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Fruit Glossary

List of common gardening terms used when growing fruit


Fruit Glossary

As with many specialised subjects, when reading about growing fruit you will inevitably come across a term you will not have heard before. Below is a list of terms with brief explanations of what they mean. Whilst it's not a definitive list, it should enable you to understand most of the terminology used in articles on this site.

Over the coming months, we will be adding more in-depth articles about growing edible crops. As and when these are published, links to them will be added to any corresponding terms below.


Acidic soil A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil.  See pH below
Aerate Loosening  soil to increase water penetration often with a garden fork
Alkaline soil A soil with a pH higher than 7.0 is an alkaline soil. See pH below
Annuals Plants whose life cycle lasts one year -  from sowing to blooming to seeding then dying
Balanced fertilizer Plant food which contains a balance of all three  primary elements i.e. nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
Bare root Plants sold which have had all of the soil removed from their roots
Biennial A plant which lives two years, usually producing flowers and seed in the second year
Branch, a One of the main thicker stems on a tree which grows directly from the main stem (leader)
Bud Early stages of development of a flower or shoot
Bush (trained) A type of tree form which consists of a very short bare stem with an open canopy of branches and laterals, grown free-standing
Cane, fruit The sturdy growths of some fruit such as raspberries, which bear the leaves and fruit
Canes, bamboo Sticks of various lengths made of bamboo used for supporting or training plants and trees
Canopy (tree) The part of a tree above the main trunk formed of branches and laterals
Chlorophyll The green pigment in leaves
Cluster leaves These are the small group of leaves found at the base of laterals directly against the stem (branch)
Companion Planting The placing of different types of plants in the same vicinity for beneficial purposes e.g. certain types of flowers which will attract pollinating insects
Compost A planting medium which is the  result of decomposed of organic matter.
Cold frame A small enclosure which is covered with glass or clear plastic, used to create a greenhouse effect for young plants.
Cordon A type of tree form which consists of one central stem and no branches
Crown The point where a plant's roots and top growth join
Cultivar A cultivated variety or strain of a plant produced by horticultural techniques and not normally found in wild populations
Cultivate The breaking up of soil  and removal of weeds in preparation for planting.
Cuttings A method of obtaining new plants  using sections of stems, roots or leaves from existing plants - propagation
Damping off A fungus which usually affects seedlings causing the stem to rot at soil level.
Disease A bacterial or fungal infection which has a detrimental affect on a plant
Disiduous A plant which looses its leaves for part of the year (usually in winter)
Dividing A method of obtaining new plants by splitting up the roots of existing plants
Dormant The time in a plant's life when growth slows or stops allowing the plant to rest
Double digging Preparing the soil by systematically digging an area, usually in trenches, to the depth of two shovels.
Double flower A flower with many overlapping petals
Dwarfing Rootstock The part of a tree which has the roots onto which  scions of other trees are grafted in order to produce a much smaller version of the original tree
Erosion The wearing or washing away of soil usually referring to wind or water
Espalier (trained) A type of tree form which consists of tiers of fruit bearing branches trained on wires or other supports
Evergreen A plant which never loses all of its leaves
Fan (trained) A type of tree form which consists of fruit bearing branches trained on wires or other supports which resembles a fan
Fertiliser Organic or inorganic plant foods which may be either liquid or granular added to soil or compost to improve the quality of plant growth.
Foliar Feed Fertilizer applied  in a fine liquid spray  to a plants leaves
Forcing The process of hastening a plants growth
Free Standing A tree or plant which is grown in an open position as opposed to being against a wall or fence
Germinate The sprouting of a seed
Girdling The choking of a branch by a wire or other material  which has been tied to tightly to a  support
Grafting The joining of a short stem of one plant onto the root stock of a different plant
Growing season The amount of time between the average date of the last harsh frost in spring and the first harsh frost in Autumn
Hardening off The process of gradually acclimatising indoor grown plants to outdoor conditions
Hardy The ability of a plant to survive low temperatures or frost without protection
Heading back Cutting an older branch or stem back to a stub or twig
Heeling in The temporary placing of a plant into a shallow trench and covering the roots with soil for protection until it is ready to be planted in its permanent position
