Gardeners Glossary

Key Terms Every Gardener Should Know

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the terminology used in gardening. Here are some of the most common gardening terms and their definitions:


Bolting – The premature flowering and seeding of a plant.

Cloche – A structure made of glass or plastic placed over a plant for protection or early crop forcing.

Cold Frame – An unheated frame for growing on and acclimatising hardy and half-hardy plants outdoors.

Compost – Material used for filling containers and pots to grow plants in.

Deadhead – Removing spent flowers from a plant to encourage more buds and flowers.

Earth up – Drawing soil up around a plant to exclude light, protect from frost, or encourage roots to develop from the stem, typically done with potato crops.

Fertiliser – A substance added to soil to improve plant growth and health.

Germination – The point at which a seed undergoes physical changes and begins to grow.

Harden off – The process of acclimatising young plants that are growing in a protective environment to cooler outdoor conditions, typically accomplished by leaving plants outside during the day and bringing them undercover at night.

Mulch – A layer of material (such as bark or straw) placed on top of soil to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Organic matter – A mixture of decayed organic matter used to fertilise soil.

Pinching out – Removing the growing points of a young plant to encourage side-shoots to form.

Pot on – To remove a plant from its container (normally when it has outgrown the space) and place it into a new container for further growth.

Pot up – To place seedlings and cuttings into incrementally larger containers to encourage root development and top growth.

Prick out – To remove and transfer seedlings into pots or module trays to give them more space and nutrients to grow.

Prune – Trimming back a plant to encourage new growth or to remove dead or damaged branches.

Soil pH – A measure of the acidity, neutrality or alkalinity of soil, which can affect plant growth.

Thin – To remove a number of buds, flowers, seedlings, or shoots to improve the growth and quality of those remaining.

Transplant – Moving a plant from one location to another. Usually this is best done in Spring or Autumn.


Annual – A plant that finishes its life cycle within one growing season.

Biennial – A plant that completes its life cycle within two growing seasons.

Bulb – An underground storage stem from which the plant flowers and grows before becoming dormant again, e.g. Daffodils.

Cane – The stems of a raspberry or blackberry plant.

Deciduous – A plant that sheds its leaves each autumn.

Ericaceous – Used to describe plants that like acidic soil and will not tolerate alkaline soils (containing lime or chalk), e.g. Blueberries.

Half-hardy – Can be grown outdoors but requires winter protection from frosts and temperatures below 0C.

Hardy – Capable of withstanding outdoor winter temperatures down to -15C.

Herbaceous – A sub-group of perennials that typically die back during winter. Unlike annuals, this is just a dormant period and they will return to life once spring arrives.

Perennial – A plant that lives for more than two years. e.g. Roses

Tuber – A swollen root or underground stem with storage tissue (e.g. a potato).


Chitting – Encouraging seed potatoes to sprout by placing them in a tray or egg box in a bright, cool but frost-free place prior to planting.

Christmas Potatoes – Planted in late summer/early autumn and harvested roughly 14 weeks after planting – just in time for Christmas!

First Early Potatoes – Harvested 10 weeks after planting and will produce new or baby potatoes.

Maincrop Potatoes – Harvested up to 20 weeks after planting and are good for winter storage. They are good for baking, roasting, and mashing.

Second Early Potatoes – Harvested about 14 weeks after planting. They make excellent salad potatoes, and many varieties are also good for chips, roasting, and mashing.

Seed Potatoes – A potato tuber grown specifically for starting new plants and producing potatoes. These are usually sourced from a cool climate to be reliably grown without viruses.