Gardening Terms to Know

Knowing these gardening terms and how they apply to your gardening efforts can make a difference in produce productivity.
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Tiller Pan

There is a down side to tilling an existing garden, it's called tiller pan. This is the result of the pressure of the tiller and its tines pushing the soil below the till level even deeper and more compact than it was before tilling. If you have a garden that's been cultivated for years, try using a pitchfork to turn the soil over. The pitchfork will lift and separate the soil without compacting it. When using a pitchfork sink the tines straight down into the ground and pull back on the handle to lift the soil. Lift the fork and turn the soil over as you put it back on the ground. Then go back into the same spot and turn the soil each time you dig to get any clods broken up. A pitchfork is a healthy way to work an existing garden because it does less damage to beneficial earthworms that live below the ground.

Soil Type

There are many types of soil around the country and depending on where you live you might have to do some extra work to make your soil more fertile. In general, plants like soil that is not too sandy and not too clay. Sandy soil drains moisture very quickly making the soil dry out faster. On the other hand, clay soil is very dense and holds too much water. Plants need lots of organic matter to thrive. Whatever the soil type, use mulch, manure and compost to ensure the soil will be healthier and more water efficient.

Root Hairs

Root hairs are the quickest-growing part of a plant. They absorb water and nutrients on a cellular level and push them up through to the larger roots, then on to the stems and leaves. Root hairs are very thin and barely visible to the naked eye. Each root hair lives only a few days and is replaced by the growth of new hairs as the root lengthens.

Fertilizer Bag Numbers

One of the questions I get asked most often is, "What do those numbers on the fertilizer bag mean?"

On any bag of fertilizer, there are three numbers in large print: these stand for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Sometimes there's also a fourth number that represents the sulfur content. The numbers represent the percentage of that element found in the mix. For example, 10-10-10 has 10% of each element. In very simple terms, nitrogen keeps the plant healthy above ground, phosphorus helps develop strong roots and potassium makes both sides work together; sulfur encourages vigorous dark-green growth.

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