Gardening Terms

What do all of those gardening terms mean?

A reminder that we maintain an online Glossary of Gardening Terms you can access any time to refresh your memory about the vocabulary of gardening. Here at Park Seed, sometimes we speak in gardeners’ short-hand (or, as our grandparents would say, “throw around our education”!), so every now and again we revisit the Glossary and add a few new terms we’ve gotten questions about. Here are the latest entries:

Planting on Center – When reading a plant label, you may have been given the baffling instruction to “plant on center” a certain distance apart. What this means is that the distance between plants should be measured from one central stem to the next central stem, NOT from the end of the branches. So if you are planting a row of Petunias 10 inches apart, that’s 10 inches from the middle of each plant, not the edge of the furthermost stems. This is especially important if you are planting groundcovers and want them to fill in evenly.

Long Day/Short Day Onions – Onions are traditionally classified as either long-day or short-day, though new varieties called “mid days” are here to complicate things. The “day” part of this term refers to the hours of sunlight. In the north, summer days are very long, giving your onions 14 to 16 hours of sunlight in which to ripen, so long-day varieties are the ones to grow. In the south, the day length tends to be shorter – there is less seasonal variation, with the average length staying around 10 hours. So short-day varieties are best grown in the south.

Long-day onions are typically planted in the spring. Short-day onions are typically planted in the fall.

But what if you live in the south and want to plant your onions this spring? Aha – that’s where new mid-day onions enter the picture! No matter where you live, you can plant mid-days in spring and harvest them in summer. So when in doubt, or when the season isn’t cooperating with your taste buds, rely on mid-days!

Overwinter – You may have seen instructions for “overwintering” a particular plant, ignored them, and done just fine. Or you may have lost a certain plant that should have been hardy in your garden because a particularly harsh winter storm carried it off, or temperatures plummeted below expected levels.

Overwintering is the process of preparing a plant to survive challenging conditions during winter, whether it is a tropical that must be brought indoors before first frost to a young tree that may need to be tied to a support and mulched in well with pine boughs its first winter. Overwintering instructions are usually given for plants that are to be grown north of their hardiness range, but even if you are within the hardiness zones, you might want to pamper your plant (especially the first winter) with a little extra care.

Want more glossary definitions? Visit our online Glossary of Gardening Terms.