The Vegetable Garden


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Action or damage threshold – The level of a pest population at which control is initiated.

Acidity – pH below 7.

Acute toxicity – Injury that occurs soon after exposure to a pesticide.

Aerated – Contains plenty of air.

Alkalinity – pH above 7.

Ammonium – A form of nitrogen that is commonly found in the soil.

Aneorbic – Without oxygen.

Annuals – Plants that reproduce by seed and live for a single year.

Antagonists – Organisms that release toxins or otherwise change conditions so that activity or growth of the pest organism is reduced.

Aphids – Small soft-bodied insects with long, slender mouth parts with which they pierce stems and leaves to suck out plant fluids.

Azotobacter – A type of bacteria found in compost piles that can fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form plants can use.


Bacteria – Single celled organisms that require a host plant or some other organic material as a food source.

Bed planting – Growing vegetables in closely spaced rows that grow together at crop maturity.

Beneficial insects – Insects that are beneficial for crop production because they pollinate plants, attack insect pests or serve other useful purposes.

Biennial – A plant that lives for two years. It produces leaves in the first and flowers in the second.

Biodegradable plastic mulch – Plastic mulch that degrades in the environment.

Biological control – Any activity of one species that reduces the adverse effects of another.

Black plastic mulch – A plastic mulch that is black in color.

Blossom-end rot – A calcium deficiency in tomato and pepper fruit that causes the tip of the fruit to blacken and rot.

Bolting – The formation of a seed stalk instead of an edible portion of the plant.

Bone meal – Ground up animal bones that are an excellent source of phosphate, calcium and trace elements.

Broadleaves – Dicot weeds that have meristems at the terminal end of their branches.

Burpless cucumber – Mild-flavored and the skin is free of bitterness.

Butter and sugar corn – White and yellow colored kernels are mixed on the ear.


Cabbageworms – Caterpillars that attack cole crops.

Cantaloupe – A muskmelon of the round-to-oval, firm fleshed, no sutured, heavy-netted type.

Carbon to nitrogen ratio – The ratio of the amount of carbon in organic matter to the amount of nitrogen that it contains.

Casaba – A somewhat rounded melon with a smooth rind and white flesh.

Cation exchange – The ability of clay and humus to attract and exchange positive ions.

Chronic toxicity – Injury that occurs after long-term exposure to a pesticide.

Clay – A constituent of soils that consists of particles less than 0.002 mm in size.

Clear plastic mulches – Plastic mulch that is clear and allows light to penetrate.

Cold frame – An unheated structure used to start transplants.

Companion planting – Plants that protect neighbors by repelling pests.

Compost – Decayed organic matter that contains nutrients and organisms, which enrich the soil.

Cool season vegetables – Plants that grow best when temperatures are cool.

Cover crop – A vigorous fast-growing plant that covers the soil surface and improves the soil.

Crookneck squash – Fruit are elongated with slim, long, slightly to very curved neck.

Crop rotation – Planting different crops in the same place two years in the row.

Cultivars – Plants within varieties that breeders have developed and are distinct from each other.

Cultural weed control – Cropping practices that optimize vegetable growth.


Damping-off – A disease that attacks seedlings, causing rotting near the soil line.

Denitrification – The conversion of nitrates into atmospheric nitrogen by soil microbes in water logged soils.

Dermal exposure – Pesticide is absorbed through the skin.

Dolomitic limestone – Lime that supplies both calcium and magnesium.

Double digging – A process whereby the gardener works the topsoil and also loosens the subsoil.

Drainage – Movement of water away from the surface of a garden either down into the soil or by flow across the surface.

Dried blood – Blood of animals that is collected from slaughterhouses. It contains high levels of nitrogen.


Ear – The female flower of corn that produces seed after pollination.

E. coli – A bacteria associated with animal wastes that can cause serious health problems.

Embryo – The structure within a seed that develops into a plant.

Exposure – On hillsides, it is the direction your garden faces.


F1 Hybrids –Cultivars resulting from a cross between two different true breeding (referred to as inbred) parents.

Field capacity – The maximum amount of water your particular soil will hold.

Fish meal – Ground up fish. Contains nitrogen and phosphorus.

Friable – An easily worked soil.

Frost-free date – The average last day of frost for a specific area.

Frost pocket – A low-lying area where frost occurs late in the season.

Fungi – Multi-celled organisms that reproduce by spores and rely on living or dead organic matter for food.


Gourd – A fruit with a hard outer rind that is used for decoration.

Grasses – A category of weed that are monocots, have narrow leaves and a growing point at our just below the soil surface.

Green manure – A cover crop used to add nutrients to the soil and choke out undesirable plants.

Greensand – A ground rock material that contains potassium and trace elements.

Gynoecious cucumbers – Hybrids whose plants have all female flowers.


Hardening-off – The process whereby transplants top growth and develop greater tolerance to stress.

