What Is Horticulture?
November 22, 2023
The science and art of producing edible fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, and ornamental plants is known as horticultural science. It is the only plant science that integrates both the science and aesthetics.
In a wider sense, horticulture stems from crop science which is a study under agriculture that deals with the food crops produced and consumed. Horticulture includes the practice and maintenance of producing crops such as grain, feed, turf, and fibre crops. This may also involve the improvement, management, and storage of produced food crops.
There’s another term commonly mistaken with horticulture and that is botany. By definition, botany is the science of all living plants in the world. It differs from horticulture for two good reasons. The first is because botany does not involve studying the marketing, cultivating, and managing of these plants. The second and most important aspect is that botany isn’t an artistic science, it’s purely knowledge based.
In horticulture there is a science applied - horticulturists along with other plant scientists developed many ways to improve the already existing plant production, management, marketing, and designing. At some point, it takes into consideration the animals that can thrive along with the plants.
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🌱 Cultivation of plants
🏡 Gardening and landscaping
🌿 Essential for food production
Types of Horticulture
🌾 Organic farming: 30% increase in 10 years
🍅 Hydroponics: no soil, 90% less water
🌻 Floriculture: $397 billion global industry
Benefits of Horticulture
🌳 Improve mental health
🥦 Nutritional abundance
🌍 90% of the world's food comes from 30 plants
🌱 10% of Americans grow their own fruit and veggies
🌺 Indoor plants can reduce stress by 37%
The History of Horticulture
The history of horticulture dates back to almost 10 to 20,000 years ago when our ancestors first attempted at growing their own food. Thanks to the curiosity of our ancestors, horticulture today has become a practice modern generations have well-studied and applied in everyday life.
Horticulture is a word defined from the Latin hortus meaning “garden” and colere meaning “to cultivate” - it literally means to cultivate a garden in early periods. Today, horticulture is known as a science and art of cultivating, managing, improving, and marketing fruits, vegetables, and ornamental crops.
Horticulture vs. Agronomy: What’s The Difference
Before going deeper into the plants that fall under horticulture and agronomy, let’s first differentiate the two. Horticulture and agronomy are both branches under agriculture that deal with crops that function as a food source or other.
Agronomy is the study of science that deals with plants used for food, fuel, feed, and fiber. This mostly involves crops such as grains, legumes, fibers, roots, and forage. Horticulture on the other hand is the art and science dealing with fruit, vegetable, and ornamental plants.
You may not realize it yet, but most home gardens are a combination of cultivating and managing horticultural and agronomic crops. Cool, right? Listed below are examples of horticultural and agronomical crops and the categories under the two.
Fruits are crops that grow on trees, bushes, or vines that produce fruits or berries. These crops are usually characterized by their sweet taste and rich organic acid content. Examples of fruits include oranges, apples, strawberries, and coconut. Fruits can also be further classified fleshy and dry fruits.
Vegetables are horticultural crops that produce many edible parts. These edible crops are defined by its culinary uses. For example, okra. It is botanically a fruit produced from the flower of the plant but it is a vegetable because of how it is prepped and consumed in the kitchen.
Vegetables are classified based on their culinary use. These include roots, stems, tubers, leaves, bulbs, and heads. Examples of some common garden vegetables include cabbages, radishes, celery, onions, and sweet potatoes.
Now, classifying ornamentals can get quite tricky because some fruits and vegetables have flowers for ornamental purposes. Ornamentals are plants that are grown for their beauty and aesthetic. These are crops that are intended to beautify, decorate, or enhance the appearance of the environment.
Just like fruits and vegetables, ornamental plants can be further classified. This classification includes floriculture, nursery plants, shrubs, trees, and foliage.
Grain crops are mostly plants that belong in the grass family and are cultivated for its edible, starchy seeds. It’s sometimes also called cereal crops and these include rice, corn or maize, barley, rye, oats, sorghum, and millet.
Pulses crops that belong to the pea family and are cultivated mostly for the pods. The pods are the dehiscent fruits that pop or split open to release seeds. The seeds in these pods are more popularly known as beans. Examples of pulses include beans, lentils, and peas such as peanuts, string beans, winged beans, and chickpeas.
