YardKit’s Guide to Landscape Lingo

If you’re undertaking a landscape project of any sort, you’re likely to encounter a lot of industry-specific terminology. Keep this reference guide handy as you navigate through the world of outdoor improvements. 


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Talking like a Designer 

Learning the language of outdoor features will help ease communication with design-minded consultants.

  • accent - the use of a plant or object to draw attention to, or punctuate, a space 

  • allée - a walk bordered with trees or clipped hedges 

  • arbor - a latticework structure often used as a decorative passageway between garden spaces 

  • deck - a raised platform, often made of wood 

  • drip line - an imaginary circle around a plant’s outermost branches, also the area to protect 

  • edging - a material (like brick, plastic, stone, or metal) used as a border around planted areas 

  • gazebo - a freestanding structure with a solid, pitched roof and open sides 

  • groundcover - low-growing plants that create a uniform appearance over an area 

  • hardscape - nonliving fixtures, like paths, decks, or walls (may be brick, stone, wood, etc.) 

  • hedge - shrubs that give a wall-like appearance, used to screen views or separate areas 

  • naturalize - planting without a pattern, to create the effect of finding them in the wild 

  • ornamental grasses - those left to grow to their full height, without mowing 

  • patio - an uncovered and paved outdoor area 

  • pergola - a freestanding structure with an open roof supported by posts or columns 

  • porch - a covered shelter in front of the entrance of a building (also called a veranda) 

  • portico - a structure attached to building with a roof supported by columns at regular intervals 

  • retaining wall - a structure that holds back water and earth 

  • softscape - all the living organisms installed in a yard 

  • topiary - controlling plant growth by pruning or shearing into a decorative shape 

  • trellis - a flat latticework surface often used to support plants 

  • veranda - a covered area attached to the home for outdoor living area 


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Talking like a Contractor

From surveying your property to seeing new additions go in the ground, it’s helpful to know what will be on your contractor’s mind. 

  • acid soil - soil with a pH lower than 7.0 

  • acre - a measure of land totaling 43,560 square feet (a square acre is 208.75 feet on each side) 

  • alkaline soil - soil with pH higher than 7.0 

  • building code - local laws and regulations for constructed elements (e.g. fences or pools) 

  • building permit - project approval by local regulatory bodies for construction of certain features 

  • clay - a soil type with small particles and good nutrient retention 

  • drainage - controlling the flow of water with grading, slopes, berms, swales, pipes, or drain tiles 

  • drip irrigation - a slow-feeding water system for plants, shrubs, trees, perennials 

  • easement - land use rights given to others to access land, such as for utility access 

  • evaporation - water (like rainfall and irrigation) returning to air; high temperatures speed this up 

  • frost line - the lower depth at which the soil freezes in winter 

  • grading - changing the slope level of an area 

  • irrigation - watering by means of a piped system 

  • microclimate - variations of the climate within a specific area, thanks to hills, structures, or water 

  • pH - a measure of the amount of acidity and alkalinity contained in your soil 

  • setback - locally required distances between a property line and special features 

  • subsoil - the layer of soil beneath the topsoil or loam; usually poor quality soil or clay


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Talking like a Nurseryman 

Visiting a garden center, nursery, or home repair center is less daunting when you know how to interpret all of those labels and ask for what you want. 

  • annual - plants that grow to maturity and die within one season; most are frost-sensitive 

  • bare root - plants that have had all soil removed from their roots prior to sale 

  • bedding plant - colorful, fast-growing plants (usually annuals) that give color to planting beds 

  • biennial - plants that produce a vegetable one season, a flower the next season, then die 

  • botanical name - the scientific name of a plant, usually two words: the genus and the species 

  • bulb - a group of perennials with an underground storage stem (think daffodils and tulips) 

  • conifer - trees with tiny, needle-like leaves and bearing cones (think pines and firs) 

  • deciduous - any plant that looses its leaves in the winter 

  • dormancy - the yearly cycle in a plants life when growth slows 

  • drought tolerance - plants that can thrive without much water 

  • evergreen - plants with leaves or needles that are green year-round 

  • fescue - lawn composed of soft, compact, fine-leafed grasses 

  • growing season - the number of days between the last frost in spring and the first in fall 

  • hardiness - a plant’s ability to withstand low temperatures or frost without extra protection 

  • herbaceous - non-woody plants with soft stems that grow quickly (think peonies or hostas) 

  • lawn - a plot of grass, usually mown 

  • native plant - plants that occur, and grows naturally, in a specific region 

  • perennial - plants living for a number of years 

  • rootball - a plant’s network of roots, along with the attached soil 

  • turf - the surface layer of a lawn, or an artificial substitute for lawn 

  • variegated - a leaf pattern that contains either white or yellow markings 

  • xeriscaping - using drought-tolerant plants and hardscape to minimize water use 


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Talking like a Gardener 

Gardeners, landscapers, and maintenance personnel helping to keep your outdoor spaces in tip-top shape will appreciate your knowing some common landscape care practices. 

  • aerate - loosening or puncturing the soil to increase water and oxygen penetration 

  • complete fertilizer - plant food with three primary elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium 

  • compost - product created from decomposed garden material and used to add nutrients to soils 

  • deadheading - pinching or snipping off old blooms to promote continued bloom 

  • dieback - the death of tips of shoots caused by damage or disease 

  • erosion - wearing or washing away of soil 

  • fertilizer - material rich in nutrients (usually nitrogen, phosphates and potash) added to feed plants 

  • inorganic fertilizer - synthetic compounds or minerals; potent though can be a pollutant 

  • organic fertilizer - made from decomposed plant and animal products 

  • fungicide - chemicals used to control fungus-related diseases 

  • herbicide - chemicals used to control weeds 

  • mulch - a material used to cover soil for moisture conservation and weed suppression 

  • pesticide - chemicals used to control unwanted organisms 

  • potting soil - a mixture designed for container gardens and potted plants; loose, light, and sterile 

  • pruning - cutting back plants to remove dead or injured wood and direct new growth 

  • topsoil - the top layer of native soil, which may also be good quality soil sold at garden centers 

  • transplant - moving a plant from one location to another 


Questions? We’re here to help. Reach out at hello@yardkit.com to let us know how it’s going.