Below is an alphabetical list of some of the more commonly used terms in gardening.

Aeration – To expose the soil to air by digging it over. Roots need air as well as water for healthy growth.

AGM – Award of Garden Merit. Given by the Royal Horticultural Society when varieties have performed particularly well in trials. The RHS will withdraw this award if they feel that the quality has slipped.

Bolt – The term used when vegetables flower. It is often caused by poor soil or if the plant gets stressed by irregular watering. This triggers a survival reflex in the plant which causes it to flower and set seed rather than continue to develop.

Brassicas – The family of vegetables that include Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Kale.

Cloche – A cover that is used to protect your crops during cooler conditions, traditionally bell shaped glass but, more commonly now, a small tunnel covered with plastic or fleece.

Cold frame – Essentially a mini, unheated greenhouse. Cold frames are usually built low to the ground and have a transparent, hinged top.

Cotyledons – The technical term for the seed leaves or the leaves which are the first to appear after germination.

Curds – The heads of a cauliflower.

Cut and come again – Referring to leafy salad plants – usually lettuce – that can be cut several times for salad leaves and will re-grow for 3 to 4 further harvests.

Direct sowing – Quite a number of vegetables can be sown outside directly into the soil where you want them to grow – this is known as direct sowing and is the simplest way to start growing.

Dormant – Used to describe viable but ungerminated seed. Seeds can remain dormant for several years and just require the correct combination of temperature and moisture to start the germination process.

Drills – The term used to describe the shallow trench or furrow that you sow seed into. They are usually straight when sowing vegetables for ease but, in some cases, they can be shaped.

F1 – If you see this after the variety name, the plant has been produced by crossing two carefully selected parent plants of the same species. This produces more uniform and vigorous varieties than normal open-pollinated types. It can take many generations of careful selection cross-pollinisation for the plant to show the desired characteristics. F1 varieties are usually more expensive due to the complex processes involved and seed saved from an F1 variety will not reproduce the uniformity of the original.

F2 – This is used to refer to an F1 hybrid that has either self-fertilised or has been allowed to cross with another F1 Hybrid. These become more variable in their characteristics but can retain some, though not all, of the attributes of the F1 parent(s) and are generally cheaper.

Frost hardy – Plants that are able to tolerate outdoor conditions at all times of the year.

Germination – This is the process whereby the seed starts to grow from its previous dormant state.

Harden off – Plants that have been started off indoors or in a heated greenhouse will not be ready to plant out immediately. They need to be acclimatised to outside conditions and in order to do this should be placed outside during the day then brought in each night for a period of one to two weeks. This process is known as hardening off as it is designed to toughen up the young plants.

Leggy seedlings – If a seedling is not getting enough light, it will accelerate its growth towards whatever light it can get in an attempt to be closer to it and the result will be ‘leggy’ seedlings – they will be tall but have no strength in the stem and, as a consequence, they will tend to droop or even fall over.

pH – The acidity of soil is measured in pH. Some plants thrive in acidic conditions whilst others do not. If a plant requires specific pH levels, it will be noted on the seed packet. A number below 7 indicates acidic and over 7 is alkaline while 7 is regarded as neutral.

Pollination - the process of reproduction in plants where pollen is transferred between them.

Pot On – As seedlings grow, they can become too big for the trays or pots that they were sown in but it may be too early for them to be planted outside. In these cases, they need to be ‘potted on’ to larger trays or pots that will allow their roots to grow and thrive making the plant stronger.

Pricking out – To move overcrowded seedlings to further trays, pots or modules in order to give them more space to grow.

Propagator – A miniature greenhouse usually consisting of a plastic base with a snug fitting, clear plastic lid. The lid often comes with adjustable air vents. You can get heated propagators that include heating pads that will create the perfect environment for most plants that you want to grow.

Rootrainers – A special form of modular seed tray that encourages deeper root growth than standard trays or cells.

Roots – The roots of a plant serve a dual purpose. Not only do they anchor the plants firmly into the soil, they also take up water and nutrients to feed the plant.

Seed – A seed is an incredible feat of packaging. Something that can be as small as a pin head contains an entire plant in embryo form, complete with a food store and all protected by a tough outer skin. When seeds are kept dry and in cool conditions, seeds can remain dormant (but alive) for several years. When these miniature plant factories are exposed to favourable conditions – usually a combination of the correct temperature in the soil and the right level of moisture – they start to take on water. This process causes the seed to swell until the outer protective skin bursts and the embryonic plant can then start growing.

Seedbed – An area of ground in a sheltered location that has been carefully prepared in order to give your young plants the best chance of developing. Expensive, slow growing or delicate plants are often best raised initially in a seedbed where they can be more carefully nurtured before being planted out in their final positions. It can incorporate a cold frame and can be a raised bed.

Seedling – A young plant usually raised from seed rather than a cutting.

Sharp sand – Also known as coarse sand. A general purpose sand often used to improve drainage of a compost or soil and sometimes used for top dressing a lawn.

Sunscorch – Damage to leaves from too much direct sunlight. Often caused when seedlings and plants are covered with glass or plastic for too long and particularly if the leaves touch that cover during particularly sunny days.

Thinning out – However careful you are when sowing your seeds, as the seedlings grow, they will often need more space to fully develop. Taking out some of these seedlings to give the others more space is known as thinning out. The seedlings that are removed are known as thinnings and, if your space allows, can be replanted elsewhere.

Tilth – is a term used to describe the condition of soil that has been prepared – usually for seeding. A ‘fine tilth’ is a finely prepared soil.

Transplant – To move a plant from one growing position to another.

Vermiculite – A natural mineral that is used to aerate the soil (see aeration above) and has some water holding capacity that aids rewetting.

Viable – A viable seed is simply a seed that will grow i.e. a living or dormant seed.