save this page and come back to it if you come across something you’re not sure of. 

Garden Jargon Buster
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    A – Aerate


    To aerate is to loosen the soil with a garden fork, this is usually done to lawns to allow oxygen, water and nutrients to reach the roots.


    A plant that completes its life cycle in one year. Annuals do not come back year-after-year after they have flowered or finished their growing period.

    B – Bare root

    Bare root

    You might see that some plants like trees, shrubs and roses are sold as bare root. That means that they are lifted out of the ground when they are not in their growing period and can be stored or sold without soil on the roots.


    Biennial plants will come back a second year. During that second year they will seed and eventually die off.

    C – Chitting


    Putting your seed potatoes in a light, dry spot to encourage sprouts to form before planting the seed potatoes in the ground.


    Just another word for a cover to protect your plants from pests and/or cold weather.

    Cold frame

    An outdoor unheated mini greenhouse used to get young plants used to the outdoors after either being grown in a greenhouse or indoors.

    Companion planting

    Some plants work well together because one may deter pests that other plants attract or encourage pollinators which help other plants, or one is low growing whereas the other is tall to save space.


    Cutting part of an established plant, allowing its roots to grow to create another separate plant.



    D – Deadhead


    Deadheading is to remove the fading flowers from the plant to encourage more flowers to grow.


    A tree or shrub that loses its leaves once a year.


    Determinate tomatoes grow in a bush shape and work well in hanging baskets whereas indeterminate tomatoes grow from one main stem and can reach as tall as 8-10 ft.


    When the plant is not actively growing, usually in winter. Sort of like a plant on pause.

    E – Earlies


    Usually used to describe type of potatoes that is the first ready to harvest after it is planted. The main types of potatoes are first earlies, second earlies and maincrop.

    Ericaceous compost

    Acidic compost. Some plants prefer acidic growing conditions like summer-flowering heathers, rhododendrons and camellias.


    Evergreen plants are the opposite to deciduous plants in that they do not lose their leaves yearly. It’s as simple as it sounds.

    G – Germinate


    To sprout from seed.

    H – Harden off

    Harden off

    Getting a young plant that has been grown indoors or in a heated greenhouse acclimatised to the colder outdoors. Youn might do this in a cold frame.


    A term used to describe plants that can survive winter frosts without protection.


    Plants that have no ‘woody’ growth – stems would always be soft and flexible and die back in autumn.


    A chemical used to kill weeds.

    Horticultural fleece

    A fleece covering used to protect plants from the cold weather.

    M – Maincrop


    The crops that are ready to harvest in the middle of the season, see first earlies and second earlies.


    A thick layer which can prevent weeds and conserve moisture in soil. Compost, manure, leaf mould, or bark chippings can be used.

    O – Organic matter

    Organic matter

    Usually made of decomposed plants or animal parts, like leaves falling to the grown and breaking down into smaller pieces.


    Plants grown for their looks over function.

    P – Peat


    Peat is an organic matter that when used in compost can help improve water retention. However, the harvesting of peat is damaging to the environment and the ecosystems that peat naturally supports which is why we now only sell peat-free compost.


    A small granular material that absorbs water and is used to improve drainage in compost.


    Usually a chemical that kills insects.

    pH scale

    Levels of acidity, usually in soil. Most plants thrive in PH levels of around 6.5/ 7.0. You can use a pH soil test to check your garden levels.

    Pinching out

    Removing side shoots from the main stem of a plant using your forefinger and thumb.

    Plug plants

    Young rooted seedlings. Garden-ready plugs can be planted straight out in the garden if it’s warm enough. Small plugs will need additional care before potting on.

    Potting on

    Planting young plants into larger pots for mature growth.


    Growing plants either from cuttings, dividing or from seed.


    A tray used to germinate seeds, usually with a clear lid.


    Removing parts of the plant that are past their best.


    R – Root rot

    Root rot

    When a plant has been regularly overwatered and its roots have been sitting in water for a long period of time, this can lead to roots a fungal disease or bacterial infection which causes its roots to rot.


    When a plant has outgrown its pot. Its root may become tangled and not allow for further growth.

    S – Self-seeding


    Self-seeding plants drop their seeds to grow a new plant at the end of their growing season.

    Succession planting 

    Spacing out the time when you sow your crops to get a continuous harvest.

    T – Tender


    A plant that is sensitive to frost and cold temperatures and will need protecting during winter.

    Top dressing

    Adding matter to the top of your plant to add nutrients or improve soil, retain moisture, or deter pests. You can top dress with stones, gravel, bark, compost, manure, or artificial fertiliser.


    Ornamental shrubs and bushes. See ‘ornamental’. Often trimmed into decorative shapes.


    Similar to bulbs, tubers store a plant’s nutrients for it to sprout from. Bulbs look similar to onions whereas tubers are closer to potatoes.

    W – Wind-rock


    When tall plants are damaged by wind. Plants can be protected from wind by tying to a trellis or cane.