Home Grown Gardens

Calendar Specific Fruit & VegDictionary Useful Sites

Dictionary of Fruit and Veg terms


Alliaceae - is the Onion family name and it includes Garlic, Leek, Onion, Shallot, Chive. It can have its own plot in the crop rotation, or mixes in as ‘other’. Many gardeners cannot live without this family which has pride of place in the plot. There are so many varieties you can grow and crop all year round, but they like an open soil, that is weed free and so are suited to following potatoes, or a plot that has had root veg. However, because their smell can deter carrot root fly, and they like the same type of soil, many people grow onions and carrots together in their crop rotation.

Allotments – an area of ground where people hire land and usually grow fruit, veg and flowers. If you don’t have one, still walk round them, they are wonderful and so much can be learned. Look and learn, and see what allotment users are doing as a clue as to what you should, and could be doing. Allotments do have a reputation for ‘Heath Robinson’ style contraptions.

Apiaceae - family of Carrot, Parsnip, Celeriac, Celery, Fennel, Parsley. If you heavily manure the soil for this group they tend to fork, so it’s not a good idea. They prefer an open, sandy, free draining soil that the root can grow easily in. Carrots have a long growing season; sow a row every few weeks and you can be cropping for months. Parsnips stay in the soil a long time so only grow them if you like them, or have lots of space. If you want to grow onions with carrots to deter carrot root fly, then just grow them together every year in your cycle, moving them round together. In a traditional crop rotation they follow into the brassica bed which is usually looking pretty depleted by spring when root sowing starts. But, brassicas like a firm soil, so you need to dig over the area to make it nice and friable for your root veg.

Aspect – This is the direction your plot faces, North/South/East/West. A veg patch likes a sunny spot, so if you can, put it somewhere that is not shaded, facing south so it gets as much sun as possible. If you plant in rows, should your row go north/south or east/west? This is less important than you might think, it is the height of your plants you should consider. You do not want tall plants to shade short plants. So, a row of beans/peas should be planted and staked in a north/south line, so plants each side of the stake will get sun. Shorter plants can go east/west or north/south, but if the bed is behind the beans, make your rows of smaller veg run in the opposite direction to taller.

Asteraceae – lettuce family and includes Lettuce, Chicory, Endive, Globe and Jerusalem artichoke. Lettuce has a short growing time so can be grown anywhere, but this group counts as ‘other’ in the crop rotation cycle. Artichokes usually have a permanent place in the plot.

Beans – see Papilionaceae

Beet - see Chenopodiaceae, which includes Spinach, Beetroot , Chard.

Biodynamics – Based on the work of Rudolf Steiner, also known as anthroposophy, it is an holistic approach to agriculture. Lunar cycles are used to decide when to sow and plant.

Biodegradable pots – A pot used to germinate a seed that then goes straight out into the open ground where it will rot down. This is useful for plants like carrot, peas, broad beans and parsnip which you’d like to start off growing in February, but the ground may be wet, cold, even frozen. These plants do not like being moved, so this way you can start them early, and fool them. These pots can be made for free from newspaper, or the inner cardboard for a loo roll. Or, you can buy various types from mail order catalogues. (NB. Tomatoes do not germinate in newspaper pots).

Bolt – plants do this when they are dry, or old, or it’s that time of year. It’s like they panic, give up growing and decide to flower. The result is that the bit you want, usually the leaf becomes bitter. You can stop this by watering in dry weather. Onion sets can bolt if planted too early. Many varieties are available now that say ‘bolt resistant’. Radishes and rocket seem to bolt at just a hint of sunny weather.

Brassica – see Brassicaceae

Brassicaceae – a grouping of veg types within the crop rotation cycle, known as the Cabbage or Brassica family. Typically Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cauliflower, Kohl rabi, Kale, Swede, Turnip, Radish, Rocket. They usually follow on from legumes, (even an overwintered green manure legume crop) as they benefit from all the nitrogen that has been fixed. They like firm soil, so dig over in autumn well before planting out, but make sure the legume roots stay in the soil. Traditionally you grow your (winter and spring harvest) brassicas in a seed bed, away from the main patch, transplanting small plants to the main plot as areas become free from the quick crops like radish and rocket, and your summer cabbages and calabrese as you harvest. Brassicas are susceptible to club root which likes an acid soil, so a more alkaline soil will stop this, and that’s why some gardeners add lime. Organic gardeners don’t usually! Always keep the brassica bed tidy by clearing up old leaves. Netting will stop caterpillars but mealy aphids settle in nicely. Removing diseased and damaged leaves stops nasties spreading and prevents them overwintering. It also gives you a chance to regularly check the crop, firming up soil that has loosened.

