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Aussie Green Thumb – Top Gardening Tips For Everyday People

Understanding Gardening Vocabulary – Part 7

We are now more than half way through the year so if you have been following this series since January you should be developing quite a good understanding of gardening terms. If you have missed any of the series, once you get to the end of this entry you will find links to each of the previous 6 parts. For now, let’s look at the words for July.

To read through each of the individual articles in more detail, here you can access the entire series:
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 1 (January)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 2 (February)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 3 (March)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 4 (April)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 5 (May)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 6 (June)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 7 (July)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 8 (August)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 9 (September)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 10 (October)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 11 (November)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Recap Part 1
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Recap Part 2

This month’s words are complete fertiliser, NPK, dead heading and thinning.

Complete fertiliser – There are three main nutrients, besides water, which most plants need to grow, in varying amounts.  These are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. A complete fertiliser is a fertiliser that contains at least some of each of these three main nutrients. Of course different complete fertilisers will have different levels of each of these nutrients, depending on the plant type the fertiliser has been designed to be used on.

NPK – When looking at buying fertiliser you may see listed on the label somewhere a number that looks something like this;

NPK 5:6:4

This NPK figure basically explains the amount of the three main nutrients, described above under complete fertiliser, that can be found in that fertiliser. The first number refers to nitrogen (chemical symbol N), the second number refers to phosphorus (chemical symbol P) and the third number stands for potassium (chemical symbol K). So 5:6:4 would mean that fertiliser contains 5 parts nitrogen, 6 parts phosphorus and 4 parts potassium.

Deadheading – This is the process of removing dead or near-dead flowers from a plant. There are a few reasons why a gardener will deadhead a plant. One is for aesthetic reasons. Simply put, while flowers are very, very beautiful, when they are dead or dying they stop looking very good, so removing the deadheaded flowers makes the plant look better. Another reason why a gardener would deadhead a plant is to prevent it from forming seeds, which actually encourages new flowers to form. Growing up I would regularly see my Grandma spend 10 to 15 minutes each day quietly deadheading her roses to help foster more flowers to bloom.

Thinning – There are two main times the term ‘thinning’ could be used in gardening.

1)      When many seeds have been planted and have germinated, some are removed to help the other seedlings grow better, ‘thinning’ the amount of seedlings vying for the nutrients that are in the soil.

2)      When a plant is growing, sometimes some new stems or branches are removed. This is for similar reasons to the use of thinning with seedlings. It takes a great deal of energy to grow many stems or branches, if there are less stems or branches, the energy the plant exerts can be focussed on growing the remaining stems and branches.

In both cases, the aim of thinning is to encourage growth. It is similar to the process of pruning, in that sometimes for a plant to grow in a healthy manner, it needs to have less of itself to focus its energy on.

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