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ACID SOIL: Referring to a soil that has a pH below 7.0.  A neutral soil has a pH of 7.0.  As soil pH changes, so does the availability of many macro and micro plant nutrients in the soil.


AERATE: Normally refers to a process that opens up a soil so that air can reach the roots. Aerating also allows soil to drain faster.  Cultivation, coring and the addition of organic matter to soil are the main practices used to aerate soil.


ALKALINE SOIL: Refers to any soil with pH over 7.0. A neutral soil has a pH of 7.0. As soil pH changes, so does the availability of many macro and micro plant nutrients in the soil.


ALL-PURPOSE FERTILIZER: A balanced blend of the main plant nutrients N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium).  20-20-20 is a common example. All-purpose fertilizers can be granular or water soluble in nature.


AMENDMENT: Refers to a substance that is added to soil in order to improve texture, nutrient content or biological activity.  Common amendments are peat moss, compost, manures, leaf mould.


ANNUAL: Refers to a plant that completes its entire life cycle in growing season. Marigolds are examples of an annual plant.





BENEFICIAL INSECT: A description for that group of insects that feed on those insects that damage crops. Important pollinator species such as bees are also considered beneficial insects.


BIODEGRADABLE: Able to decompose or break down through natural bacterial or fungal action, substances made of organic matter are biodegradable. While man-made products and natural substances can all be considered as biodegradable, some such as glass, Styrofoam and certain plastics as examples can take a very, very long time to degrade.


BIENNIAL:  Those plants that sprout from seed and grow through one season, overwinter then flower, go to seed and die in the second growing season.

BOLTING: This term is used to describe a plant that has gone to seed prematurely. Bolting is most often caused by rapid shifts in temperature or periods of low temperature exposure early in the season. 


BRACT: Often thought of as flower petals, bracts are actually modified leaves that grow just below the flower or flower cluster.

BUFFERING:  This refers to the ability of a soil to reduce shock and cushion against rapid pH fluctuations. Soils with a high clay content as well as soils with a high organic content have a high buffering capacity.





CARBOHYDRATE: Neutral compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Sugar, starch and cellulose are carbohydrates.


CELL PAKS: This is another name for the seed growing inserts that fit into the planting tray. We offer “4 Cell” (32 pockets per tray), “6 Cell” (48 pockets per tray) and “9 Cell” (72 pockets per tray).


CHELATED or CHELATE: Some nutrients exist in the soil in a form that is very hard for the plant to absorb through its roots. By supplying the nutrient in a chelated form, it is much easier for the plant to absorb.  Iron is a common plant nutrient that can be found as a chelated supplement.


CHLOROPHYLL: This complex organic molecule gives plants their green coloring. It is absolutely essential for production of carbohydrates by photosynthesis.


CHLOROPLAST: A cell in the plant that contains chlorophyll and hence the site of photosynthesis.


CHLOROSIS: The condition of a sick plant with yellowing leaves due to either inadequate formation of or the rapid depletion of chlorophyll. Chlorosis has a number of causes such as a nutrient deficiency, insect activity or poor soil pH.  Chlorosis can most often be traced to a deficiency of available iron.


CLAY: Very fine organic mineral particles. Soil that has a high percentage of clay is considered to be a ‘heavy soil’. Clay dominated soils can hold a large amount of water, often to the point of saturation. However once a clay soil dries out, it can develop the consistency of concrete!


COMPACTION:  This term refers to an adverse growing condition that results from soils becoming tightly packed. Clay dominated soils can be considered naturally compacted due to the small size of the soil particles.  Compacted soil allows for only marginal aeration and root penetration.


COMPANION PLANTING: When two different plants are planted together in a garden for the purpose of one helping to prevent insect damage on the other is one example of companion planting. Another example of companion planting is when different plants are placed together because one helps provides nutrients or advantageous growing conditions for the other. Companion planting can also be mutually beneficial.


COMPOST: A mixture of decayed organic matter. Compost is a very beneficial amendment to add to soils.


CORMS: A short, thickened, solid modified stem found underground.  Crocus and gladiolus are common examples corms.


COTYLEDON: Energy storage components of a seed that feed the plant before the emergence of its first true leaves.  Cotyledons are the first leaf like structures visible on a seedling. Once the true leaves start to grow on the seedling, their function is complete and the cotyledons will wither and die. 