Cabbage - see Brassicaceae

Carrot – see Apiaceae, family which includes Carrot, Parsnip, Celeriac, Celery, Fennel, Parsley;

Catch crop – This is a quick growing crop that you sneak in before a slower growing crop is planted out, so the soil is put to maximum use. For instance, radish, lettuce, rocket, spinach can be sown before brassicas, parsnips and then whipped out long before the main crop. Don’t worry about them messing up your crop rotation as they are not in the ground long enough. (This is not the same as intercropping.)

Chenopodiaceae – Beet family which includes Spinach, Beetroot , Chard.

Chitting – this is done to potatoes. You get your (certified virus free) seed potatoes from a reputable source, and stick them rose end (most of the eyes/buds are in the rose end) somewhere warmish and light (but not actually sunny), to get the eyes to develop shoots. Seed potatoes look like small normal potatoes gone off, but don’t worry, you don’t eat them. They produce your crop and die off. After 6-8 weeks they are ready to be planted out in rich, heavily manured trenches. And you’ve had that chitting time to prepare the trench. Early varieties should be chitted in February and planted out by end March, Second earlies should be chitted in early March and planted out by mid April and maincrop should be chitted in later March and planted out by end April. If you have lots of land then grow potatoes, if not, try them in a few huge pots (or tyres stacked). They are so easy to do, and so satisfying to eat, but take up loads of room that you may choose to use for other veg.

Cloche – a cover for a plant or soil. A greenhouse or polytunnel is the King of cloches, a plastic bottle the pawn, but they both do the job of protecting from wind/rain/frost/pests. Cloches can be made of fleece, netting, plastic, glass and can be big or small. Keeping the big plastic bottles from pop-drinks, and the tubs that supermarket doughnuts come in means you have a ready supply of free plant cloches.

Compost – something you’ve made in your compost bin, or bought in labelled ‘Compost’. It is a mix of organic matter than feeds nutrients into the soil, and puts back into your soil, what you took out (or someone did). Looks like perfect soil, all crumbly and sweet smelling, and you know that if you were a plant you’d like to grow in it. If you made it then you know there are no chemicals in it, and can feel secure using it on your fruit and veg. There is an art to making your own compost. Basically you need to have a mix of “soft” plant growth (ie. kitchen scraps, and plants,(but not weeds) grass mowings, and paper) and “hard” plant growth (ie.woodier cuttings (the smaller the better)). These need to go together into a container measuring at least 1mx1m and with a cover. Keep the pile damp and nature will break down everything into nice brown compost. Worms will naturally enter the pile, as will slugs, and the heat from outside and the bacterial activity will do the rest. In perfect conditions this can take as little as a few months, or as long as a few years. A compost bin should be somewhere sunny if possible. You can buy activators to speed things up, but in a sunny spot, well insulated, and with the right mix of ingredients (roughly 4 soft to one hard) the pile will steam away on its own.

Companion planting – the idea here is to use one plant to help another, usually by removing a pest. It is said that if you grow onions near carrots, their strong smell hides the smell of the carrot, so the pesty carrot root fly can’t find its host (4:1 ratio of onion to carrot). Basil near tomatoes keep whitefly off; nasturtiums attract black fly from broad bens and peas; French marigolds (Tagetes patula) attract slugs keeping them off your lettuces (but bye, bye marigolds, so grow lots) and their strong scent keeps whitefly away. Also, flowers in the veg patch look lovely, attract all sorts of beneficial insects and seem to confuse pesty ones looking for your veg.

