Print This Page

A Glossary of Terms

ACID SOIL: Soils with a pH less than 7. If the pH is near 6, a soil is considered slightly or moderately acid; if below 5.5, it is very acid.

AERATION: A mechanical process of punching holes or ripping the soil, used to relieve the effects of soil compaction.
AEROBIC: An environment containing oxygen. In the soil, aerobic conditions favor organisms that oxidize organic residues and produce carbon dioxide as a major byproduct.
AGRISPON: A mineral and plant extract product that stimulates microorganisms and basic soil and plant functions. Manufactured in Texas by Appropriate Technologies.
ALKALINE SOIL: The opposite of acid soil. Soil with a pH greater than 7.
AMMONIUM NITRATE: 33-0-0 (NH4-NO3) A water soluble chemical compound containing approximately 33.5 percent nitrogen, one half of which is the ammonia form and one half in the nitrate form. Should not be used.
AMMONIUM PHOSPHATE: A solid fertilizer material manufactured by reacting ammonia with phosphoric acid. Should not be used.
AMMONIUM SULFATE: 21-0-0 (NH4)2SO4) A solid material manufactured by reacting  ammonia with sulfuric acid.  Should not be used.
ANAEROBIC: Without oxygen. Anaerobic decomposition is less efficient than aerobic organisms. Nitrogen fixation by free-living organisms usually occurs under anaerobic conditions.
ANHYDROUS AMMONIA: 82-0-0 (NH3) A gas containing approximately 82 percent nitrogen. Under pressure, ammonia gas is changed to a liquid and usually is stored and transported in this form. Anhydrous ammonia is used to make most of the solid forms of nitrogenous fertilizers and also is used for direct application to the soil either as a gas or in the form of aqua ammonia. The most soil-destructive fertilizer in the world.
AQUABAC: Liquid and grandular Bti products for mosquito control.
ANION: An ion with a negative electrical charge. Sulfur, phosphorous, boron, chlorine, and molybdenum exist in the soil as anions.
ANION EXCHANGE: A condition, analogous to cation exchange, where one anion can replace another at the surface of a clay mineral.
ANTIDESICCANTS: Liquid sprays used to coat the foliage of plants for the purpose of reducing transpiration  in hot weather and increasing cold tolerance  in winter.
BACILLUS THURINGIENSIS (Bt): Biological insecticides that specifically target caterpillars and other problem insects.

BACILLUS THURINGIENSIS ‘Israelensis’  (Bti) is the biological treatment for mosquitoes, black flies and fungus gnats.
BANDING FERTILIZER: The process of spreading fertilizer in bands rather than broadcasting it. The fertilize may be spread along a line about two inches to the side of a planted seed and sometimes two inches below. It is considered one of the best methods for utilizing commercial soluble fertilizers, especially phosphorus.
BAT GUANO: Bat poop. Excellent high-nitrogen fertilizer. 
BIO CHAR: Highly fired carbon soil amendment that is excellent for soil health.
BIOSAFE PRODUTS: Hydrogen peroxide and fatty acid products for weed 
control, disease control and pond management.
BLOOD MEAL: A dry, organic fertilizer made of the blood from slaughter- houses. Normal analysis will be approximately 12-0-0.
BONE MEAL: Cooked bones ground to a meal without any of the gelatin or glue removed. Steamed bone meal has been steamed under pressure to dissolve and remove part of the gelatin.
BORAX: A salt (sodium borate) used in fertilizer as a source of boron. It is about 11 percent of the element boron. It is available in food stores and is a suitable fertilizer for supplying boron. Use only in very small amounts. Best to avoid.
BORDEAUX MIX: A fungicide and insecticide made by mixing solutions of copper sulfate and lime, or of copper arsenate and phenols. Use the first one.
BUFFER CAPACITY: The degree to which a substance can resist changes in its characteristics.
BURNED LIME: Limestone heated to drive out carbon dioxide. Same as quicklime.
CALCAREOUS: Containing a high percentage calcium or calcium carbonate.