COVER CROP: An alternate crop that is planted to give quick cover to bare soil. Cover crops, often oats or annual rye, are usually planted in association with native seed or other slow to establish crops. When used by themselves, cover crops such as oats, annual rye, clover, buckwheat or fall rye can also be plowed under to increase organic matter in the soil.






DAMPING-OFF: A nasty disease that can attack young seedlings and cuttings growing indoors causing the stems to rot at the stem/growing medium interface. Once damping off starts it can quickly spread to all seedlings and mortality can approach 100%. Damping off most often occurs under very moist conditions and when growing indoors in soil based growing mediums.


DETERMINATE:  Used to describe a growth pattern.  Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain size then flower and set fruit. Vegetative growth ceases with the production of fruit.

DESICCATE, DESICATION: Two terms referring to the drying process in plants and animals. Winterburn on evergreens is a form of excessive desiccation.


DIOECIOUS: Having male reproductive flowers on one plant and female reproductive flowers on a different plant within the same species. Holly is an example of a dioecious specie. To have successful fruit set, both male and female plants need to be present.


DOME: Clear plastic portion designed to fit on top of plastic seed starting trays.  The purpose of the dome is to provide a temporary protected environment for seed germination.

DORMANCY:  This term is most often used when referring to a seed’s inability to sprout for a given time after it is produced. Seed dormancy can be considered a protective mechanism which helps prevent the seed of some species from germinating at the wrong time of year. In most cases the seed’s hard outer covering prevents water from being absorbed and hence delays the germination process. Until the hard seed coat sufficiently weathers away or fractures in some way and allows water to penetrate, the seed will remain dormant.


DRIP LINE: An imaginary line around a plant directly under its outermost branch tips. The greatest concentration of fine feeder roots can be found from just inside to just outside the drip line.








FERTILIZER BURN: Is the result of over fertilization or incorrect or poorly timed fertilizer application. Leaf tips will burn (turn brown) and if the burn is extensive enough, the leaves curl, dry out and turn completely brown. Over-fertilization can easily kill a plant. Granular fertilizer applied to wet foliage can stick and cause spot burning or staining.


FLAT: Most often a flat is a shallow container 7.5cm (3”) deep and roughly 25cm x 50cm (10” x 20”) in size. Flats for greenhouse use generally have holes punched in the bottom for drainage. Flats used for indoor growing in the home do not have holes.  The bottoms of the flats are generally ridged to allow drainage. Flats are most often used to start seeds or to root cuttings.


FOLIAR FEEDING: The process where nutrients are applied to foliage for the purpose of being absorbed through the foliage. Water soluble fertilizers are used for this process but be warned, not all water soluble fertilizers are suitable for foliar feeding.


FUNGUS: A complex plant-like opportunistic organism that lives off of another living organism or dead organic matter.








HARDINESS:  A measure of a plant’s ability to survive expected environmental conditions in a given area.

HARDINESS ZONE: A numerical, geographically delineated classification system applied to plants in order to provide some guidance as to whether a plant can be reasonably expected to survive winter in any given area.  Each numbered zone is created by outlining areas with minimum winter temperatures that occur within a specific range.  Simply put, the lower the hardiness zone number, the colder the winter temperatures that can be expected in that zone.

HERBACEOUS PERENNIAL: Describes a perennial plant with soft or semi woody tissue that generally dies back to the ground each winter. It then sprouts new growth from the crown in the spring.

HONEY DEW: A term for the sticky, honey-like substance secreted onto foliage by plant feeding insects such as aphids, scale and mealy bugs.  This substance, being high in carbohydrates will often turn black (mould) with time on the leave surface.


HORMONE: Chemical substance that modifies the growth and development of a plant. Root-inducing hormones help cuttings root faster than they would naturally.

HUMUS: This is dark coloured, fertile, partially decomposed plant or animal matter. Humus forms the organic portion of the soil.


HYBRID: An offspring created from the controlled crossing of two selected parents. Hybrids often show the best qualities of both parents leading to increased plant vigour and as a result, greater production.  Seed collected from a hybrid plant is not guaranteed to breed true.

HYDRATED LIME: Instantly soluble lime, used to raise pH (often called sweetening the soil). Follow application and safe use directions as hydrated lime is highly caustic.





INDETERMINATE: Used to describe a growth pattern. Indeterminate tomatoes grow continually, flowering and setting fruit until stopped by unfavourable weather in late summer.

INERT: Chemically non-reactive; inert growing mediums make it easy to control the chemistry of the nutrient solution.