Courgette – see Cucurbitaceae

Crop rotation – if you grow the same annual plant in the same place each year it will use up nutrients to grow, and may provide a happy home for pests. Perennial plants can be grown in the same place as you do not remove them, but annuals, of which most veg are, get taken out of the soil and with them go the nutrients, while the pests stay happy in the soil. So, grow a different plant next year and it will use different nutrients, the pest won’t survive, and hopefully that veg will replace some nutrients ready for the next crop. Veg can be roughly grouped into 4 groups (three at a push) 1. Roots, 2. Brassicas, 3. Legumes, 4. Other and so just make sure you group veg of one type together in one area one year, and move them on next year. The rotation moves left to right/clockwise so the area that had Legumes this year, will have Brassicas next; the bed that had roots will have Other. Looking at the veg you are likely to grow:
1. Roots includes the Apiaceae family of Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnip, and the Chenopodiaceae family of Beetroot, Beets, Chard, Spinach,. Roots split in heavily manured soil.
2. Brassicas is the Brassicaceae family of Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale(borecole), Kohl rabi, Swede, Turnip; Radish, Rocket. They like firm soil that is not too acid.
3. Legumes is the Papilionaceae family of Beans, Clover, Fenugreek, Lupin, Peas, Tares, Vetch. Like rich, moist soil.
4. ‘Other’ can have all of these or they can have their own area.
Alliaceae – Commonly called Onion and includes Chive, Garlic, Leek, Onion, Shallot, Like open textured soil.
Asteraceae – Commonly called Lettuce and includes Chicory, Endive, Lettuce,. Also Globe and Jerusalem artichoke but these usually remain in the same place.
Cucurbitaceae – Commonly called Cucumber and includes Cucumber, Courgette, Marrow, Melon, Pumpkin. Like heavily manured soil.
Solanaceae – Commonly called Potato and includes Aubergine, Peppers (sweet and hot), Potato, Tomato. Like heavily manured soil.
On the Useful sites page, Defland, HDRA, and Rocket have some crop rotation plans for you to try. You do need to keep a record of what you did, year by year. If you’ve had the space then onions and potato groups could have their own plot, and then rotate so that onions move to where the potatoes were as they like the newly created perfect soil. Root veg really don’t take well to heavily manured soil so keep them as far away from potatoes as possible within your cycle. If you want to grow onions with carrots to deter carrot root fly, then just grow them together every year in your cycle, moving them round together.

Cropping plan – the serious gardener has one of these; the amateur may have a crop rotation and the anarchist plans where they like. The smaller your plot, the more important a cropping plan is, to make best use of space. In a large plot you may be able to leave land fallow (but with a green manure). In a plan you write what you will plant when, how long before harvest, and when it will be free; all within a crop rotation. It is easier to do with tracing paper overlaying the plot I find; with each sheet representing a couple of months, that then get overlayed with another sheet of paper. Then it all moves a bit like a cartoon through the year.

Cucumber - Cucurbitaceae

Cucurbitaceae – cucumber and courgette family. Includes Courgette, Marrow, Cucumber, Melon, Pumpkin. They like a warm, most, rich soil, so a good dose of manure is always welcome. They tend to have huge leaves so are great at suppressing weeds. They are flexible in the crop rotation cycle, they can have their own bed, mix in with potato or brassica, but I have them as ‘other’

Diseases – these are viruses and bacteria that affect your plant. They may be carried by pests like aphids so that’s why you want to keep aphids off your plants. There is little you can do to cure a disease except to remove the affected plants and burn them, and try to make sure the conditions are not good for the disease next time.

Drill – a line in the soil into which seed is known (see packet for depth/width), or small seedlings are transplanted. Tends to be a straight line, marked out with string between two sticks. Helps you to see where you’ve planted.

Earthing up – technique used with tubers, like potatoes. Creates a ridge of soil around the plant to cover the tuber, and keep light from it.

Food mile – this is the distance the food you are going to eat has travelled to get to your home. The further it has travelled, the more carbon dioxide has gone into the atmosphere, and so the bigger the carbon footprint. From your plot at home the miles = zero; from New Zealand just a few thousand. Is it better to eat local non-organic food, or far-flung organic? For some food that may be considered essential like bananas, grapes, oranges and avocado, it’s a price that has to be paid; but for cabbage, apple, strawberries? By growing your own you are reducing your carbon footprint, and very little helps.

