Garden jargon can leave a smart person feeling dumb, and let’s not even talk about Latin botanical names. Really, let’s not.
Instead, we’ll concentrate on common terms used as if everyone should know them. Like what’s a cover crop or cold composting? What’s a hardiness zone? And what, for goodness sake, is an open-pollinated plant? Let’s find out. A handful of Oregon State University Extension Service experts step up with definitions. Here we go.
Annual vs. biennial vs. perennial: An annual plant lives its life cycle in one season. Its whole reason for being is to grow, flower, produce seed and die. Biennials like sweet William, hollyhock and some vegetables live for two years. A perennial plant lives from year to year. Herbaceous perennials – like peonies or delphiniums – die to the ground each year and return the next. Tender perennials are perennials that are native to warmer climates than where you live and may not live through winter.
Open-pollinated vs. hybrids vs. heirloom: Open-pollinated vegetables are pollinated by insects, birds, wind or humans. As long as varieties don’t share pollen and you save the seed, the next generation (or offspring) will be “true to type.” In other words, the next year’s vegetables or fruits will be the same as the ones produced by the parents.
Many, but not all, open-pollinated plants are heirlooms, which developed as families and communities gathered and saved seed from the best plants and passed them down generation to generation. Like antiques, when these open-pollinated plants get to a certain age (50 is accepted), they become heirlooms.
Hybrids are bred from two different varieties for characteristics like disease resistance or higher yield. They won’t come true to type. Seeds or plants must be purchased each year.
Broadcasting vs. side dressing: Broadcasting is spreading seed or fertilizer by scattering by hand or with a specialized tool. Broadcasting is a great way to fertilize large areas, including lawns. Side dressing means applying fertilizers in a shallow furrow or band along the side of vegetable row crops or in a circle around individual plants.