INFLORESCENCE: The name for the structure on the plant that carries the flower.

INSERTS:  Inserts are most often used for the indoor growing of seeds and cuttings. They are designed to fit inside standard sized trays. While they have the same outside dimensions, they can various numbers and sizes of growing pockets.










LEACH: To dissolve and wash soluble components out of soil or other growing mediums by heavy watering.


LEAF CURL: A common leaf malformation that can be due to several causes; over-watering, excessive fertilization, lack of magnesium, insect or fungal activity are some of the common causes.


LEGGY: Is a term most often applied to seedlings with an abnormally long internode space (this is the space along the main stem between leave nodes) and hence weak floppy stems. Leggy seedlings most often occur with indoor growing and are a direct result of a lack of light.


LIME: Most often used to raise soil pH (make it less acidic). Raising the pH of an acidic soil is often called sweetening the soil. Lime used for horticultural purposes is available in several forms


LOAM: Organic soil mixture of crumbly clay, silt and sand. A loam soil is what most gardeners want for best plant growth!




MACRO NUTRIENT: These are nutrients used by plants in large amounts. N(nitrogen), P (phosphorus), K (potassium) are the main macro nutrients. Secondary macro nutrients are S (Sulphur), Ca (calcium), Mg (magnesium) and Fe (iron).


MERISTEM: Tip of a plant's growth.


MICRO NUTRIENT: These nutrients are used by plants in small amounts. They are Mn (Manganese), B (Boron), Mo (Molybdenum), Zn (Zinc), Cu (Copper) and Co (Cobalt).


MONOECIOUS:  Those species having both male and female flowers on the same plant.

MULCH: A protective covering of organic compost, leaves and wood chips to name a few. Mulches help to keep soil evenly moist and reduce water use, protect roots from both rapid temperature changes or overheating, lessen wind and water erosion, add organic matter to soils and help keep weeds down.





NECROSIS: The death of an entire plant, or an entire plant part (a full leaf) or just a section of a plant part (such as a leaf spot disease as Black Spot of Roses).


NUTRIENT: An element fundamental to plant life.  See both macro and micro nutrients in the glossary.





ORGANIC: Made of, or derived from or related to living organisms. In agriculture, organic means "natural."


OXYGEN: Tasteless, colorless element, necessary in soil to sustain plant life.





PARASITE: One organism that lives on or in another host organism. Often the parasite’s actions are detrimental to the host plant but sometimes it can be beneficial to the host organism.


PEAT: Partially decomposed vegetation (usually moss) with a very slow decay rate due to the presence of extreme moisture and cold.


PERENNIAL: A plant which completes its life cycle over several to several hundred years.


pH: A nominal scale from 1 to 14 that measures the acid to alkaline balance of frankly, anything.  The lower the pH the more acidic the substance is, the higher the pH the more basic the substance is. In general plants grow best in a soil pH range of 5.5 to 6.8

PHOTOPERIOD: The relationship between the length of light and dark in a 24 hour period.


PHOTOSYNTHESIS: The building of chemical compounds (carbohydrates) within a plant through the use of light energy, water and carbon dioxide.


PHOTOTROPISM: The specific movement (often termed bending) of an entire plant or just a plant part towards a light source.


PINCHING BACK: The process of deliberately removing the growing point of a plant (often by pinching it off between the thumb and forefinger) for the purpose of promoting branching and hence creating a fuller bushier plant.

POLLEN: Fine, dust like micro-spores (sometimes referred to as pollen grains) released from plants that contain the male genes.


PRIMARY NUTRIENTS: Another way of naming macro-nutrients.

PROPAGATE, PROPAGATION: This can be sexual where a plant produces seed through the combination of pollen from the male flower fertilizing the female flower on the same plant (monoecious) or through the combination of pollen from a male flower fertilizing a female flower on separate plants (dioecious). Propagation can also occur asexually which is often termed vegetatively.  Examples of vegetative propagation are layering, the rooting of cuttings or the production of bulblets.


PRUNE: To purposely alter the shape and growth pattern of a plant by cutting stems, shoots or roots.








RACEME: This is a single stemmed inflorescence that produces flowers on individual stalks all along the stem. In most cases the bottom flowers open first, often while the raceme is still expanding. A snapdragon is a classic example of a raceme.

