Gardening terminology

Here are some top terms that as an allotment holder you should get acquainted with!


This method is where quick maturing plants are grown in between long term crops – for example sow a row of radishes next to your parsnips, lettuces or spring onions in between rows of brassicas

Catch cropping

This is when a quickly maturing crop is grown in the interval between harvesting one main crop and sowing or planting another. Suitable plants for this would be spring onions, radishes, lettuces.

Cut and come again

A range of leafy vegetables can be grown as cut and come again.

Harvesting the young leaves when you need them prevents plants from maturing and ensures several harvests of small, tender, mild-flavoured leaves over a long period of time.  You can grow many of these all year round, although you may require a heated propagator, windowsill, greenhouse or polytunnel.  I like to grow cut and come again leaves in the greenhouse in the winter so that they are available if you want a quick bowl of salad.

Amaranth, basil, beetroot, chicory, coriander, chard, corn salad, dandelion, endive, komatsuma, land cress, leaf celery, lettuce, mizuna, mustard, pak choi, parsley, purslane, radicchio, red kale, rocket, sorrel and spinach are all suitable and you can mix these together and grow them in polystyrene boxes if you have seed left over from the summer.

Vegetables usually grown for their roots such as beetroot, radish and turnip also have leaves that are tasty when harvested young.

Cropping squares

This is a method used to grow sweet corn. As the plants are wind pollinated they should be grown in blocks rather than rows, 45cm (18in) apart each way.

Successional sowing

This is a way of avoiding gluts and shortages of produce. By planning and sowing seed little and often in batches, it is possible to ensure plants are ready to harvest in succession throughout the growing period.

Quick-maturing vegetables, including carrots, French beans, peas, salads and spinach, are best sown regularly in small batches. This will produce a continuous, fresh supply of these crops.

For plants that are prone to bolting, such as coriander, rocket and spinach, successional sowing is especially crucial.

You may choose to grow some longer-fruiting crops such as courgettes, cucumbers, runner beans and sweetcorn in two batches to ensure you have plants well into autumn.

Choose a assortment of cultivars for nonstop cropping. Quick-maturing ones such as lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and carrot ‘Adelaide’ are ideal for successional sowings, but later-maturing, main-crop cultivars are also useful and, once mature, often remain in good condition for longer.

Plants that do not need to be successionally sown include those which produce fruits over a long period such as aubergines, peppers and tomatoes; those which store well, such as onions and pumpkins; and winter vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and leeks that need a long season to mature and can then be left in the ground to be picked in stages.

Successional sowings are usually made at fortnightly intervals, but this may vary depending on environmental conditions. In practice, this means that lettuce may only need to be sown every three weeks in early spring, increasing to once a week in warm, and moist summer weather.


The drawing up of soil around plants, usually with a draw hoe or drag fork. It is carried out on potato crops to prevent greening of tubers and blight infection; also used on brassicas to prevent wind-rock, on leeks and celery to blanch the stems, and in layering and stooling of fruit-tree rootstocks, to encourage the formation of roots on the earthed-up shoots.


A low portable unit constructed of glass or rigid-plastic panes on a wire frame; used for the protection of plants and to advance growth. The term is also applied to plastic film stretched over wire hoops, a construction alternative known as a low continuous polythene tunnel.


The speeding up of a plant’s leafy growth, flowering or fruiting, using a change of temperature and light to ‘force’ the plant into growth.

Rhubarb, chicory and hyacinths are commonly forced. Commercial forcing is carried out in specially designed greenhouses or sheds, often with additional bottom heat. In the domestic garden forcing is usually improvised in greenhouses and frames, or achieved with the use of forcing pots to cover individual plants.

Soil improver

Any substance dug in to improve soil structure. This is generally organic matter, such as farmyard manure, garden compost, mushroom compost or leafmould, but could be an inert substance such as lime or gypsum. 

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