Vegetable Growing Glossary

Below you will find a useful definition guide from A-Z of commonly used allotment and growing terminology.


Air layering: A  propagation technique where compost is held in place above ground level on an appropriate part of the parent plant. Typically polythene and/or tape is used to hold a ball of compost in place until new roots are formed

Allium: A family of plants and flowers including onions, shallots, garlic, chives and leeks

Allotment: A plot of land, usually rented or leased for the purpose of growing fruit and vegetables. You can contact your local Allotment Society or local authority to find out more.

Annual: A plant which requires to be planted from seed (or self-seeds) every year. 


Basal cuttings: A method of propagation of certain plants, for example dahlia, where early spring growth is rooted to form a new plant. 

Biennial: A plant which requires two growing seasons to produce crop or flower, for example parsley which produces flowers and seeds in the second year. 

Black spot: A widespread disease (Diplocarpon Rosae) of roses effecting lower leaves and eventually causing defoliation.

Blight: One of several water moulds (Oomycete) which effect mainly potatoes and tomatoes. Late Potato Blight (Phytophthora Infestans) is the most serious and most prevalent but there is also an Early Potato Blight (Alternaria Solani). They are airborne.

Bolting: A plant that wants to produce seed rather than edible crop usually when the plant has already served it's purpose and can be pulled up.

Bordeaux Mixture: A mix of copper sulphate and slated lime used to control blight in potatoes and tomatoes. Approved for organic use as a last resort.

Bract: A leaf which is modified to give a flower, for example a poinsettia.

Brassica: A family of plants which includes cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, mustard, radish, kohl rabi - Plants that grow above the soil.

Broadcast: A technique for sowing seeds where seeds are scattered over an area of ground rather than sown in rows.

Bull neck: The neck of an onion is swollen which prevents them from storing well wich is caused by too much nitrogen in the soil over feeding; especially late in the season. Use effected bulbs straight away.


Catch crop: A quick growing crop (for example radish) that is grown alongside or between plantings of a main crop.

Chitting: Encouraging strong early growth of potatoes by arranging tubers in a single layer, leave in a cold place in full indirect light.

Cloche: Any type of transparent low-lying shelter for use outdoors. Usually a polythene 'tent' like dome-shaped secured to the ground.

Clubroot: A persistent soil-borne fungal disease effecting all brassicas and wallflowers.

Coldframe: A low, glass-covered structure to provide sheltered growing conditions. The sides can be timber, plastic or glass.

Composita: A major group of plants which includes lettuce, chicory, globe artichoke, jerusalem artichoke, globe artichoke, dandelion. 

Compost: Decomposing matter that can be used to promote healthy growing when mixed in the soil, Usually made up of grass cuttings, weeds, vegetable plants and foliage.

Coriander: A herb leaf; popular in Asian cuisine.

Crop rotation: Choosing an alternative plan/lay out to sow your crops, to enable different families of plants to drawer the nutrients from the soil.

Cucurbit: A family of plants which includes marrow, courgette, melon, squash, loofah, gherkin and pumpkin.

Cuttings: A method of propagation where sections of the parent plant are removed for rooting to take place. 


Damping down: Raising the humidity in a greenhouse by watering the floors and shelving. This method lowers the temperature & reduces water loss from the plants

Damping off: Seedlings dying due to being too wet, overcrowding or unventilated conditions.

Deadheading: Manual removal of any spent, withered or discoloured flowers from roses and shrubs over the flowering season. This encourages re-growth.

Deep bed: An unconstrained bed which is created by adding soil to raise the ground level. 

Derris: A plant-based insecticide (organic). It is non-poisonous to warm-blooded animals but deadly to nearly all fish and insects.


Earthing up: The act of drawing up earth around the stems or over the foliage of plants to improve the crop and protect them against frost. 

Eelworm: Tiny transparent worms which adversely effect quality of several plant varieties, notably potato, onion, chyrsanthemum. Being acid-loving, an effective control is to lime heavily and grow brassicas for a year or so.

Eye: A bud or first shoot on a tuber.


F1 hybrid: A plant which has been especially grown to encourage a special feature such as size, colour or cropping time. 

Flea beetle: An insect pest of several plants like radish, swede, turnip, chinese cabbage and more. 

French drain: A shallow un-piped surface drain, normally filled level with gravel. Placement channels excessive surface water to open ditches or streams.


Garlic: Strongest flavoured member of the allium family grown from it's parent's cloves.

Garlic spray: A solution of garlic, soap and water which acts as a deterrent to several types of insects for example aphid, thrip and is used by organic gardeners. Repeat applications are usually required.

Graft: A technique where a cutting from one plant is joined onto root stock from another. Commonly used on fruit trees to give a particular type of fruit on a tree a smaller size or different growth characteristic.

Green manure: A crop grown primarily to improve the soil.

Gypsum: Organic in pure form and is useful for heavy clay conditions. 

Growing medium: Some times known as compost, potting soil, tree and shrub compost and more.


HA: A hardy annual.

Half hardy: A plant which cannot survive frosts or wintry conditions in the area in that it is being grown. 