CALCITE: Limestone containing mostly calcium carbonate, CaCO3. A more common name is ground agricultural limestone.
CALCIUM CARBONATE: The principal component of calcitic limestone and one of the principal components of dolomitic limestone, of which magnesium carbonate, MgCO3 is the other Marl and oyster shells also are composed primarily of calcium carbonate.
CARBOHYDRATES: Stabilized structures of sugars. Carbohydrates form the skeleton of the plant, and they are a means for storing energy for a long period of time.
CATION EXCHANGE: A process in which the small number of cations dissolved in the soil water (soluble cations) change place with the much larger number of cations associated with the soil micelles (exchangeable cations).
CATION EXCHANGE CAPACITY: A measure of the ability of the soil components to attract cations and hold them in exchangeable form. The exchange capacity depends upon the amount of clay, the type of clay, the organic content, and the degree of humification of the organic matter.
CEC: An abbreviation for cation exchange capacity.
CYTOKININ: A plant hormone that can modify plant development by stimu- lating or altering the cellular RNA.
CHELATION: The chemical process by which an organic substance binds a cation having more than one electrical charge. Chelation is similar to cation exchange. Cation exchange holds the majority of the major cation nutrients (calcium, magnesium, potassium), while chelation holds the cation trace ele- ments (copper, iron, manganese, zinc).
CLIPPINGS: Leaves cut off by mowing.
C/N RATION: An abbreviation for carbon/nitrogen ratio.
COLLOIDAL: A state of matter where finely divided particles of one substance are suspended  in another.
COLLOIDAL PHOSPHATE: Waste material from rock-phosphate mining operation. An excellent, slow-release source of phosphorous, calcium, and trace elements.
COMPACTION: The pressing together of soil particles by foot or vehicular traffic.
COMPANION PLANTING: Using different plants together that assist one another with insect and disease control.
COMPOST: Nature’s fertilizer created by the rotting of vegetable and animal matter.
COMPOSTED MANURE: Animal manure that has been taken through the process of natural composting in order to kill pathogens and weed se
COOL-SEASON TURFGRASS: Those turfgrasses primarily used in the north- ern United States, such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and ryegrass.
COPPERAS: Ferrous (iron) sulfate used as a trace nutrient fertilizer, especially in alkaline soils.
COPPER SULFATE: Most common source of copper for fertilizer. Also used as an insecticide and fungicide. A common name is blue vitriol. Toxic product that should not be used.
COTTONSEED MEAL: Fertilizer meal made from ground cottonseed.
COVER CROP: A crop that improves the soil on which it is grown. Many plants are sown primarily as cover crops to cover the ground, improve it, and protect it for a seeding cash crop. Other plants, such as alfalfa, clover, and most grass- legume sods, can serve as both a cash crop and a cover crop.
CROSS-POLLINATE: To apply pollen of a male flower to the stigma or female part of  another flower.
CURCULIO, PLUM: Worm that attacks the fruit of plums and other orchard trees.
CUTTING HEIGHT: The distance between the ground and the blades of the mower.
DAMPING OFF: A disease of seeds and young seedlings caused by fungi.
DENITRIFICATION: The conversion of nitrates in the soil to some form of gaseous nitrogen, which escapes into the atmosphere and is lost.
DICOTYLEDON (DICOT): A plant with two seed leaves.
DIOECIOUS: Plants that have the male reproductive system on one plant and the female on another.
DORMANT TURF: A brown-colored turf that has temporarily ceased growth due to unfavorable environmental conditions.
EPIPHYTIC: Referring to plants growing without soil and receiving their nutrients from the air.
EXCHANGEABLE CATIONS: Those cations that are electrostatically attracted to soil particles. The sum of the exchangeable cations and the soluble cations is considered to constitute the available cations for plant take-up.
FATTY ACIDS: Carboxylic acids derived from or contained inanimal or vegetable fats or oils. Basically fancy soaps.
FERTIGATION: The application of fertilizer through an irrigation system.
FERTILIZER: Any material or mixture used to supply one or more soil or plant nutrients.
