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Exploring the Unfamiliar: A List of Lesser Known Scientific Terms for Gardening Enthusiasts

While most of us are familiar with the basic terminology when it comes to gardening, it might be useful to know some more scientific terms as you progress with your gardening know-how. We've compiled a list of terms from basic to more advanced to help you out!



The Basics


  1. Compost: Decomposed organic matter, such as kitchen scraps and plant materials, used to enrich soil.

  2. Mulch: A layer of material, such as straw or wood chips, spread over the soil surface to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate temperature.

  3. Perennial: A plant that lives for more than two years, often returning year after year.

  4. Annual: A plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season and typically needs to be replanted each year.

  5. Pruning: The process of cutting back branches or stems of a plant to promote healthy growth, shape, or remove dead or unwanted parts.

  6. Fertilizer: A substance added to soil or plants to provide essential nutrients for growth.

  7. pH: A measure of the acidity or alkalinity of soil, affecting nutrient availability to plants.

  8. Companion planting: The practice of planting different crops near each other to provide benefits such as pest control, improved growth, or enhanced flavor.

  9. Trellis: A framework of vertical and horizontal bars used to support climbing plants.

  10. Hybrid: A plant produced by the crossbreeding of different varieties or species to achieve specific desirable traits.

  11. Drip irrigation: A method of watering plants by delivering water directly to the base of each plant through a system of tubes and emitters.

  12. Hardiness zone: A geographical area defined by specific climate conditions, indicating which plants are likely to thrive there.



Intermediate Gardening Terms


  1. Bolting: The premature flowering and seeding of plants, often caused by stress or unfavorable growing conditions.

  2. Green manure: Crops grown specifically to be incorporated into the soil to improve fertility and structure.

  3. Chitting: Pre-sprouting seed potatoes before planting to encourage faster and more uniform growth.

  4. Dibble: A pointed tool used to make holes in soil for planting seeds or small seedlings.

  5. Harden off: Gradually acclimating indoor-grown plants to outdoor conditions before transplanting them into the garden.

  6. Topdressing: Applying a layer of compost, mulch, or fertilizer to the surface of the soil around plants.

  7. Hydroponics: A method of growing plants without soil, using nutrient-rich water solutions.

  8. Vermicomposting: Composting with the use of worms to break down organic matter into nutrient-rich compost.

  9. Bare-root: Plants sold and planted without soil around their roots, often dormant and in a state of rest.

  10. Heirloom plants: Varieties of plants that have been passed down through generations, often with historical significance.

  11. Pest trap crops: Plants intentionally grown to attract pests away from main crops, helping to protect valuable plants.

  12. Espalier: A horticultural technique of training plants, usually trees, to grow flat against a wall or trellis in a specific pattern.

  13. Olla: A porous, unglazed clay pot buried in the soil and filled with water to provide slow and efficient irrigation.

  14. Scion: A young shoot or twig used for grafting onto another plant, known as the rootstock.

  15. Cotyledon: The first leaves that appear on a seedling, which are not true leaves but serve to provide initial nutrients.

  16. Jiffy Pellet: A compressed peat or coir pellet used for seed starting, which expands when water is added.

  17. Guild planting: A permaculture concept involving planting complementary species together to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem.

  18. Sheet mulching: Layering organic materials on the soil surface to suppress weeds and improve soil fertility over time.

  19. No-dig gardening: A gardening method that avoids traditional digging or tilling of the soil, promoting soil health and structure.

  20. Occlusion: A method of pruning where a branch is cut close to the trunk or main stem to encourage healing and prevent disease.

These terms may not be as commonly known but are essential in various gardening practices and techniques. Always keep in mind that gardening terminology can vary regionally and among different gardening communities.



Advanced Gardening Terms (to impress people at parties with)

These scientific gardening terms are essential for understanding how light and sunlight affect the growth, development, and overall health of plants.


  1. Phototropism: The growth or movement of a plant in response to light, with a tendency to grow towards a light source.

  2. Photoperiod: The duration of light and darkness a plant is exposed to in a 24-hour period, influencing flowering and other physiological processes.

  3. Photosynthesis: The process by which plants, using sunlight, convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen.

  4. Heliotropism: The orientation or growth of a plant in response to the direction of sunlight.

  5. DIF (Day-to-Night Temperature Difference): The temperature difference between the day and night periods, influencing plant growth and development.

  6. Chlorophyll: The green pigment in plant cells that absorbs light energy for photosynthesis.

  7. PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation): The spectral range of solar radiation (400-700 nm) that plants use for photosynthesis.

  8. Light Intensity: The amount of light energy striking a surface, measured in lux or foot-candles, affecting plant growth.

  9. Solar Tracking: The ability of certain plants to adjust their leaves or flowers to face the sun, optimizing light exposure.

  10. Sunscald: Damage to plant tissues caused by excessive exposure to sunlight, often leading to discoloration or tissue death.

  11. Light Spectrum: The range of colors in the electromagnetic spectrum, with different wavelengths influencing plant growth in various ways.

  12. Photoinhibition: The reduction or inhibition of photosynthesis due to excessive light, leading to damage to the photosynthetic apparatus.

  13. Light Acclimation: The ability of plants to adjust to changes in light conditions, optimizing their photosynthetic efficiency.

  14. Light Stress: Adverse effects on plant growth and development caused by inadequate or excessive light.

  15. Sun-loving (Heliophilous): Plants that thrive in full sunlight and require high light levels for optimal growth.

  16. Shade-tolerant (Heliophobic): Plants that can grow and thrive in low-light conditions, such as under the canopy of taller plants or trees.

  17. Photomorphogenesis: Light-induced changes in plant growth, development, and morphology.

  18. Critical Light Period: The specific duration of light exposure necessary for a plant to flower or complete other developmental stages.


Do you have any terms to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!


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