Just when you thought English was all you needed to know for gardening

Published 11:47 am Friday, March 27, 2020

All this time I never knew peaches are non-climacteric. I knew they will not ripen further once picked from the tree, but I was not aware of the proper terminology.

Other fruits that don’t ripen post-harvest include citrus, strawberries, the melons, grapes and several more. Obviously this means those that do continue to ripen after picking are climacteric fruits like apples, bananas, tomatoes, avocados and a host of others.

There are quite a few plant-growing terms that have not grown on us semi-green thumbs, so to speak. We might have known their meanings, just not by the fanciest terms. It’s never too late to learn, especially when holed-up awaiting the virus to die down.

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We are right proud of our calcifuges. Those are plants that will not tolerate alkaline soil or even an acidic one with a near neutral pH.

The favorite calcifuges around here are azaleas, blueberry bushes and centipede grass. And if anyone doesn’t like that term for lime-hating plants, go with ericaceous. That name is derived from a botanical family name, but all the species in the family are indeed acidic soil lovers.

I recall once writing about Scoville Units. That’s how the heat in hot peppers is measured and expressed: in Scoville Units. I say fortunately there are no human Scoville measuring testers. It’s done by chromatography of liquids pulled from peppers.

And if you thought Habaneros were near the hottest with their puny 200,000 or so units, check out the latest. Pepper X, Carolina Reaper and Dragon’s Breath are up in the million to three million Scovilles range. That sounds hot.

Auxin is not a new one to me and most plant folks know a little about plant hormones. Auxins are such hormones that have to do with plant growth by elongation of stems and leaves. Mankind has even copied auxins by making a few artificial ones that serve as herbicides for weed control. We jokingly say they work by making plants grow themselves to death.

An epiphyte is a plant that lives attached to another plant but is not a parasite to its host. Epiphytes, including bromeliads and moss, get water and nutrition from the air. And xerophyte plant species need very little water to survive well. They are more popular in Arizona gardening than hereabouts.

On commercial vegetable farms, tomatoes are picked at the breaker stage. That is when the first tinge of pink appears on the shoulder of the fruit. Harkening back to the first paragraph, this breaker stage harvest works because tomatoes are climacteric and ripen on the rides from the field to the shed to the storage room at your local grocery store.

It’s not absolutely necessary to know what a dibble is, but you are a more knowledgeable plant person if you do. A dibble is a simple metal tool with no moving parts for making a hole in the ground, a three feet high one for planting tree seedlings and a shorter one for planting bulbs. You furnish the moving parts.


Terry Rector writes for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District.