Herb Garden Glossary
pH Soil pH is important to many plants. Herbs in particular grow best in a narrow range of 4 to about 8. PH is a measure of acid or basic from the chemistry field. The scale runs from 0 to 14. A ph of 7 is considered to be neutral. More than 7 is basic or alkaline and less than 7 is acidic. A neutral soil around 7 is a safe bet for most herbs.
Plant life cycle is the growth cycle from seed to blooming to seed again.
Acidic is soil with a pH less than 7. Some herbs like soils in the 4 to 6 range.
Alkaline is soil with a pH more than 7. Some herbs like soils in the 6 to 8 range. Basic is sometimes used in place of Alkaline when discussing a pH more than 7.
Annual Herb is an herb whose life cycle is completed in one year
Amend the Soil The process of adding substances such as perlite, vermiculite, fertilizer, pH balancers, compost or any other agent to improve the growing properties of the soil.
Aromatic Herbs are generally grown for their pleasant smelling flowers or leaves. The essential oils from aromatic herbs are used in making various perfumes, incense, toilet water or other such items requiring a lively fragrance.
Beneficial Insects There are two kinds of beneficial insects. Predatory insects such as the Praying Mantis eat harmful insects. Parasitic insects lay their eggs in the pest insects. When the eggs hatch, the growing larvae eat the pest insect.
Biennial Herb an herb whose life cycle takes two growing seasons from seed to bloom to seed again.
Companion Planting Planting two or more plants close together to attract beneficial insects, repel insect pest or help the companion plantings to grow better. For example Basil planted with tomatos, peppers, oregano, asparagus will attract butterflies and will repel asparagus beetle, mosquitoes, thrips and flies. Ref (1)
Compost is mix of decomposed organic matter. It can be made from leaves, grass if not sprayed with herbicide, manure or even left over organic kitchen garbage. Allow at least a year for your compost bin to get started and established before use. For an indoor garden, compost in not used much because most potting soils are ready to use as is.
Container Gardening Growing plants or herbs in containers. Container gardens may be outside or inside. Inside containers may be terra cotta pots, enameled pots, plastic pots, discsarded metal containers, hanging baskets with a pot inside and anything else that will hold soil, your herb and allow good drainage. Outside containers may include all of the inside containers plus old wheelbarrows, 1/2 whiskey barrels, concrete planters and similar containers.
Culinary Herb Sometimes referred as a sweet herb with tender roots, ripe seeds, fragrant leaves and flowers. Culinary Herbs may have subtle flavors or strong flavors which make them suitable for cooking, making herb butters, flavored oils or vinegars.
Cultivate To prepare the soil in preparation for planting. Then to promote the growth of the plant through labor and attention.
Culitivar A variety of plant or herb that was created for specific characteristics from a natural plant. Then the new species is maintained through cultivation.
Cuttings A method of propagating a plant by cutting a portion of the plant. The cutting is then placed in a growing medium until roots form
Deadheading In herb growing deadheading is the process of pruning off any dead flowers to force the plant to produce more flowers. The pruning may be done as the flowers are dying and before seeds are set or after seeds are set.
Frost Date The average yearly date the first and last frost occurs. This date is only important for outside gardens.
Germination The process of a seedling sprouting from a seed.
Growing Medium The medium used to sprout a seed or grow a plant. This may be garden soil, potting soil, soiless mixes, grow mats, peat pots and in some cases a dish with plain water and fertilizer in it.
Hardening Off The process of getting a plant used to living outdoors. This is usually done over a period of a two or three weeks starting after the danger of the last frost is over. In the case of indoor herbs that are going to spend time on the patio for the summer, hardening off may not take place until late spring or early summer.
Herb A plant or part valued for its aromatic, savory or medicinal properties. It is also an annual, biennual or perennial that produces seeds and does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season.
Medicinal Herbs Plants that are grown or gathered for their medicinal properties. Medicinal herbs are used in infusions, teas, polticies and plasters. The culinary herbs also have medicinal uses.
Mulch An organic or inorganic cover placed over the soil to protect the plants from local climate, reduce weeds and assist with pest control. Mulches are not usually used in an indoor garden.
Organic Gardening A philosophy in which no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or any other artificial additive is applied to the soil or plants. Organic gardening may also be used in the preservation of heirloom plant varieties.
Ornamental Herbs Herbs grown for the beauty and esthetic value.
Perennial A plant or herb with a life cycle of more than two years.
Perlite Starts it journey as volcanic glass with water sealed inside. Then it is heated to 850 to 900 degrees to melt the glass and drive out the water. As the water turns to steam, it produces myrids of tiny bubbles that remain in the glass as it cools. The resulting product is the light and foamy perlite used to lighten soils. It holds very little water so is ideal for making a light loamy soil with good drainage.
Propagation Naturally or artificially distributing plants. Taking a cutting and starting a new plant is one kind of propagation. Sowing seed is another.
Spices Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (copyright 2009) gives this definition for spices. Spices are usually seeds, roots, fruits, flowers, or bark. They have a tendency to be shades of brown, black or red, with dramatic, pungent flavors.
Top Dressing Applying some compost or a general slow release fertilizer to the top of the soil after a plant is established. The fertilizer may be left on top or tilled into the top inch of soil. This practice is generally for outdoor gardens but could be applied sparingly to large indoor potted plants or herbs. Indoors plants are generally fertilized by applying liquid fertilizers or using a slow release potting soil.
Transplanting The process of replanting a plant from one location to another. Example seedlings need to be moved from a seedling starter pot to a larger pot. Or moving a nursery plant to a larger pot as it grows.
Vermiculite A mineral that expands when heated into elongated particles and resembles sheet mica particles often found in trout streams. After heating, it is has many uses one of which is to areate soil and help provide some water retention.
Water / pH meter A meter to measure the soil wetness and pH of a potted plant or herb. Can also be used outside. This is an inexpensive must have garden tool.
John B. Green, Publisher