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  Section: Principles of Horticulture » A Glimpse of Horticulture
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The nature of horticulture

A Glimpse of Horticulture
  The nature of horticulture
  The plant
  Outdoor food production
  Vegetable production
  Fruit production
  Service horticulture
  Interior plant care
  Organic growing

Horticulture may be described as the practice of growing plants in a relatively intensive manner. This contrasts with agriculture, which, in most Western European countries, relies on a high level of machinery use over an extensive area of land, consequently involving few people in the production process. The boundary between the two is far from clear, especially when considering large-scale outdoor production. When vegetables, fruit and fl owers are grown on a smaller scale, especially in gardens or market gardens, the difference is clearer cut and is characterized by a large labour input and the grower’s use of technical manipulation of plant material. Protected culture is the more extreme form of this where the plants are grown under protective materials or in glasshouses.

Horticultural produce
Figure 1.1 Horticultural produce
There is a fundamental difference between production horticulture and service horticulture which is the development and upkeep of gardens and landscape for their amenity, cultural and recreational values. Increasingly horticulture can be seen to be involved with social well-being and welfare through the impact of plants for human physical and mental health. It encompasses environmental protection and conservation through large- and small-scale landscape design and management. The horticulturists involved will be engaged in plant selection, establishment and maintenance; many will be involved in aspects of garden planning such as surveying and design.

There may be some dispute about whether countryside management belongs within horticulture, dealing as it does with the upkeep and ecology of large semi-wild habitats. In a different way, the use of alternative materials to turf as seen on all-weather sports surfaces tests what is meant by the term horticulture.

This section concerns itself with the principles underlying the growing of plants in the following sectors of horticulture:
  • Outdoor production of vegetables, fruit and/or flowers.
  • Protected cropping, which enables plant material to be supplied outside its normal season and to ensure high quality, e.g. chrysanthemums, all the year round, tomatoes to a high specifi cation over an extended season, and cucumbers from an area where the climate is not otherwise suitable. Plant propagation, providing seedlings and cuttings, serves outdoor growing as well as the glasshouse industry. Protected culture using low or walk-in polythene covered tunnels is increasingly important in the production of vegetables, salads, bedding plants and flowers.
  • Nursery stock is concerned with the production of soil- or containergrown shrubs and trees. Young stock of fruit may also be established by this sector for sale to fruit growers: soft fruit (strawberries, etc.), cane fruit (raspberries, etc.) and top fruit (apples, pears, etc.).
  • Landscaping, garden construction and maintenance that involve the skills of construction together with the development of planted areas (soft landscaping). Closely associated with this sector is grounds maintenance, the maintenance of trees and woodlands (arboriculture and tree surgery)' specialist features within the garden such as walls and patios (hard landscaping) and the use of water (aquatic gardening).
  • Interior landscaping is the provision of semi-permanent plant arrangements inside conservatories, offi ces and many public buildings, and involves the skills of careful plant selection and maintenance.
  • Turf culture includes decorative lawns and sports surfaces for football, cricket, golf, etc.
  • Professional gardening covers the growing of plants in gardens including both public and private gardens and may refl ect many aspects of the areas of horticulture described. It often embraces both the decorative and productive aspects of horticulture.
  • Garden centres provide plants for sale to the public, which involves handling plants, maintaining them and providing horticultural advice. A few have some production on site, but stock is usually bought in.


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