FISH EMULSION: An oily liquid fertilizer made from fish waste or whole fish. There are chemicals involved in the process.
FISH HYDROLYSATE: Fish fertilizer made from whole fish.
FLOWERS OF SULFUR: Finely granulated sulfur dust, used to acidify an alka- line soil.
FOLIAR BURN: An injury to the leaves of the plant, caused by the application of a fertilizer or pesticide.
FOLIAR SPRAY: Liquid plant nutrients applied by spraying on the foliage.
FOOTPRINTING: Discolored areas, or impressions, left in the lawn from foot traffic when the turf is in the first stage of wilt.
FRENCH DRAIN: A drainage device in which a hole or drench is backfilled with sand or gravel.
FUNGICIDE: A product used to control diseases caused by fungi.
GEOTROPISM: The effect of gravity on plants.
GOOD NATURED PRODUCTS: Line of natural-organic products.
GREEN MANURE: A cover crop used to smother weeds, to protect the soil, and to hold nutrients that might otherwise be leached. Traditionally a green manure is planted after the harvest of a cash crop, but an alternative is a “living mulch,” where a cover crop is sown before harvesting the cash crop.
GREENSENSE PRODUCTS: Texas made line of organic products.
GUANO: Decomposed dried excrement of birds and bats and is used for fertilizer purposes. The most commonly known guano comes from islands off the coast of Peru and is derived from the excrement of sea fowl. It is high in nitro- gen and phosphate, and at one time was a major fertilizer in this country.
HAY: Grass, clover or the like that is cut while still green and used as a fodder or mulch.
HERBICIDE: A product used for weed control.
HUMUS: The Latin word for soil or earth. It is the broken-down form of organic matter.
HYDROMULCHING: A method of seeding using a mixture of seed, fertilizer and mulch,  sprayed in a solution on the soil surface.
HYDROSEEDING: Same as hydromulching but without the mulch.
HYDROSPRIGGING: Same as hydromulching but uses sprigs instead of seed.
ION: An electrostatically charged atom formed when a salt is dissolved in water. The dissolved salt breaks up into both positively and negatively charged ions.
IONIC CHARGE: The electrical charge associated with ions. Cations have a positive electrical charge and anions a negative charge.
INSECTICIDE: A product used to control insects.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT: Buzz word for using a little bit of organics and a varying bit of chemicals.
IRRIGATION, AUTOMATIC: An irrigation system using preset timing  devices.
LAYERING, SOIL: An undesirable stratification of a soil.
LEACHING: The movement (usually loss) of dissolved nutrients as water percolates through the soil.
LEATHER TANKAGE: Waste from the leather tanning industry. Not for use in an organic program.
LIME: Technically, lime is calcium oxide. In agricultural usage, however, the term is used to denote any liming material.
LIQUID FISH: Another name for fish hydrolysate.
LIME SULFUR: Organic pesticide used for disease control.
LOCALIZED DRY SPOT: An area of soil that resists wetting.
MAGNESIA: Magnesium oxide, used as an emergency source of magnesium.
MAGNESIUM SULFATE: A soluble salt used as a source of magnesium. Common forms are the mineral kieserite and Epsom salts.
MANALFA: Organic fertilizer made from a blend of livestock manure and alfalfa.
MANGANESE SULFATE: A solid chemical compound used as a source of manganese for plants.
MANURE: Manure most commonly refers to animal dung, but the term is also used in association with green manuring.
MEDINA PRODUCTS: Texas made line of organic and low-toxicity products.
MINERAL OIL: Oil made from reined petroleum products.
MOLYBDENUM: One of the essential micronutrients.
MONOECIOUS: Plants that have male and female flowers on the same plant.
MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI: Fungi that penetrates roots of plants to extract carbohydrates. Its unique value is that in return it passes mineral nutrients to the plant. It can be a major source of available phosphorus. It is similar to the rhizobia bacterial that inhabit legume roots and fix nitrogen.
NECTAR: A sweet liquid secreted by plants. The main raw material of honey.