REJUVENATE: In short this means to restore a youthful look or feel. A mature plant can sometimes be vegetatively rejuvenated by carefully orchestrated pruning or a plant can be sexually rejuvenated (new flower production) through the modification of the photo-period as well as modifying the feeding, watering and/or temperature regime.


RHIZOME: A thickened modified stem growing horizontally at or just below the surface of the ground. Tall bearded iris is a common example of a rhizome.

ROOT BOUND: A plant is considered to root bound when normal root growth is stifled or inhibited by the confines of a container or some naturally occurring structure or landform.


ROOTS: They anchor the plant and provide in most cases a site and physiological means in which to absorb nutrients and moisture for a plant.


ROSETTE: A simple cluster of flower petals or leaves forming a circular arrangement.




SALT: Crystalline compound (often visible as yellowish-white, crusty deposits on the soil surface of container grown plants) that results from improper pH, improper use of fertilizer, accumulation overtime from the constant use of irrigation tap water containing naturally dissolved minerals or a combination of all three factors. Airborne salt (from road spray in winter) can burn plant leaf tissue, prevent the absorption of nutrients and inhibit photosynthesis. Extreme soil or leaf surface concentrations can kill plants.


SECONDARY NUTRIENTS: See the discussion under marcro-nutrients.


SEED COUNTS: Our listed seeds per gram is a "book value." Seed by nature may come in different sizes each harvest and the number of seeds listed on our web or in the printed catalog, should be used as a ball-park value. 


SETS:  Onion seed is started one year and then the small onion bulbs, called sets are harvested and stored over the winter to be planted in the following spring and grow on to full size onions .

SOIL-LESS MIX: An artificial growing medium that, as the term implies, contains no soil.  Soil-less mixes are generally made from blends containing peat-moss, ground tree bark, vermiculite and perlite as the main components. Save for a few micro-nutrients contained in the vermiculite, soil-less mixes are sterile. These mixes are invaluable for growing seeds and cuttings indoors.

SOLUBLE: Any substance able to be dissolved in water is considered to be soluble.


SPORE: The reproductive body produced by a fungus.


STAMEN: The pollen-producing portion of a male flower.


STRATIFY, STRATIFICATION: The process by which seed dormancy is broken and hence germination percentages improved.  Stratification occurs naturally over time or can be achieved artificially. Most stratification occurs either through the combination of time and predictable environmental factors such as moisture and freeze/thaw cycles or through physical factors such as natural or artificial abrasion or soaking in water for a predetermined time. 

STRESS: A physical or chemical factor that exerts an unanticipated force on a plant. Sometimes a stressed plant will not grow as well as a non-stressed plant. Flower production in some plants can be considered as a positive response to stress.


STOMATA: Small mouth like or nose like openings (pores) on the underside of leaves, responsible for transpiration and many other life functions; the millions of stomata must be kept very clean to function properly.





TAP ROOT: The main or primary root that grows down from the seed. The lateral roots will then branch off horizontally from the tap root. Not all plants will develop an extensive tap root.


TENDRIL: The slender, often twisting growth on the stems of many climbing plants that allows them to grasp onto the structure they are growing against. Sweet peas attach themselves to nets and trellises through the use of tendrils.

TEPID WATER: Considered to be slightly warmed water 21 to 27 degrees C (70-80F).

THIN, THINNING: To purposely cull or weed out very slow growing, weak or deformed seedlings or plants for the benefit of those remaining.


THATCH: In lawns it is the layer of dead grass leaves and stems that builds up on the top of the soil. When thatch gets thick enough, it impedes the flow of water and nutrients into the root zone of the lawn. It can also lead to the grass developing roots in the thatch layer rather than in the soil - all of which can lead to stress on the grass.

TRANSPIRE, TRANSPIRATION: The process whereby plants give off water vapor from their above ground portions (most often the leaves) via stomata in a healthy leaf and directly though damaged or cut portions of the plant.


TRELLIS: Solid frame or flexible netting that trains or supports climbing plants.


TUBER: A swollen, fleshy modified stem found underground.  Potatoes are the most well know example of a tuber.





UMBEL: A mostly flat topped cluster of flowers with the stems of the flowers originating from a common point.








WINTERBURN: Once the ground freezes, roots cannot absorb and replace moisture that is lost through the above ground portions of a plant. If the winter sun and winds remove too much moisture from exposed leaves they become damaged ... in effect they turn brown and look like they have been burned. If winterburn is severe enough the plant can die. Winterburn is a fairly common condition on evergreens and is of particular concern on broadleaf evergreens.









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