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Learning the Language: Common Terminology Used in Landscaping

In landscaping, much like any other profession, members tend to use words specific to the industry. We often makes statements or answer questions using words such as “loam” or acronyms like “IPM” or “NPK” believing ourselves to be speaking a language known to our audience. Its undeniable that the turf needs to be mowed at regular intervals dependent upon the season, but what do we mean when we say it needs to be dethatched? What is the difference between acidity and alkaline in soils and how does it impact the appearance of your property? To demystify landscaping conversations we are sharing with you commonly used phrases and words in the landscaping industry related to sun and soil.

Ph Power of Hydrogen The measure of how acidic or basic a solution is.
  Acidic soil Ph levels below 7.
  Alkaline Ph levels above 7.
  What it means to landscaping? The median soil sample in Florida has a Ph level of 6.1 or slightly acidic.  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reports that “In acidic soils, the availability of nutrients such as potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) is reduced, while the amount of potentially toxic elements such as aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), and zinc (Zn) is increased. In alkaline soils, iron, manganese (Mn), zinc, and boron (B) are commonly deficient”.  An over and under abundance of nutrients can have a significant impact on the vitality and longevity of plant materials including annuals, turf, shrubs, and trees.  
Sun Requirements   Sun and shade requirements play a major role in selecting the right plant for the right place, and include the intensity, heat, and availability of the sun when mapping out planting zones on a property.
  Obstructions Physical structures including buildings, parking garages, ornamental components (fountains; walls, etc.), and organic structures including trees and shrubs.
  Full Sun Exposure to the rays of the sun for no less than six (6) hours.
  Partial Sun Exposure to the rays of the sun for at least four (4) to six (6) hours.
  Partial Shade Exposure to the rays of the sun between one and a half (1.5) to four (4) hours.
  Full Shade Exposure to the rays of the sun for less than one and a half (1.5) hours.
Soil Moisture    
AWC Available Water Capacity A soil’s capacity to provide water to the plant materials; affected by the irrigation intake rate.
  Intake Rate The measure of soil’s capacity to absorb irrigation water from the surface moving it into and through the soil.
  Soil Moisture Water that is held in the spaces between soil particles.
  Surface Soil Moisture Water held in the upper 10 centimeters (cm) of the soil.
  Root Zone Soil Moisture Water available to plant materials.
Soil Textures   Soil texture is characterized by the size of the mineral particles it displays.  These particles determine the amount of space available for water and oxygen to be supplied to plant materials. The most common types of soil textures found in Florida are:

When choosing materials to replace or augment aspects of the landscape at your property understanding the sun requirements and soil compositions are key to selecting the right plant for the right place. An annual such as a Caladium (Caladium x hortulanum) may thrive in partial shade, but it is imperative to ensure that the soil available in that shaded area has a high moisture content with adequate draining that is slightly acidic. To learn more about selecting the right plant for the right place on your property or to receive a quote for landscape services contact LMP at (877) LMP-PRO1.


University of Florida IFAS Gardening Solutions. Soil. Retrieved from:,shells%2C%20tend%20to%20be%20alkaline.