Friendly fire – these are the natural predators of pests and exist in a garden where no insecticides are used, and there are plenty of plants for them to feed on, and habitats for them to colonise . For instance, Ladybirds, which eat aphids, as do hoverflies. Bees and wasps that pollinate flowers. Frogs that eat slugs. Thrushes that eat snails. Nematodes that destroy slugs and snails, and vine weevils. Parasitic wasps that destroy whitefly. Predatory mites that eat spider mites. However, a friendly fire predator needs the pest to be present, so you need to manually remove the pest until the friendly fire arrives. Think of it as holding the fort until the cavalry arrive!

Green manures – these plants grown to nourish and protect the soil rather than in their own right. Once grown they are dug back into the soil, or put on the compost heap. Think of them as a natural blanket/nutrient cover for your soil. In addition to stopping nutrients washing away, and weeds getting a foothold, some fix nitrogen and others have deep roots which break up the soil and bring up nutrients which will be fed back in to the surface when you cut the crop down. Some fall into various crop rotation groups, so try to make sure you don’t mess up this cycle. For instance, mustard grows really quickly, so can cover an area for a short or long time, but it is susceptible to club root, so treat it as a brassica. This means you should use it after your main brassica crop, so if there’s a problem the green manure will show it up. (See more detail under specific fruit and veg type pages).

Hardening off - Seedlings that have been grown in trays or pots, or under a cloche, need to have time to get used to the real world, (called hardening off). This is easy with a cold frame, you just open the lid during the day; or with a cloche, you can lift it off during the day, and return it at night. Seedlings grown inside should spend the day outside and then return inside, or be covered at night. If you have a greenhouse or tunnel then this can be ventilated during the day to start with, then trays placed outside during the day, to be returned at night.

Hot box – used for pumpkins. A big pile of manure in a box with a glass top. The pumpkin(s) sit happily on top, easily watered, and the glass can be removed when sunny, replaced when cool.

Intercropping – This is when you sow two, or more, different crops in the same bed. It may be as one benefits the other, or simply to make best use of space, mixing a tall plant with a squat one, or sowing a fast growing one along side a slow growing one. For instance, you can put runner beans, sweetcorn and pumpkins/courgettes in the same bed. The beans use the sweetcorn for support, the pumpkin/courgette leaves smother weeds and keep the soil cool and moist, the beans provide nutrients in the soil. Or, plant broad beans amongst cabbages. A fast growing crop, like radish, rocket, lettuce are also sometimes used as markers along side slow growing crops – you sow a drill of parsnip, and along side some radish. The radish germinates quickly but reminds you that parsnips are next door, underground. And then you will see them coming through as you harvest the radish. Or some summer lettuce amongst leeks left in for winter. Many crops can go anywhere in a crop rotation cycle, and are great for intercropping. (This is not the same as catch cropping.)

Irrigation – you’ll see that many plants should be kept ‘well watered’. Whilst mulching wet soil helps to conserve moisture in the soil, many plants needs lots of water, like cucumbers and tomatoes. If you cut the end off used water or fizzy-drink bottles (the bigger the better) and then turn it upside down into the soil near each plant, you can easily use a watering can to fill up the bottle. The water will then drain direct to the roots of the plant and help to keep it happy. Incidentally the same bottle the other way up can also create a mini greenhouse over a pot with a seed to encourage it to germinate; or outside over a newly planted out crop; and they are great for protecting peas as they come through.

Leafmould – this is made from collecting up leaves and letting them rot down. They rot slowly so you need to keep them moist. If you have space, create a chicken wire cage, fill with leaves and leave. You can use soft crumbly leaf mould anywhere in the garden. At RHS Harlow Carr the gardeners have been very creative with chicken wire making bear, a tea pot and a squirrel shapes, filled with leaves.

Legumes - family group that includes Peas, Beans, Clover, Fenugreek, Lupin, Tares, Vetch. Proper name is Papilionaceae.

Lettuce – family known as Asteraceae and includes Lettuce, Chicory, Endive, Globe and Jerusalem artichoke. Crop rotation group ‘other’.