Hardening off: The process of acclimitising plants to outdoor conditions, by placing them outside once the threat of frost has gone and the temperature has risen.

Hardy: A plant that can survive and grow in frosty or wintry conditions where it is growing.

Haulm: Stem(s) of a plant.

HB: A hardy biennial plant.

Heel in: To plant in soil to keep the roots moist until it is moved to it's permanent position.

HHA: A half hardy annual plant.

HHB: A half hardy biennial plant.

HP: A hardy perennial plant.

HHP: A half hardy perennial plant.

Hybrid: A variety of plant which has been bred by a nursery or specialist grower.


Jerusalem artichoke: A variety of sunflower grown for its edible tuberous roots.

Juniper: A evergreen shrub or tree that bears berries,


Kumara: Sweet potato.


Lady's finger: Okra

Legume: A family of plants including peas and beans.

Lemon grass: Sub-tropical bunching grasses grown for their flavour and popular in Thai cuisine especially.

Lime : Ground limestone or chalk used to decrease acidity in soil.


Manure: Animal (usually horse or cow) excrement is known as manure when it is used for horticultural or agricultural purposes. 

Mildew: Funghal disease from damp, powdery mildew can form when it's dry.

Mound: Like earthing up, it's a manual gathering of  soil around a plant.

Mulch: Organic materials such as bark used around plants on top of the soil to reduce weeds and retain moisture.


Nitrogen robbery: A problem that happens when unrotted or partially-rotted woody material is incorporated into the soil. 

NPK: Stands for nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium - the three main plant food sources.


Okra: Commonly known as lady's finger is a plant grown for it's seed pods.

Open pollination: When pollination happens naturally such as bees, birds, wind and water.

Organic: Only using natural products, no artificial products or chemicals.


Perennial: A plant that regrows year after year.

Pinching out: Manually removing growing shoots in order for the plant to utilise it's nutrients where required for fruits and produce to form.

Pollinate: Seeds are dispersed and fertilises the stemen of another plant by way of the wind, water, birds and bees.

Pot bound: A plant which has grown roots to fill all the available space in the container in which it is growing and requires re-potting.

Priming (homebrewing): Adding a small amount of sugar before bottling, which leads to secondary fermentation giving a fizzy drink.

Pruning: Cutting away old and unwanted branches and foliage to improve appearance and to encourage new growth.


Raised bed: A bed of soil, raised and contained by; usually wood to plant in.

Re-po: To move a plant to a larger pot to provide more room once it has filled and outgrown it's original pot.

Rhizome: A swollen part of the stem of a plant which is usually found underground & enables the plant to re-grow after being dormant in winter. 

Riddle: A wired frame to sieve out stones and gravel from the soil.

Rose (potato): The end of the potato that has a cluster of eyes, to be placed with this end at the top when chitting.

Rotation: To plant your crops in different places each year because different plant families rely on different nutrients and the same soil can become nutrient-poor to them.

Runner: A trailing stem of certain plants which, when in contact with the soil, is able to send down new roots, such as strawberries.


Seed life: The life time that seeds remain viablle to use.

Seed potato: The fruit formed, visible above ground in some varieties of potatoes that must not be eaten as they are poisonous.


Set: An infant bulb grown from seed, which can be planted to grow on' for example onion sets.

Shading: Methods used to diffuse direct sunlight and heat.

Smith period: A period of two or more days when the temperature is not less than 10ºC and relative humidity exceeds 90% for 11 hours or more. 

Smut: A soil-borne fungal disease of onions and leeks. Appears with black spots and blotches on young plants. The leaves become twisted and thickened. 

Solanaceae: A family of plants including potato, tomato and peppers.

Stopping: Another term for pinching out.

Sucker: A new shoot which grows directly from the root of the parent plant, usually some distance away for example raspberry, blackberry and cherry.

Sweet potato: A vining relative of Morning Glory which is grown for its edible tubers.


TA: A tender annual.

TB: A tender biennial.

Tender : A plant which will not survive during frosts or even cold weather in the area that it is being grown, requiring a greenhouse, coldframe or is a houseplant. 

Teram: Weed control fabric which allows water to get through, used with holes cut to grow suitable crops in weedy ground.

Thick neck: Another term for bull neck.

Thinning (out): Removal of seedlings or small plants to give others space to develop to their full potential, such as carrots.

Tipburn: Or 'greasiness' which is browning and scorching of leaf edges, for example in lettuces caused by sudden loss of water or calcium deficiency to outer leaves on a warm spring day or start of a hot spell.

TP: A tender perennial.

Transplant: To replant to it's final/permanent growing place. 

Tuber: A thickened portion of the root or stem that is used by the plant to store energy.

U, V

Umbellifer: A family of plants including carrots, parsnips, parsley, celery, dill, fennel, cumin and coriander.

Volunteer: A plant growing in the wrong place after self-seeding or regrowth of a missed tuber when lifting. Not a weed.


Watering: Manually adding the amount of water to a plant.

White rot: A serious disease of onion, shallot, leek, garlic and chives. It is soil-borne and very determined and can lie dormant for up to 15 years.

Wireworm: The larvae of certain clickbeetles which adversely effect the quality of several plant varieties.

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