NEMATODES: Small hair-like organisms that attack root systems and other soil borne organisms.
NITRATE INHIBITORS: Substances that retard the ability of soil organisms to transform ammonium to nitrates. Their purpose is to avoid the denitrification which occurs with heavy fertilizer applications of urea, ammonium salts, or liquid ammonia.
NITRATE OF SODA: Sodium nitrate (NaNO3) A fertilizer material containing approximately 16 percent nitrogen. The principal source of sodium nitrate has been the natural deposits of the salt in Chile. It is also produced synthetically. Do not use.
NITRIFICATION: A process which takes place in the soil where soil microorganisms form nitrates from organic matter and the ammonia forms of nitrogen.
NPK: A shorthand notation for  “Nitrogen-Phosphate-Potash.”
OPEN POLLINATED: Unlike hybrids, plants that will return true from seed.
ORGANIC MATTER: Organic substances in differing stages of decay, varying from litter to very stable humus.
OVERSEEDING: Seeding a dormant turf with a cool-season grass in order to provide color during the winter.
PEAT: Low-quality humus in which the nitrogen is completely lost through anaerobic fermentation. An anti-microbial product that should be replaced with compost.
PESTICIDE: A chemical used to control any turfgrass pest, such as weeds, insects and diseases.
pH: An abbreviation for potential hydrogen, used chemically to express the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution. More simply, pH is a scale from 1 to 14, used to denote the relative intensity of acidity or alkalinity. A neutral solution, or soil, has a pH of 7.0. Values below 7.0 denote more acid conditions, and those above 7.0 more alkaline conditions.
PHOSPHATE: The fertilizer oxide form of phosphorus (P2O5).
PHOSPHORIC ACID: 0-52-0 to 0-55-0 (H3PO4) An inorganic acid used in the manufacture of concentrated calcium phosphates and ammonium phosphates and sometimes for direct application through irrigation water.
PHYTOPHTHORA: Botanical Latin name for a genus of fungi that causes plant disease, generally a root and crown-rot pathogen.
PHOTOSYNTHESIS: Nature’s process of manufacturing carbohydrates from carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) with the use of light energy and green plant pigment called chlorophyll.
PLANT METABOLISM: Those functions of a plant that use energy stored in sugars and carbohydrates to enable the plant to grow and reproduce.
PLUGGING: Establishing a turfgrass using plugs of sod.
POLLEN: A mass of microspores in a seed plant. Looks like a fine dust.
POLYSACCHARIDES: Carbohydrates (complex sugars) of high molecular weight including starch and cellulose.
POTASH: A term used to denote potassium oxide (K2O) equivalent of materials containing potassium.
POTASSIUM CHLORIDE: 0-60-0 (KCI) Muriate of potash.
POTASSIUM MAGNESIUM SULFATE: (2mGso4k2so4) Also called Sul-Po-Mag and langbeinite. From natural salt deposits primarily in New Mexico and some European  countries.  Organic source  of K, Mg, and S.
POTASSIUM SULFATE: (K2SO4) A solid material with a K2O equivalent of 45 to 52 percent.  Also called sulfate of potash.
PROTEINS: The active, amino acid components of growing plants. Proteins carry out the bodily activities of the plant, using the energy from sugars and carbohydrates.
PYRETHRUM: Natural insecticide made from the powder of the crushed painted daisy, Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium. Very toxic and not recommended.
QUICKLIME: Burned lime, roasted to drive out carbon dioxide and increase the solubility.
REEL MOWER: A mower that cuts grass by means of a reel guiding the leaves against the cutting edge of the bed knife.
RENOVATION: Improving the vigor of a low-quality soil.
RHIZOBIA: A group of bacteria that penetrate the roots of legumes, extracting carbohydrates from the plant and capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen.
RHIZOME: A below-ground stem capable of producing a new plant.
RHIZOSPHERE: The soil area immediately adjacent to the root hairs of plants.