Manure – organic matter, usually from cattle, or horses (in other words, vegetarians). Full of nutrients for your soil and the plants that grow in it. You can buy it from farms, garden centres, and horse keepers, but look for an organic certification e.g. that from the Soil Association. You only need a wheelbarrow full per 10sq metres (or two barrow fulls of well rotted compost) to meet the nutritional requirements for good crop growth. In agriculture these quantities are very specific so that the farmer does not waste money on too much manure, and nutrients do not get washed off the soil and into the water system. On your plot you can be far more rough-and-ready. The plot that will have potatoes, or ‘other’ needs to be heavily manured, the plot taking the roots just needs compost, not fresh manure, the brassica plot loves manure but wants firm soil, so let it settle before planting, and the legumes love a rich deep heavily manured/composted soil. Your fruit bushes and trees could do with some in spring, and roses like a good soil dressing of manure in spring. If you have some left over, spread it over the soil’s surface.

Marrow – see Cucurbitaceae

Mulch – a layer of compost, or straw, or wood chip, or grass cuttings placed around a plant or tree to retain the moisture in the soil below, and block out light and so killing weeds. You should mulch after rain or watering, because mulching can keep dry soil dry! For small plants just put a small layer of mulch around, grass mowings are great, and repeat every couple of weeks. Never use mowings that have been treated with a herbicide (not that an organic gardener would).

No dig – a method of gardening that many veg gardeners swear by. Clean and put your spade away. It’s not easy for a new plot, but very easy after that. The reasons being: nature does not dig over soil; digging messes up the structure of the soil; damages and kills wildlife; brings dormant weed seed to the surface. You really only need a rake, a fork and a trowel as your tools, plus some wildlife. Worms will pull down the compost and manure into the soil to nourish it (eventually); green manures will break up and feed the soil; rain will wash nutrients down and hydrate the plant; sun will provide energy to the plant, so all you have to do is sow the seed and manage the seedlings. Try it! If you have a new, weed infested plot, you may think the only hope is to dig. But you can cover it instead, and plant through. Try a layer of newspaper, then a layer of cardboard, then some compost, and then dig a hole with a trowel and plant through. Next year you may be able to remove the cover as the weeds will be gone.

Onion – Alliaceae is the onion family name and it includes Garlic, Leek, Onion, Shallot, Chive. Can have its own plot in the crop rotation, or mixes in as ‘other’. Many gardeners cannot live without this family which has pride of place in the plot. There are so many varieties you can grow and crop all year round, but they like an open soil, that is weed free and so are suited to following potatoes, or a plot that has had root veg; or even in the root veg plot to protect against carrot root fly.

Organic – the production of foodstuffs labelled Organic has been regulated and is unlikely to have used pesticides, hormones or too many nasties. People like to mock the label organic, but put simply, given the choice, would you rather eat fruit and veg you’d grown, or someone else had? And if you’d rather eat yours because you know what’s been done to it, wouldn’t you trust organic rather than not? Organic gardening and agriculture are very much ‘in’ words, but also one open to misuse. If you want to garden organically, then there are a few basic principles to follow. HDRA have levels from Best practice through to Acceptable, Qualified acceptance, and Not recommended to guide you, but the principles are feeding, recycling, and conserving. Here’s what you should do as a minimum: Produce your own compost from kitchen and garden waste, and use it to feed and mulch your soil; rotate your crops to replace nutrients in the soil and keep pests at bay; grow a wide diversity of flowers, crops, shrubs to provide natural predators for pests and food for all wildlife; encourage wildlife in your garden by providing habitats. You should also conserve water; grow disease resistant plants suitable for your area and stop using pesticides and herbicides (or use those acceptable in an organic system, but still only when needed, not routinely). See the web site list for associations that give organic accreditation to foodstuffs.

Overwintering – over the winter growth of many plants and wildlife slows right down. Mammals often hibernate, and plants come to a stand still. Bugs and nasties stay in the soil, or on leaves ready to burst into life. You want to encourage an overwintering habitat for wildlife that is friendly to the garden, whilst removing the environment for pests. Leaves harbour slugs, so remove and put in a bin to make mould, or mix in with twigs and branches to make a retreat for hedgehogs. Spent flower stalks may still have seeds for birds so leave. Put up ladybird, hoverfly and lacewing boxes. Remove old leaves from the veg plot where aphids like to rest.

Papilionaceae – family group that includes Peas, Beans, Clover, Fenugreek, Lupin, Tares, Vetch. Commonly called Legumes.

