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Growing Together: Do you speak gardening? If not, this could help.

Bleeding heart is an example of an “herbaceous” perennial. Forum file photo

FARGO — Please don’t laugh, but I’ve never golfed. In fact, I don’t think I could even define the terms “birdie,” “bogey” or “par,” although I’m pretty sure a “mulligan” is one of the Irish kids who used to live down the street.

Whatever the pursuit, if you’re a newcomer and everyone else is speaking a jargon you don’t understand, participating is difficult until terms are defined.

Even gardening has a dialect all its own. “Slip,” “escape” and “amendment” have unique meanings in gardening talk. Here’s the latest in a continuing series of gardening phrases I’ve been compiling over the past years.

  • “Microclimate” refers to a portion of a yard with better-than-average protection from the elements, making it more favorable for survival of plants.
  • “Blossom end rot” is a common disorder of tomatoes causing sunken brown or black patches on the fruit’s underside, caused by the plant’s inability to absorb calcium that’s present in the soil.
  • An “herbaceous plant” has soft, non-woody stems, such as herbaceous perennials that die to ground level during winter and re-emerge the following spring.
  • A “woody plant” has stiff branches composed of wood, such as most trees and shrubs.
  • A “systemic” pesticide is one that is absorbed into the plant and circulated through the plant’s sap system, to control pests from within as the plant is attacked.
  • “Alkaline soil,” the opposite of acidic soil, has a pH between neutral 7 and a high of 14. Many regional alkaline soils have a pH of about 8.
  • “Organic matter” is material derived from living organisms, composed mainly of carbon compounds.
  • “Compost” is completely decomposed organic matter used to condition soil.
    • “Date of last frost” is the average expected date of the last killing frost of spring in a region, and is the date around which much of spring gardening revolves.
    • “Amendments” are materials added to improve soil property, such as compost or peat moss.
    • “Xeriscaping” means creating low-maintenance landscapes using native or well-adapted plants and little or no turfgrass primarily with the goal of conserving water.
    • A “weed” is any plant growing where it’s not wanted.
    • “Cultivating” a garden or flowerbed usually refers to shallow tillage to break the soil surface for weed control or to loosen the surface after a rain.
    • “Thatch” is the layer of undecomposed grass clippings in a lawn’s profile. One-half inch of thatch is considered healthy.
  • A “seedling” is a young plant newly emerged from a seed with stems, leaves and roots.
  • “Thinning” means removing some seedlings to reduce overcrowding so remaining plants have room to develop, such as thinning a row of carrots.
  • The “rootball” is the mass of roots under a plant, with soil attached.
  • “Everbearing” usually refers to strawberries and raspberries that produce crops in early summer and again in late summer, as opposed to “June-bearing” types that produce one crop in early summer.
  • “Broadcast” means to spread out widely across the soil surface, such as broadcasting seed or fertilizer, instead of placing in rows.
  • A “slip” is an older term for a cutting, which is a portion of a plant coaxed into rooting to produce a new plant.
  • An “escape” is a yard or garden plant that’s begun to grow wild, surviving and spreading on its own.

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