Herbaceous Describes a plant with soft rather than woody stems
Honeydew A sticky secretion produced by sucking insects such as aphids
Humus The brown or black organic part of the soil resulting from the partial decay of  other substances
Hybrid The offspring of two plants of different species or variety created when the pollen from one plant is used to pollinate a different variety resulting in a plant which shows characteristics of both parent plants
Lateral, a A shoot which grows off a main branch
Layering A method of propagation when a long runner or slender stem of a plant is rooted whilst still attached to the parent plant by securing it to the soil. Once rooted it is then detached and forms a new plant
Leader The main stem of a tree or plant from which smaller branches grow. In large trees the bottom part of the  leader becomes the trunk
Leaf mould Partially decomposed leaves used as a soil conditioner
Loam A rich soil composed of clay, sand and organic matter
Maiden A tree which is under 1 year old. Usually just a single stem from which branches will form in future years
Manure Organic matter excreted by animals, which is used to enrich, condition and and fertilise soil.
Microclimate The climate within an area which may differ from the general surrounding area usually due to influences such as windbreaks, hills, structures or dips in the terrain
Micro nutrients Mineral elements which are needed by some plants in very small quantities. Sometimes referred to as "Trace Elements"
Mulch Loose material placed over the soil to control weeds and conserve soil moisture such as  bark, manure or compost. Plastic sheeting can also be used in certain circumstances
Node The part of a stem from which a leaf or new branch starts to grow.
Perennial A non-woody plant which lives for more than two years
Pest An insect or animal which is detrimental to the well being of a plant
Pinching back The act of using the thumb and forefinger to nip back the very tip of a branch or stem.
Pollination The transfer of pollen from the stamen (male part of the flower) to the pistil (female part of the flower), which results in the formation of a seed which eventually becomes a fruit
Potting Compost A soil mixture designed for use in containers. Usually light and sterile.
Propagation Methods of starting new plants e.g.  by sowing seed, division, cuttings, layering
Pruning The cutting of plants to remove dead or diseased wood,  to control the direction of growth or contain the size of a plant
pH The measure of the amount of lime (calcium) contained in soil. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil: a soil pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline.
Pyramid (trained) A type of tree form which consists of a bare stem (trunk) with an open canopy of branches and laterals which are trained into a pyramid shape (wide at the bottom graduating to a point at the top)  grown free-standing
Repotting The act of transferring a pot grown plant to a larger pot
Root ball, a The network of roots with soil on a plant
Root-bound This occurs when a potted plant has outgrown its container and the roots become entangled and matted together eventually causing restricted growth of the plant.
Rooting hormone A powder or liquid growth hormone, used to promote the development of roots on a cutting
Roots The part of a plant which is under the soil consisting of fibrous growth
Rootstock The part of a plant (usually a tree) which has the roots and which will influence certain growing characteristics of the plant such as height
Runner A slender stem growing out from the base of plants, which terminates with a new offset plant.
Scion A short length of stem, taken from one plant which is then grafted onto the rootstock of another plant
Shoot The new soft growth from a stem
Soil pH The measure of the amount of lime (calcium) contained in soil. See pH
Staking The practice of driving a stake, usually a sturdy piece of wood, into the ground close to a plant as a growing support
Standard (trained) A type of tree form which consists of a long bare stem (trunk) with an open canopy of branches and laterals, grown free-standing
Sucker A growth originating from the rootstock of a grafted plant.
Systemic A chemical which is absorbed directly into a plant's system
Tender plants Plants which are unable to endure frost or freezing temperatures
Tendril A thin twisting and/or clinging growth on plants such as vines, which enables the plant to attach itself to supports such as canes, trellis or wires
Thinning Removing excess fruit,  branches or laterals to allow sufficient room for the remaining fruit or branches to grow
Topsoil The top layer of quality soil.  Also applies to good quality soil sold at garden centres
Trace nutrients Mineral elements which are needed by some plants in very small quantities. Sometimes referred to as "Micro Elements"
Transplanting The process of digging up a plant and moving it to another location.
Tree form The basic trained or untrained shape of a tree
vermiculite  An addition to container soil or compost  mixes which helps retain moisture and makes the mix lighter


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