Think about the last time you were outdoors. What variety of plants did you see? Did you notice any gardens full of fruit and vegetable plants, or interesting landscaping? If you saw any of these, you have seen a glimpse of horticulture.
The term ‘Horticulture’ literally means the culture of a garden. As a general term, Horticulture covers all forms of garden management. Although all forms of cultivation have very close links to Horticulture, it falls somewhere in between domestic gardening and field agriculture. Horticulture is a means of food production using very rudimentary tools and without permanently cultivated fields.
Horticulture includes the production and use of plants for food, comfort and beautification. This includes everything from fruits and vegetables to ornamental plants to spices. Anyone who works in any kind of garden is contributing to horticulture. Most horticultural societies use nothing more than sticks and garden trowels. Things like ploughs, tractors or harvesters usually aren’t part of a horticulturist’s tool inventory.
What does a Horticulturist do?
I’m guessing most of us don’t spend much of our energy thinking about where our food comes from. When I go to the supermarket, I pick up some fruits and veggies from the aisle, and I’m on my way. Hardly ever do I find myself wondering who planted them. The ease of getting produce is just normal to almost everyone.
However, across our globe, this is not always the case. Many societies still find themselves living directly off the land, working daily to produce their own food. The specialization of the horticulturist and the success of crops are influenced by various factors like climate, soil type, irrigation, field topography and the type of crops selected. These crops help sustain and enrich our lives by providing nutritious food, enhancing the beauty of our homes and communities. They also play a vital role in reducing our carbon footprint and restoring balance in the environment.
Horticulturists cultivate intensively produced plants for food and ornamental purpose by leveraging their knowledge and skills. The holy grail of horticulturists is to boost plant propagation, quality, nutritional value, yields and resistance to pests, diseases and unpredictable environmental factors.
Horticulture also includes plant maintenance, soil management, landscape renovation, landscape and garden design and maintenance. Unlike Agriculture, Horticulture does not deal with any form of large-scale crop production or livestock farming.
Benefits of Horticulture
We cherish the sight of lush green grass, vibrant flowers and the aromatic perfumes of fragrant shrubs. But did you know their real value is much more substantial than pleasing aesthetics and aromas? That’s right, well-maintained landscapes offer tremendous benefits for people and for the environment. Let’s explore some of the little understood, but vitally significant, benefits of landscapes.
Horticulture plants act as Natural Coolants
Plants are much cooler than asphalt or concrete and it functions as a natural Air Conditioner for the surroundings. Your backyard can be 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than plain soil.
Horticulture plants purify the Environment
Plants plays a crucial role in purifying the environment by capturing dust, tiny smoke particles and other pollutants. They also absorb excess runoff by rainfall and stop water stagnation. Additionally, Horticulture plants absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen.
Horticulture plants reduce Noise
Grass and plants dramatically reduce noise levels by up to 30 percent as compared to hard surfaces like asphalt. But wait, there’s more to it than just environmental benefits.
Health Benefits of Horticulture
Studies have shown that just looking at plants can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and enhance quality of life. Walking through nature with plants and trees, although located in the middle of a crowded city, has been shown to improve attention and memory.
Did you know each species of horticulture plants has different care needs? Some of them are much more likely to grow well for you than others depending on your environmental factors.
Horticulture vs Agriculture
The major difference between Horticulture and Agriculture is that it usually involves a considerably smaller scale of cultivation, using small plots of mixed crops instead of a single large field with few crop varieties. Horticultural cultivations consist of a wide variety of crops, ranging from fruits and vegetable all the way to nuts, flowers and even landscape horticulture. Unlike Horticulture, Agricultural cultivations generally focus on one or two primary crops on a much larger scale.
Starting your Horticulture Garden
Ready to start your Horticulture Journey? Hold on, there’s a lot of planning to be done before we get our hands dirty. Picking a good location for your horticulture garden is very essential. An inadequate location can result in poor quality produce. Here are some tips to choose the perfect location:
Choosing the right soil
While choosing the perfect location in your garden, the soil is the most vital element to be considered. Although the average garden soil is good enough for growing fruits and vegetables, the addition of organic matter such as compost or fertilizers give a huge boost to nutrients in the soil. Ensure that the soil is moist and loamy since the roots of plants penetrate through soft soil much easily. It’s very important to find the perfect balance of water content in the soil so that it’s neither too dry nor too wet. Also consider adding a drip irrigation system if your garden soil is too dry.
Most fruits and vegetables grow best in a warm and sunny spot and need a lot of sunshine for the sweetest fruits and bigger vegetables. The more sunlight they get, the better the taste and quality of the harvest. This may not always be the case for shrubs and bushes since most of them do pretty good even in the shade.
The Perfect Environment
You don’t want to plant in a place that tends to dry out a lot unless you have a drip irrigation system in place. At the same time, you should avoid a place that is likely to flood and get waterlogged during heavy rains.
Strong gusts of winds are another factor to be avoided at all costs while planting trees. They may keep pollinators from doing their job and can disturb new plants. Growing your plants near walls, fences or shrubs will be an added advantage in terms of protection.
Poor airflow around plants can keep your garden damp for long periods, leading to the formation of various types of fungus and insects. To get proper air circulation, ensure that your plants are spaced properly rather than cramming in as many plants as possible.
Choose the Right Plants
As a complete beginner, it is essential to choose your varieties carefully. The best way to start is with the easiest fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, cucumber and bell peppers. Choose the high-yield varieties of your preferred plants for a larger and rewarding harvest.
Selecting low maintenance crops such as apples, pears and plums which are usually grown as bushes will be much easier to get started with. Another important consideration while selecting crops is to choose varieties that have varying harvests. You may not want to pick all your produce in one go and rather scatter it over the seasons.
Cold winds and frosts
An environment sheltered from cold and dry winds is vital to ensure that your plants grow well. Always avoid frost pockets even if your plant species have good resistance to frost. The weather may be unpredictable but planting in a well-sheltered location will help.
When you’re done planning, you’ll be ready to start working to establish your own Horticulture garden and enjoy delicious harvests for years to come.
Plan your garden size
While it may be appealing to have a large garden, it’s advisable to start small and grow eventually instead of going all in. This way, you will be able to take care of your plants better and keep you motivated and passionate about your garden.
The most common mistake that beginners make is crowding up the garden with too many plants. This may end up in neither of them growing properly. It’s best to learn from others’ mistakes and start small instead of a large mismanaged garden. Start small and grow only as much as required, unless you want tomatoes to take up all your fridge space.
A beginner garden can be around 150 square feet with plants that are easy to grow and maintain. A plot this size is enough for a family of four.
I hope this post has given you some great ideas on how to get started with your Horticulture garden. This post will help you choose the right type of plants. Feel free to ask questions and share your experiences in the comments section below.
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