Parsnip – see Apiaceae

Peas – see Papilionaceae

Aphids – They can damage a plant in their own right by sucking the plant’s sap and secreting sticky stuff which stops a leaf growing; but worse, they transmit diseases to the plant through their sap sucking. Encourage ladybirds and hoverflies into your garden as they will eat aphids, but you can rub them off with your fingers as well.
Birds – They look lovely and eat caterpillars, but also your fruit. Pheasants dig over everything, as do chickens, but they produce wonderful manure for the veg patch.
Children – Ask them not to walk on your raised bed edge, from which they fall into your plot; and to please leave sticks where they are. Give them their own patch and see how successful they can be at growing, and eating their own veg.
Mammal wildlife – Deer, Foxes, Rabbits all cause damage so you just have to cover and protect.
Pets – Explain to your dog he can’t dig in your veg patch, and to your cat she can’t lie in the sun on your plot. Failing that, a water pistol should explain it more effectively.
Slugs and snails - Try using plastic plant pots with the bottom cut out as a barrier round young plants, and beer traps and upturned grapefruits as traps. I think slugs and snails are creatures of habit, so learn these habits and launch your ‘seek and destroy’ mission before planting out your precious, and vulnerable seedlings. Bury a glass jar in the ground and fill with (cheap) bitter beer; the slugs and snails crawl in and drown and you can dispose of them. (Beetles fall in as well, so leave an exit route for them) Leave grapefruit, or orange skins out and lift them in the morning and you’ll find them full of slugs that you can destroy. You can buy nematodes (microscopic worms) that kill off slugs and snails. You just water them into your soil, and if the instructions are followed they are successful. I haven’t used them, for no reason other than I don’t like the thought.

pH – this a scale indicating whether your compound (soil usually for a gardener) is acid (low pH) or alkaline (high pH). Most soils fall between4-8. Acid has the ranking 1-7, but soil is called acid below 6.5; Alkaline is 7-14 but soil is called alkaline above 7.3. The scale is logarithmic, so a figure differs by ten times the next value on the scale. Plants are sensitive to pH with veg liking soil that is 6.5-7, and fruit like 6-6.5. Plants that like acid conditions (Blueberry, rhododendron, Camellia, Azalea, Magnolia) will tolerate to 5.5 or 4.5, plants that tolerate calcium (Clematis, Dianthus, Scabious, Viburnun, Brassicas) will grow in soil up to 8. You can use all sorts of test equipment to see what soil you have, and it can vary within the garden. Plants that are not happy in a soil will not grow, so look around to see what grows for an initial assessment of your soil type. Worms do not like an acid soil.

Photo – take them of your plot each month. It’s a reminder of what went where, but also it shows you how things grow. And in the winter months you can gaze at them and remember those lovely hot sunny days, spent happily slaving over your veg.

Pome tree – see Tree fruit

Pond – try to have a pond, however small, somewhere in your garden or plot. It increases the diversity of wildlife, and pest eaters like frogs, hedgehogs and birds like ponds. Use an old sunken sink, or a sunken barrel, or dig a hole in an area that often fills with water. All sorts of wildlife will visit a pond.

Potato – part of the Solanaceae family which includes Potato, Tomato, Peppers (sweet and hot), Aubergine.

Potting up – once you’ve sown your seeds in trays of compost and seedlings have appeared, the seedlings need to be put in their own pot, or potted-up. This is time consuming and laborious; a necessary evil; relaxing and life affirming, depending on your way of thinking. In nurseries each seed is sown into individual cells filled with soil and this makes taking each seedling out and potting into a bigger pot much easier. You may even buy the plants like this, known as plug plants. You have to pot up a seedling as it needs to go deeper in more nutritious soil than the seed. If you put a seed deep in a big pot it may not germinate. Seed sown straight into the soil does not go through this process.

Pruning – keeping fruit trees and bushes in shape and productive. A science that is best learned by the side of an expert, or at least with a good book to help; and that friend ‘trial and error’. If you do it each year then it’s not much work, leave it for a few and you’ll wish you hadn’t. Herbs can be clipped all over in spring to stop them getting woody and straggly.

Pumpkin – see Cucurbitaceae

Resistant – some varieties of plants are resistant to certain diseases, and conditions and so will grow happily without the need for chemical controls. Part of the organic ethos is to grow these types of plant.

Roots – family group for crop rotation that typically includes the Carrot (Apiaceae) family of Carrot, Parsnip, Celeriac, Celery, Fennel, Parsley; the Beet family (Chenopodiaceae) which includes Spinach, Beetroot, Chard.

