Are the words “software,” “bandwidth” and “blogging” part of your everyday language, but the terms “propagation,” “soil pH” and “cultivator” leave you baffled? If you look at a plant label and reach for your smart phone to figure out what in the world it’s trying to tell you, let me explain some of the basic concepts and actions of gardening in the more-familiar “high tech speak” that you know so well.

Computer workstation and gardening books

Learn about gardening online and take your knowledge into the garden.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

Gardening dictionary

A few good gardening references will help you identify plants, and give them the care they need.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

Let’s start with system requirements. You probably know this as any software you buy that requires certain characteristics of your technology to work properly – or to work at all. For plants to work (grow and thrive), they require certain characteristics, too.

Basically, plants need the proper amount of moisture, the appropriate soil type and pH, and the right amount of sunlight. Disregarding your plant’s basic requirements would be a lot like trying to log onto the Internet using a 1985 dial-up system.

Good soil preparation is like formatting your disk. It’s the foundation for gardening success. There’s a saying in gardening: It’s better to put a $2 plant in a $50 hole than the other way around.

No one would dream of running a computer without a security system. Warding off pests, diseases and viruses by using the best possible security system in your garden is a must, whether organically with non-chemical treatments and beneficial insects, or with other, more common applications (such as good old-fashion sprays).

Bandwidth – how much data can you send an Internet connection? Similarly, you should ask yourself, “How many plants can I jam into my garden?” or, “How close should I plant to my house?” Knowing the mature size and growth rate of a plant before you add it to your landscape can prevent big headaches down the road.

In terms of landscape design, defrag is an excellent guideline. Think of the basic premise: If you eliminate the “ones and twos” in your system, it’ll work more efficiently. So grouping your plants in the garden consistent with their color and requirements will enhance the look, functionality and success of your yard.

Here are some other phrases and words that may help you demystify gardening terminology:

  • Blogs allow you to express yourself and record your thoughts. Perhaps you could think of keeping a garden journal as a “glog.” It allows you to record you garden observations and access your thoughts and comments when you need to refer back to your glorious gardening successes or miserable failures.
  • Desktop vs. laptop defines the portability of your personal computer. This concept can relate to your garden by deciding how portable you want it to be: By using a lot of containers, you gain flexibility. By creating garden beds, you establish permanent spaces.
  • Hacking can be infuriating when someone invades your personal space. So when your neighbor prunes your tree while you’re on vacation, he has performed an illegal operation if it has a negative effect on your tree (or neighborly relationship).
  • Logging on means you’re ready to get down to business. By putting on your gardening clogs, kneepads and gloves, you’re ready to get out there and garden!
  • Can’t wait to upgrade to a new version of software? Same thing in the plant world. A new variety or cultivar of a well-known plant – maybe one with better disease resistance or a different flower color – can do wonders for your garden, creating a thriving, interesting environment for you and your family to enjoy.
  • Copy and paste – pretty elementary. In the plant world, this action is the same as propagation. If you have something wonderful growing in your back yard and you want to make more, you can propagate your plant inexpensively.
  • Tools – spell check, thesaurus and plug-ins like Flash player – everything that makes your work far easier. Think of your garden tools in much the same way. When it comes to gardening, there truly is a tool for every job, and the variety available at your local garden center can help with just about any job or any physical condition you may have.
  • And lastly, when you’ve hit a snag, sometimes you just need to reboot. You can reboot in your garden as well. When disease strikes, when a plant fails to thrive or when the maintenance just isn’t worth the results, plow it under, cut it back or rip it out. Then make your garden more amazing than it ever was before!