Translating quirky gardening terms into English
Let's pretend we're completely unfamiliar with gardening jargon. Imagine how odd it sounds when someone says they tied up their cauliflower. If the neighbor dusted their cabbage, did they give it a good cleaning? What could a gardener possibly mean by saying they're going to pick the string beans close?
There's a unique language spoken by gardeners that deserves translation. Here's the newest chapter in the collection of gardening phrases we've been compiling during the past several years.
- "Tying up cauliflower" means securing the long leaves up around the newly forming head to exclude light, keeping white varieties from turning off-color.
- "Self-blanching" means a cauliflower variety has leaves which naturally form around the developing head, keeping it white.
- "Dust" is powdery-dry insecticide applied to foliage in a light coating.
- "Acid-loving" are plants that prefer acid soil for normal growth and bloom. They are often unsuccessful in the naturally alkaline soil of the Upper Midwest.
- "Picking vegetables close" describes picking string beans (and similar types) by harvesting beans that are ready plus those that soon will be. Before leaving on vacation for a week, it's best to pick the string beans close so small ones won't be overgrown on your return.
- "Borers" are insects, usually worm-like larvae, that tunnel into stems of woody plants. Examples are bronze birch borer and lilac borer.
- "Tender perennials" aren't fully winter hardy in a region without extra protection, such as insulating mulch or reliably deep snow cover.
- "Poor soil" lacks nutrients for normal plant growth. Sometimes it refers to overly light soil with no substance, or the very heavy, off-color clay below rich topsoil.
- "Foliage plants" are grown for their colorful or interesting leaves, rather than flowers.
- "A specimen tree" is a tree type that performs well in a featured, very visible location.
- "Exposure" refers to the direction of planting. Hydrangeas do well in an eastern or northern exposure.
- "An exposed location" receives little protection from the elements and is often windswept and open. Tender perennials do poorly in exposed locations unless extra winter protection is provided.
- "Feeder roots" are the portion of the root system that absorbs most nutrients and moisture, and in a tree, are located closest to the outer "dripline" of the tree's leafy canopy.
- "Bulb" is a term often loosely used to describe enlarged underground plant structures. In accurate botanic terms, lily, onion, and tulip are bulbs; iris are rhizomes; gladiolus are corms; dahlias are tubers
- "Rotating vegetables" means changing their planting location within the garden, mostly for reducing diseases that overwinter in the soil, as in tomatoes, potatoes and vine crops.
- "Well-prepared soil" is tilled or dug deeply and amended if necessary with organic material to create favorable growing conditions.
- "Edging plants" are low-growing annuals or perennials used along the front of flower beds or landscape plantings.
- "Invasive" plants can quickly overtake their surroundings. Lily-of-the-valley becomes an invasive groundcover if it's spread is not contained.
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He also blogs at growingtogether.areavoices.com.