Hazard – The combination of a pesticide’s toxicity and your exposure to the pesticide

Heavy soil – A soil that contains a high proportion of clay and is poorly drained.

Heirloom cultivars – Cultivars that are more than 100 years old and whose seeds are passed down from generation to generation.

Hill plantings – Planting multiple seeds together in clumps.

Honeydew – A round melon with smooth rind and green flesh.

Hotbed – A heated cold frame.

Hot caps – Individual structures placed over a vegetable plant that warm the temperature and protect the plant against frost.

Humus – A substance that results from the decay of organic matter by living organisms.

Hyphae – A fine threadlike structure of cell formed by fungi affecting a plant.


Incidental organisms – Organisms that have little or no impact on crop production.

Inhalation exposure – Pesticide is absorbed by breathing-in through the lungs.

Integrated Pest Management – An approach to pest management that uses a variety of techniques to identify and if necessary manage a pest.

Intercropping – Planting more than one crop in an area at the same time.

Interplanting (companion planting) – Growing two or more plants together in a close association.

IR mulches – Mulches that allow infrared radiation to penetrate through the mulch but reflects photosynthetically active radiation.


LD50 – Dose required to kill 50% of laboratory test animals.

Leaching – the downward movement of water and nutrients from the soil surface to the water table due to gravity.

Leafhoppers – Small (less than 1/2 inch long) wedge-shaped slender insects that disperse rapidly when disturbed.

Leggy or spindly – Excessive and weak stem growth due to exposure to adverse environmental conditions.

Legume – Plant that has a symbiotic relationship with rhizobium bacteria.

Light soil – A soil that contains a high proportion of sand.

Ligule – Structures that occur where the leaf blade attaches to the stalk.


Macroclimate – The overall climate of a particular region.

Maximum temperature – The warmest temperature that germination occurs for seed of a particular vegetable.

Microclimate – The specific environmental conditions of your garden site.

Micronutrients – Plant nutrients that are needed in very small quantities.

Milk phase – Stage of development when the juice of the kernels on sweet corn ears appears milky.

Minimum temperature – Coolest temperature that seed germination or growth occurs for a particular vegetable.

Mixed fertilizers – Fertilizers that ontain the major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).

Mulch – A layer of material covering the soil surface to exclude sunlight.

Muskmelon – A melon that has a musky aroma and salmon to orange colored flesh when mature. It has a netted rind with deep sutures.

Mycelium – The network or mass of hyphae formed by fungi.


Natural mulches – Mulches made from natural materials such as compost or bark.

Nitrate – The form of nitrogen that plants use. It is easily lost through leaching.

Noxious weed – Weeds that government agencies want to prevent from establishing in a particular area.

Nurse plants – Plants that provide factors or serve as breeding grounds for beneficial insects, increasing populations of beneficial insects.


Open-pollinated cultivars – Plants that are left to become pollinated on their own.

Optimum temperature – The temperature at which the greatest or most rapid seed germination occurs for a particular vegetable.

Oral exposure – Pesticide is ingested through a person’s mouth.

Organic matter – Decaying plant, microbe and animal remains.

Organic pesticides – A pesticide made from a natural product that has undergone only a little processing.

Over mulching – Applying too much mulch.

Oxygen starvation – Roots cannot get the oxygen they need.


Paper mulches – Mulches made from newspaper or paper fibers.

Peat moss – The partially decayed remains of sphagnum moss.

Perennials – Plants that live two or more years.

Perlite – Lightweight volcanic material often used in soil less media.

Permanent wilting point – The point where a plant can no longer remove the small amount of water remaining in the soil and the plant wilts.

Pest – Plants, fungi, bacteria, nematodes, insects and animals that occur in a place they are not wanted.

Pesticides – A chemical that kills undesirable plants, plant diseases, insects or other pests.

pH – Is – Log [H+] and a scale from 1 to 14.

Phosphates – The form of phosphorus used by plants.

Photodegradable mulch – Mulch that contains chemicals that cause the plastic to degrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation.

Photosynthetically active radiation – Wavelengths of radiation (mostly reds and some blues and yellows) used by plants for photosynthesis (production of sugars).

Pickling cucumbers – Cucumbers that are one to six inches long with a warty skin that is used for pickling and sometimes for salads

Plant cages – Structures made from cloth or plastic that keeps out migrating insects while allowing sunlight, rain and wind to enter. They generally do not protect against cool temperatures.

Popcorn – A variety of corn that has small ears, kernels that are pointed at the base and apex and very hard starch in the kernels which explodes when heated.

Potash – A form of potassium contained in the soil and fertilizers and utilized by plants.

Preventative weed control – Practices whose aims are to prevent weeds from occurring in the garden.

Prevention – Preventing problems before they occur.

Pumpkin – The edible fruit of any Cucurbita species that is harvested mature and is not used as a baked vegetable.

Purity – The seed is true to type and does not contain undesirable contaminants.