Root stock – most fruiting trees are actually two trees, gratfed (joined) together. This is so that a tree that produces good fruit can be grown on another tree whose size you can determine, which is the rootstock one. In the past if you wanted apples you had to wait years for the tree to grow, and then it would start to fruit. Now you can have that good fruiter grown onto a small tree (the rootstock) so you can have fruit many years earlier and on a manageable sized tree. Trees can be dwarf or standard, but also you can have rootstock that allows cordons, espalier and bush varieties which means you can grow a fruit tree by a wall or fence or in an open area.

Run-off – a major hazard resulting from agriculture, where fertiliser runs off the land after rain and into water systems. Run-off can also cause flooding in areas that used to have soil and plants but have now been covered by buildings or hard standing areas. That new drive your neighbour’s just had could send a river running through your plot! If you have a big delivery of manure sitting outside your house, be aware of the brown river running from it when it rains, and try to divert it back into your garden, and not your neighbour’s front door.

Seed – good things come in small packages. A seed is that mighty important start for all your veg needs. Seed comes in all shapes and sizes, and varying growing requirements. In the right conditions a seed will germinate to produce a seedling, that grows into a plant. If conditions are not right, a seed stays dormant for years. The right conditions vary by plant; some like warm soil, some need a spell of cold, some like light and to be on the surface, others like dark and to be buried. But, all need water to germinate. A seed only has enough food to get the seedling started, so if you sow it too deep, it may run out of food and die before the seedling produces the leaves necessary to make its own food. So, read the packet’s instructions for how to sow a particular seed.

Seed compost – a seed is a clever self-contained device, that has enough food stored ready to germinate if conditions are right (see above). So seed compost does not need to have much about it, but should be free draining, and kept warm. Most seed does not want to germinate in cold, waterlogged soil. Then, once the seedling is through you need to transplant it to more nutritious compost, and that sold by WigglyWigglers and HDRA has worked for me. True, in nature this does not happen, but then most seed in the wild fails!

Site – this is the area you have chosen for your veg. It may be lots of areas around the garden, or one spot, or a complete allotment, or troughs by a sunny wall. Try and make it a sunny spot, not windy, with easy access to a water butt, and with perfect soil! If it’s near your kitchen you will be happy to pop out and harvest as needs be.

Soil – what your plants need for growth and support, and what you need to make sure is looked after. Although crop rotation and green manures help, you still need to add organic matter and compost to your soil, but not as much as you’d thin (see manure) You should know your soil’s pH, texture and structure and that can vary in a small area. pH is dealt with elsewhere; texture means the size of the particles, so is it like clay, or sand, or silt, or peat, or chalk; and structure means the amount of top soil, and what’s below. Grab some of your soil and rub it between your fingers to get a rough idea of the texture; dig a hole with a spade and look at the layers to see its structure or profile. You cannot change your soil’s structure, and you can do very little to the texture, but by knowing and understanding you can grow plants that are suitable. For gardeners though, when we say soil structure we mean the top soil, and that can be improved and managed. All soil benefits from the introduction of organic matter for many reasons.

Solanaceae – family grouping includes Potato, Tomato, Peppers (sweet and hot), Aubergine. They like a rich moisture retentive soil, so manure this area heavily. Fit in the group ‘other’ in a crop rotation.

Sowing seeds – Read the packet first. Varieties differ. Then there are various methods to follow:?

Square foot garden – you just have a series of raised beds measuring 4ftx4ft (or try 1mx1m). Divide each bed into 16 squares and plant different plants in each. As one crop is used up, sow another. Full details at www.squarefootgardening.com

Successional sowing – this is something we should all do. Just sow a row, or half-a row, or a seed tray, or a particular variety of crop every couple of weeks. This way you should spread out the number of plants that are ready to use, rather than having everything ready at once. It’s worth trying, but weather and ground conditions have a way of ignoring this and making everything come at the same time anyway. But, July-September is glut time in the veg plot, so try sowing veg that ripen before July or after September and you’ll not have so much of a glut. Or, you can try a wider variety of the same crop, say carrots with some earlies, and some lates. If you draw up a cropping plan, it makes successional sowing more easier, as you know what’s going where, and when it’ll be ready.

