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Your Essential Seed-Starting Glossary

Finding the right plants is an essential part of the interior and exterior décor for any establishment.

But what do you do when you finally find the perfect plant, but no store around has it available?

Settle for another plant that doesn't have the same aesthetic you were looking for?

We think not. 

The old-fashioned method of growing your plant from a humble seed comes to the rescue. 

Simple as it sounds, there is a lot of nuances to the task of growing your plant from scratch.

And before you get started, there are some essential seed starting gardening terms that you should know.

Whether you're going to be talking to gardeners, or managing the landscaping yourself... Being conversant with these terms will help you avoid being taken advantage of (or having to google every word in a conversation).

1. Gardener’s terms for the duration of a plant’s life.

Annual: A plant that lives for a maximum of one year. These kinds of plants germinate, bloom, produce seed, and die all within a year.

Hardy Annual: As the name suggests, these are annual plants that don't need to be gently raised indoors. They can survive and grow even in cool soil with light frost.

Biennial: A plant that lives for two years. Usually, the plant will germinate and grow in the first year, then flower, produce seeds, and die in the second.

Perennial: A plant that will live for many years, and will not die after flowering. These kinds of plants produce fruits and flowers in every growing season*.

Short-lived Perennial: These are plants that will live longer than two years, but will likely die after a few more years. (Even when well maintained and kept in favorable conditions.)

2. Gardening terms for how the seed is available in the market.

Pelleted seeds: These are seeds (usually very small in size) that are coated with a layer of clay to make them larger, and easier to handle.

Treated seeds: These are seeds that have been treated or coated with a chemical (usually fungicide). This is usually done to protect the seed from soil pathogens that might damage it before germination.

Untreated seeds: The name says it all. A seed that hasn't been treated or coated with any chemical.

3. Gardening terms for certifying seed quality.

Certified Organic: Unlike regular organic labeling, "Certified 100% Organic" means the product meets USDA organic standards. This means they must be made or grown using “minimal use of off-farm inputs and farm management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

Non-GMO Verified: Products that are certified to be created without any genetically modified ingredients or involving any genetic engineering processes.

Safe Seed Pledge: A pledge that some companies abide by, wherein they "will not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants".

4. Gardener’s terms for stages of plant growth.

Germination: In simple terms, germination is the first stage of plant growth from a dormant seed. It's when the minuscule first root grows out of the seed, soon followed by a shoot that grows upwards.

Cotyledons: The first "leaves" that grow from a seed, after it has germinated. These "leaves" aren't true leaves, but a source of food for the plant to grow. Also known as seed leaves.

True leaf: These are the real leaves that a plant grows, after the cotyledons. They are a sign of maturity and look like the leaves of a fully mature plant.

5. Terms related to actions required for plant germination.

Light/Requires light/Do not cover: These are seeds that require light in order to germinate. For these seeds, simply embed them on top of the soil and leave them exposed to the sunlight.

Stratification: This is a process of exposing the seeds to cold, wet conditions for some time to simulate a period of winter dormancy.

Scarification: This is the process of scratching, sanding, or nicking the hard outer layer of the seed before planting to ensure germination happens.

Vernalization: This is when the germinated seed is exposed to cold temperatures for a period of time, to accelerate the flowering later.

6. Terms for gardening activities

Direct sowing: This is simply the process of sowing the seeds directly into the ground where the plant is meant to grow outside. 

Seed starting: Unlike direct sowing, here the seed is first sown in trays or pots, and grown there until it is stable enough to be planted in the garden or larger container. Usually, a special seed starting mix is also used to nurture growth at its stage.

Hardening off: It is the process of gradually acclimatizing a plant that has been grown in controlled indoor environments to more normal outdoor conditions.

Potting up: Also known as up potting, this is essentially the process of transplanting a plant from its current container to a larger pot or container. This is usually done when the plant is root bound or has started to overgrow its current container.

7. Terms for time periods in the gardening world.

Days to maturity: A.k.a days to harvest. It is the average number of days it will take the plant to grow from being planted to being fully mature. This means the plant will have grown to full height and will be in full bloom at this stage.

Growing season*: These are the months of the year when the local temperature and rainfall are most conducive for a plant's growth. Usually, this is the period between the last day of frost in spring and the start of frost in autumn.

Last frost date: The day of the year, in late winter/early spring, when the last of the frost is over. It's when the local air temperature will no longer fall below the freezing point of water.

First frost date: Similarly, this is the day (in late fall or early winter) when the local air temperature is expected to fall below freezing temperature.

And that's all folks. 

With these terms under your belt, you are all set to take on the world of seed starting and gardening from scratch.