Garden Glossary

Understanding basic gardening terms


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Garden Glossary brought to you by D&G Gardens and Crafts

  • Raised bed - A garden area that is framed by wood, stone, straw bales or some other material on top of the earth that is filled with soil for growing plants. This raises the gardening area to make it easier to garden and to improve nutrients in the soil or drainage.
  • Rhizome – An underground plant stem that grows horizontally. Individual stalks may grow from any part of the underground stem.
  • Root ball – The mass of roots, along with the soil, of a plant.
  • Root bound – A condition of the roots when they have grown too large for a container. Roots of a container grown plant should always be loosened before planting in the ground or in a new pot to encourage the roots to grow outward which will facilitate growth. Root bound plants can be stunted, and in extreme circumstances, may die.
  • Rooting hormone – A liquid or powder growth hormone used to stimulate a stem node to grow roots.
  • Runners a.k.a. stolons – Stems that grow at the soil surface or just below the soil surface. Runners are formed to help propagate a plant. i.e. “Baby” plants may begin to grow away from the “Mother” plant, but yet still have a stem attached to the “Mother” plant. Once the runner has produced its own set of roots, it can be separated from the “Mother” plant.



  • Scarification – Scratching a seed's shell to encourage it to sprout.
  • Seedling – A very young plant, grown from seed.
  • Self-pollinating – A way for a plant to pollinate its own flowers because it has both a stamen and a pistil.
  • Side dressing – Placing fertilizer or compost around a plant.
  • Slow release – Often used to describe fertilizer, slow-release is the act of breaking down slowly.
  • Soft-wood cutting a.k.a. Semi-ripe cutting – The act of cutting a piece of stem from a shrub before it has gotten woody (usually current season’s growth) in the hopes of rooting it to create new plants. This is usually done in spring until late summer.
  • Sour soil – A term used to describe acidic soil.
  • Sphagnum – A bog moss that is collected and composted to use as a soil amendment (not recommended for clay soil). Commercially baled peat moss is usually bog moss.
  • Spore – The reproductive cell structure of ferns, fungi and mosses. These plants don't form flowers so they need their spores to reproduce.
  • Staking – Using a stake or long stick to support a tall plant or a plant with heavy blooms. The stake is generally hammered into the ground a foot and the plant is loosely tied to the stake to support the plant.
  • Stamen – the part of the flower that contains the pollen, which consists of the anther and the filament.
  • Stolons a.k.a. runners – Stems that grow at the soil surface or just below the soil surface. Stolons are formed to help propagate a plant. i.e. “Baby” plants may begin to grow away from the “Mother” plant, but yet still have a stem attached to the “Mother” plant. Once the stolon has produced it’s own set of roots, it can be separated from the “Mother” plant.
  • Stratification – The process of placing a seed in a moistened, cool environment to break its dormancy. This is required of seeds that need a period of cold before they will germinate. Stem tuber – Thickened rhizomes or stolons from which stems will grow from the top and roots will grow from the bottom.
  • Succession planting – A method of growing plants that will increase yields of edible crops by more efficiently using space and time in a growing season. For example, salad greens can be seeded in small areas every 2-4 weeks so that plants mature at different times ensuring there are always crops to be harvested over a longer period of time.
  • Sucker – Undesirable growth of a plant that comes from the rootstock of a grafted plant, rather than the part above the graft. Suckers should always be cut down to control spreading and to keep the suckers from draining the energy of the plant.
  • Sweet soil – A term to describe alkaline soil.
  • Systemic – A chemical which is absorbed by the plant’s leaves or stem in order to kill the pests that might be feeding on the plant.

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