Seed bed – a specific plot where you keep the soil perfect for seeds, known as a fine tilth. You sow seeds here, and then move the seedlings/young plants to their final position in the plot later. The soil can be shallow here, as you’ll move the plants before they root deeply, so you could have it in a perfect sunny, sheltered spot, maybe with its own cover.

Soft fruit – smaller than trees, so they crop quicker; the plant can be described as Cane, like raspberry, or blackberry; Bush like Gooseberry, Blackcurrant, Blueberry, Red and white currant; or Bedding like the strawberry.

Soil pH – see pH

Stone tree – see Tree fruit

Supports – Beans and peas grow tall so they need something to support them, as do raspberries. Raspberries stay for years so a strong post and some wire can be put in, but the others move beds every year, so you want something you can set up and take down easily. Canes work well, with string, or netting between the canes. There are all sorts of supports for you to buy, you are only limited by your budget and your imagination.

Sustainable gardening – The word in gardening for 2007 was sustainable. It combines all the approaches of organic gardening and being environment friendly, into your garden. Try to recycle, don’t use mains services, don’t bring in new stuff but use what you have (this applies to plants and hard landscaping), garden according to your conditions as this uses less resources. And look beyond your garden hedge or fence at how what you do affects the world around you.

Thinning – imagine your row of veg. You’ve sown the seed in a long line, it has all germinated and the seedlings are all crammed together. Do you leave them like this, or do you remove alternate seedlings to create more room for those left? This removal of seedlings is known as thinning. You can do it more than once as the plants grow, say in the case of carrots, parsnips, beetroot. If you don’t do it then the seedlings struggle to survive as there is not enough water, light or nutrients for them all.

Tilth – this is the texture of the soil on the surface and to 5cm, where seeds germinate. Ideally it should be weed and stone free, and crumbly. After heavy rain the surface can go solid, so raking helps to keep it nice and friable. If you have rotavated new soil, and have great big clumps, use a fork to break them up, then rake, and rake again. Keep the stones to act as drainage in pots, and put the bigger clumps of soil in a (reused compost/wood chip) bag. Trample the contents and then put through a soil sieve back onto the plot. In time the soil will become a ‘fine tilth’. It is really only seeds that need this fine tilth, seedlings and plants can take much rougher ground, that’s why a seed bed is a great idea if you have the space.

Top dressing – manure or compost that you just dump onto the soil, and make fork in a bit. Let the worms and rain to do the work of incorporating the compost into the soil. Many call this the ‘no dig’ method and walk straight and proud to preach its merits!

Tree fruit – A tree is a plant with a single main stem, so these plants are defined as those that bear fruit on a tree (as opposed to Soft fruit). They can be Pome (fleshy fruit with lots of seeds, like Apple, Pear); Stone (fleshy fruit with large seed/stone) like Plum, Cherry; and then there are others like Apricot; Peach, Nectarine and Fig which are very frost intolerant; and others like Mulberry, Elderberry, Quince, Sloe which are frost hardy.

Trench – a wide drill really, about a spade’s depth (not the handle!) and width. Usually filled with manure/compost and then seed sown into it.

Top fruit – see Tree fruit

Water butt – a container for storing rain water. This water is free, and has no chemicals, so can be used to top up a pond. The easiest way to fill a water butt is to connect it to a gutter down pipe, from your house, hut, or greenhouse so when it rains, your butt fills. Have as many as you can, and put them near your veg plot if you can as it’s heavy work lugging watering cans around.

Willow – this natural product has been used for centuries for baskets and fences. It is very trendy to have a living willow arbour, or structure in your garden, and children love them. Willow puts on an amazing amount of growth during the summer and then can be cut down in winter to provide the rods you need to make supports, or to weave. You can make lovely edges for beds from willow, plus arches for supporting beans and peas, and wigwams. Many believe that you should look to the moon for success with willow and plant on a waxing moon (ie. before full moon!) but harvest rods under a waning moon (ie. after full moon). Using lunar cycles in gardening is well documented, but little researched. To find out more look up Rudolf Steiner and Biodynamics. Willow can be grown and burned to create energy, known as biofuel.

Proverb: Life is a bowl of cherries.


garden flowers

Pretty and beneficial Limnanthes are easy to grow

London Garden Designer, layout image