Annual A plant that completes its life cycle in one year or less.
Biennial A plant that lives for up to two years under outdoor conditions, flowers and produces seed the second year.
Compost A mixture of organic materials that, under controlled conditions, have undergone biological decomposition to produce a humus-rich, relatively stable product that can improve soil fertility and enhance plant growth.
Cover Crop A crop grown primarily to protect soil against wind and water erosion; add organic matter and nitrogen; catch and recycle nutrients; improve soil structure; and provide weed control.
Cultivar A horticultural variety or strain that originated and has persisted under human cultivation.
Damping Off Over watering seedlings promotes the growth of mildew that causes seedlings to keel over with shriveled stems. The most common disease of greenhouse seedlings, it is aggravated by extreme swings in temperature like warm days and cold nights. The best prevention is to water in mid-morning and to allow the soil surface to dry out between waterings.
Determinate/Indeterminate Determinates flower once or twice a growing period, usually early in the season, and yield mature harvests all at one time. Indeterminate plants flower and fruit continuously throughout the growing season.
F1 Hybrid Refers to the first generation of offspring plants produced by a cross of two genetically different parent varieties. F1 hybrids can have advantages, including the robust growth known as "hybrid vigor," homogeneity, and the fact that they are often bred to be disease resistant. Seed saved from F1 hybrids are unpredictable, however, and does not grow ‘true-to-type’.
GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) a popular term used to describe 'transgenic' plant varieties. To make a GMO, a specific piece of DNA that expresses a desired trait is inserted into the target variety by artificial means. The inserted DNA may come from related or unrelated species, or created in a laboratory. GMOs are not permitted in organic farming systems.
Hardening-Off A process of helping plants that have been raised under cover to adapt to cooler outdoor conditions and direct sun. Gradually introducing greenhouse plants to outside conditions for one to two weeks before planting in the ground is one recipe for hardening-off.
Hardy A general term used to describe a plant's ability to endure cold, although it does not necessarily indicate a plant's tolerance to heat.
Hardy Annual An annual plant that can withstand fairly severe frosts, and in mild climates can be sown in the fall for spring bloom or harvest.
Hardy biennial/perennial A biennial or perennial that can survive even in cold climates during the winter and needs little additional protection. It is freeze tolerant.
Heirloom Time-tested, open-pollinated varieties of primarily European descent that have been passed down for at least three generations (60 years). For many reasons, including flavor, vigor, local hardiness and dependability, these have become favorites. Often, heirloom seeds are the repository of unusual genes that can help to preserve genetic diversity.
Lodging Strong wind and poor root growth can cause a plant to lodge or fall over. A way to prevent lodging is to "hill up" or build dirt around the primary stem of the plant to help support it and to stimulate additional root growth. Lodging can also be an indication of a potassium deficiency in the soil.
Manure Conventional and organic agriculture both use manure as part of their regular farm soil fertilization programs. Part of the certification process for organic farms involves strict farm plans detailing methods used to build soil fertility including manure applications. The U.S. Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 imposes strict control on the use of manure. In addition, certified organic farmers are prohibited from using raw manure at least 60 days before harvesting crops.
Medicinal A plant with health-promoting or curative properties, providing symptomatic relief or affecting physiological functions.
Open-Pollinated varieties are produced from a distinct population of ‘parent’ plants with very similar genetic characteristics that are allowed to naturally pollinate among themselves. Open-pollinated plants, grown in isolation to prevent cross-pollination with another variety of the same species, will produce offspring that are very similar to the original parent population, allowing seeds to be saved and grown out ‘true-to-type’ year after year, generation after generation. These varieties can also be selected for disease resistance.
Reseeding Annual An annual crop that produces and drops seed which will germinate and grow readily without human intervention the following year.
Seed Scarification To abrade, scratch, or modify the seed surface for increasing water absorption.
Side-Dressing The process of applying supplemental nutrients to soil by spreading fertilizer or compost on the soil above the plant's root area.
Sustainable Agriculture Unlike industrial agriculture which views farming like a factory, sustainable agriculture views farming as a natural, integrated, holistic system. Furthermore, according to findings published in the scientific journal Nature, November 11, 1998, organic yields equal conventional after only four years and that soil quality improves, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, and in periods of drought, organic fields can actually yield more than conventional plots.
Stratification The practice of exposing moistened seeds to cool temperatures, generally below 40°F, for 2 weeks to 2 months so they will break dormancy and germinate.
Tender Annual An annual that is frost and cold sensitive and which should only be planted in warm soils after all danger of frost is past.
Tender Biennial/Perennial A biennial or perennial that will not withstand freezing temperatures and typically thrives in tropical climates or indoors.
Traditional/Native Open-pollinated varieties that have evolved through centuries of growing by native/indigenous peoples of the world. They are often drought and pest resistant, hardy and nutritious and are still cultivated around the world.
Untreated Seeds that have not been coated with fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers or growth hormones. All Seeds of Change seeds are untreated.
Variety A distinct plant strain that can be distinguished from all other similar strains within the same species with regards to morphological, physiological, genetic, chemical, and other characteristics. In actuality, variation from plant to plant can occur within any open-pollinated variety.