Raised beds – Mound the soil up in the planting area above the surrounding soil level.

Re-entry time – The amount of time you must wait to enter a garden after it has been treated with a pesticide.

Rhizobium bacteria – Bacteria that grow in close association with the roots of legumes and can convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrate.

Rock phosphate – A finely ground natural rock powder that is used to supply the soil with phosphate.

Roguing – Removal of diseased plants.

Root resistant cultivars – Vegetable cultivars that are resistant to one or more disease, insect, nematode or virus.

Rots – A disease that attacks plant roots causing them to rot.

Row covers – Plastic sheets that can be used to cover rows of a crop and provide protection from cold temperatures and some insect pests.

Row planting – Growing vegetables in single or double rows with aisles between each row.


Sand – Soil particles ranging in size between 0.2 to 2 mm.

Sanitation – Removing sources of pests so as few pests as possible get into your garden.

Scouting – Regularly checking crops for pests and damage symptoms; looking in your garden to determine if pests are a problem.

Seaweed meal – Seaweed that has been dried and ground into a fine powder. It contains many different compounds that may affect plant growth.

Seed – A dormant undeveloped plant.

Seed coat – The outer “skin” on a seed that protects it from the environment.

Seedless watermelon – Self-sterile watermelon hybrids that develop normal looking fruits, but no fully developed seeds.

Semi-organic or organically based – An organic fertilizer that has had potassium sulfate added.

Side dress – The process of applying soil amendments or fertilizers next to an emerged vegetable crop.

Side-dressing – Applying fertilizer in a band near the crop row after the crop has emerged.

Silt – Soil particles between 0.002 and 0.05 mm in size.

Slicing cucumbers – Cucumbers that are 8to 14 inches long with dark skin and used for salads, sandwiches, and soups

Soil crust – A hard surface layer that can form on some soils after rains.

Soil-less media – A growth media not containing field soil.

Soil texture – The coarseness or fineness of soil particles.

Soluble salts – Chemical compounds, many plant nutrients, that disassociate into positively and negatively charged ions.

Starch-based biodegradable mulch – Mulch made from plastic that contains starch, which is degraded by bacteria.

Succession plantings – Growing crops so that they mature at different times.

Sugar enhancer sweet corn cultivars – Cultivars that contain the sugar enhancer (se) gene, which significantly raises the sugar content of their kernels above standard cultivars.

Sugary sweet corn cultivars – Cultivars that contain the “sugary gene,” have less initial kernel sugar than other sweet corn types, and that sugar is rapidly converted into starch after harvest.

Summer annuals – Weeds that germinate in the spring, grow during the spring and produce seed during the fall.

Summer squash – Squash whose fruit is harvested when immature before the rind hardens.

Supersweet cultivars – Cultivars that contain the shrunken-2 (sh2) gene which slows the conversion of sugar to starch, allowing these cultivars to hold their sweetness much longer than su or se types.

Sweet corn – Types of corn that produces and retains large amounts of sugars in its kernels, the skins of the kernels are tender and wrinkle when dried.

Symptoms – The outward appearance of a plant, which is attacked by a disease or insect.

Synthetic fertilizers – A fertilizer whose nutrients are concentrated and converted into a form that is readily available in the soil.

Synthetic mulches – Mulch from a man-made product such as plastic.

Synthetic pesticides – A pesticide synthesized from petroleum – derived chemicals.


Tassel – The structure at the tip of the corn plant, which is the male flower.

Topsoil – The uppermost and the darkest layer of the soil that contains most of the organic matter, living organisms and plant roots.

Toxicity – Inherent capacity of a material to produce death or injury.

Transplanting – Shifting of a plant from one soil or growth medium to another.

Trap crops – Plants that attract insect pests keeping them away from the vegetable crop.

True-to-type – The plants are actually the vegetable and variety the label indicates.


Unmixed fertilizers - Fertilizers that contain only one plant nutrient


Variety – A botanical subdivision within a species.

Vermiculite – Lightweight expanded mica often used in soil-less media.

Viability – The percentage of seed that will germinate.

Vine crops – Crops that produce vines that grow along the ground including watermelon, muskmelon and pumpkins.

Virus – Particles containing DNA or RNA that are much smaller than bacteria and require a host cell to multiply.


Warm season – Vegetables that germinate and grow best when temperatures are warm.

Waterlogged – The air spaces in the soil are filled with water.

Wheel hoe – An oscillating or stationary hoe blade mounted on a wheel with handles.

Winter annuals – Germinates during the fall, overwinters and produces seed during the spring.

Winter melons – Melons that have a smooth rind surface, do not separate from the vine when ripe and lack a distinctive flavor.

Winter squash – A squash whose fruit are harvested when uniform in color and rind is hard.


Zucchini – A squash whose fruit is harvested immature, have a green colored skin and are long cylindrical-shaped with little or no taper.