Fiber crops are plants that are mainly propagated for its fibers used in textiles, ropes, and filling. You can see the many applications of fiber crops in your clothing, furniture, and other common household items such as ropes, stuffed dolls, and pillows. Some examples of fibre crops include cotton, jute, hemp, and flax.
It gets a bit tricky when it comes to root crops because it falls both under horticulture and agronomy. But, in an agronomic sense, root crops are plants which are cultivated as staples in nutrition and diet. Similar to the horticultural root crop, these plants are grown for their enlarged roots. Examples of staple root crops that are agronomic include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, and cassava.
Forage crops are an interesting category because these plants are produced as feed for livestock. Aside from being feed for livestock, forage crops can also be stored as hay or silage. It functions as an alternative to commercially available feeds for livestock.
Forage crops usually cultivate the leaves of plants later to be dried for feeding storage or fed fresh to livestock. Some examples of forage crops include legumes, sorghum, soybean, and alfalfa.
Further Classifications of Garden Plants
Aside from classifying as horticultural or agronomic crops, plants can further be categorized based on their life cycle and season for cultivation.
By Life Cycle (Biennial, Annual, Perennial)
Just like humans, plants have a lifecycle too. Although for plants, they only have 2 life cycles: the vegetative and reproductive. The vegetative cycle is when plant parts such as roots, stems, and leaves begin to develop. Meanwhile, the reproductive cycle begins when flowers, buds, pistils, and stamens begin to show.
Each and every plant has a different life cycle: annual, biennial, and perennial. Annual crops are plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season. Biennial crops are those which tas two growing seasons to complete their life cycle. And, perennials are plants which continuously grow for more than two life cycles.
The season of growing is another category for home garden plants. Not every season is the same all over the world. There are some who live in tropical or temperate climates meaning 2 seasons or 4 seasons, respectively. Tropical areas are those who have the sunny and rainy season only while temperate areas are those which have spring, summer, autumn, and fall season.
Because of the difference in seasons, crops are sometimes categorized as a cool or warm-season crop. That’s why before you think of what to plant in your garden, it’s best to get to know what type of area and season it grows best.
Horticulture as an art and science has positive impacts on quality of life, environment quality, and human health. Dating back to thousands of years ago, this plant practice has become a form of beauty and rehabilitation of areas as well as a tool for sustainability to provide fresh and nutritious food.
There are many ways to classify the crops grown in the garden and it goes beyond only being horticultural. You may not know if but you can also be growing agronomic crops such as potatoes, legumes, and peas.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does horticulture involve?
Horticulture involves **cultivating** and **growing plants** for various purposes, such as **ornamental**, **medicinal**, or **food-related** uses.
What are the main branches of horticulture?
The main branches of horticulture include **floriculture** (cultivating flowers), **pomology** (cultivating fruits), **viticulture** (cultivating grapes), **arboriculture** (cultivating trees), and **ornamental horticulture** (cultivating decorative plants).
What are the benefits of horticulture?
Horticulture provides numerous benefits, including **beautifying spaces**, **improving air quality**, **providing access to fresh produce**, **promoting mental well-being**, and **supporting local ecosystems**.
What skills are important in horticulture?
Key skills in horticulture include **plant propagation**, **plant care**, **pest and disease management**, **soil analysis**, **irrigation techniques**, and **landscape design**.
What are the career opportunities in horticulture?
Career opportunities in horticulture include **landscape designer**, **nursery manager**, **horticulturist**, **florist**, **garden center manager**, **greenhouse grower**, and **arborist**.
Is horticulture environmentally friendly?
Yes, horticulture promotes **environmental sustainability** through **organic gardening methods**, **conservation of water resources**, **creation of green spaces**, and **supporting biodiversity**.
What are some common challenges in horticulture?
Common challenges in horticulture include **managing pests and diseases**, **controlling weeds**, **maintaining proper soil health**, **managing climatic conditions**, and **balancing plant nutrition**.
Where can I learn more about horticulture?
There are numerous resources available to learn more about horticulture, including **online courses**, **local gardening societies**, **books**, and **horticultural events and workshops**.
Now that you have a bit more knowledge about agriculture and its branches horticulture and agronomy, you can start planning your own home garden based on your dietary and nutrition needs. Knowing what horticulture and what some of these examples are will help you spread the knowledge of home gardening to others. So, what you waiting for? It’s time to get your hands dirty and your green thumb ready.