ROCK POWDERS: Naturally occurring materials with fertilizing value. The most common rock powders are limestone, rock phosphate, granite dust, greensand, langbeinite (sulfate of potash magnesia), and basalt.
ROOT NODULES: Nodules attached to the roots of legumes and certain nonlegumes. These nodules contain nitrogen fixing bacteria or nematodes.
ROTARY MOWER: A mower that cuts grass with a high-speed blade that runs parallel to the soil surface.
SALT INDEX: The relation of solubilities of chemical compounds. Most nitro- gen and potash compounds have a high index, and phosphate compounds have a low index. When applied too close to seed or on foliage, the ones with high indexes can cause plants to wilt or die.
SCALD: Grass that dies under “standing water.”
SCALPING: The excessive removal of leaves during mowing, leaving mostly stems.
SECONDARY ELEMENTS: The secondary plant food elements as traditionally defined are calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
SLAG: A byproduct of steel, containing lime, phosphate, and small amounts of other plant food elements such as sulfur, manganese and iron.
SOAP: A cleansing and emulsifying agent made by action of alkali on fat or fatty acids.
SOD: Plugs, squares, or strips of turf still connected to soil.
SOIL: An ecological system consisting of inorganic minerals, organic matter, and living organisms.
SOIL pH: The pH of the water in soil. It controls the availability of phosphorus and trace elements and the diversity of soil organisms. The soil pH for most soils is in the range 5.0 to 9.0, with 7.0 being neutral.
SOIL STRUCTURE: The distribution and size of aggregates in the soil.  A  good soil structure  contains  aggregates  of widely  varying size.
SPREADER SETTINGS: Most broadcast spreaders, set fully open, will dispense this fertilizer at approximately 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet per pass.
SPRIGGING: Establishing a lawn using sprigs or stolons.
STOLON: An aboveground stem capable of growing a new plant.
STRAW: The aboveground vegetative growth of a plant, usually a small grain or annual legume.
SUGAR: The direct product of photosynthesis. Sugars store the energy absorbed from the sun in the plant leaves.
SUPERPHOSPHATE: The first manufactured  phosphorus  fertilizer,  pre- pared originally by dissolving bones in sulfuric acid. 0-18-0 to 0-20-0. Good product,  but  hard  to obtain.
SUPERPHOSPHORIC ACID: 0-67-0 to 0-76-0. Not acceptable for  use.
TANKAGE: Process tankage is made from leather scrap, wool, and other inert nitrogenous materials by steaming under pressure with or without addition of acid. This treatment increases the availability of the nitrogen to plants. Not acceptable for use in an organic program.
THATCH: A layer of organic matter that develops between the soil and the base of the plant.
TOPDRESSING: Spreading a thin layer of soil on the lawn to smooth the  surface.
TRANSITION ZONE: An east-west zone through the middle of the US between the northern area, growing cold-season turfgrasses, and the southern area, growing warm-season turfgrasses.
TRICHODERMA: Trichoderma viride is a fungus and a biofungicide. It is used for seed and soil treatment for suppression of various diseases caused by fungal pathogens. It is also alleged to be a pathogen in its own right, causing green mold rot of onion. Not sure about that. Cornmeal is the easiest to use source of this helpful microbe.
TRIPLE SUPERPHOSPHATE: Rock phosphate dissolved in phosphoric acid. Hugely problematic and not recommended.
UREA: 45-0-0 - A solid synthetic organic material containing approximately 45 percent nitrogen. The only synthetic fertilizer that contains carbon. Is used in some “bridge” or “transitional” products.
UREAFORM: Synthetic fertilizer (38-0-0) and totally unacceptable in organic production.
VERTICAL MOWING: The use of mechanical devices that have vertically rotating blades for thatch control.
VOLATILIZATION: The process of liquid becoming a gas.
WARM-SEASON TURFGRASS: Those turfgrasses used primarily in the southern United States, such as Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, zoysia grass, centipedegrass, and buffalo grass.
WILT: The discoloration and folding of leaves caused by either excessively dry or excessively wet conditions.


  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns