A Definition and Summary of the Horticulture Industry

A Definition and Summary of the Horticulture Industry

Are you interested in working in the horticulture industry? Do you want to find out about the scope of sectors and jobs available ? Then have a read of this little article in order to discover more about careers and the scale of  the industry in the UK

Definition of Horticulture

I looked at the dictionary definition of ‘horticulture‘ this is what came out ‘the science and art of growing plants’. Trying to classify the horticulture industry is difficult because it is as diverse as the plant kingdom that underpins it through a varied spectrum of sectors; but the focus must be on plants. The boundaries of horticulture are clear until the edges of its spectrum are considered and we find that they over lap into other industries. For example farming and construction have very similar jobs that can be seen in either be in their own separate industries or in the same one as horticulture.

tiny flowers and leaves on table
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History of Horticulture

The United States classifies horticulture as attached to agriculture but the UK has placed it in its own category. During the 1540’s skilled gardeners emerged around London cultivating a diverse range of plants. Crops were grown within protected spaces instead of fields. This tradition continues today through production horticulture, though close to agriculture it is distinct. Production horticulture differs to agriculture because intensive systems are used. This means that crops are produced using more labour and on less land. One of the simplest forms of differentiating agriculture and horticulture is that if ththfarmer has to get off the tractor to tend to the plant crops then they are probably operating within the horticulture industry.

 Horticulture manipulates the environment around the plant in particular over crops in a protected culture such a glass house.  Agricultural arable produce such as wheat or rape seed tends to be slow to perish, extensively produced (e.g. low labour force or larger land area) relying on technology ( e.g. heavy use of tractors and machinary). Horticultural crops are high in water content, quickly perishable with a greater labour input . Both food and ornamental crops are produced through horticulture. The scale of production horticulture was £3525million worth of crops produced in 2018 representing only 13% of agricultural output.

Production Horticulture

Production horticulture becomes more distinct when ornamental crops are considered this includes cut flowers, bare root, and containerised stock. Ornamental plants have the highest value in the total UK output, this feeds into the amenity sector of the horticultural industry. The amenity aspect of the the horticulture industry focuses on te the ornamental side of horticulture it tends to be about making the grounds or gardens look good. Ornamental plants are suplied by production horticulture to help the amenity sector provide it’s services. Food production makes life possible ornamental production makes life worth living.

Gardening, and Ground Care

Amenity horticulture is about creating and maintaining greenspaces, sports turf, historic parks and gardens. It differs to production horticulture through businesses specialising in services they provide to their chosen area . There can be very general grounds maintenance workers and gardeners but this section of the industry can also categorise practitioners with more specialist skills through arboriculture ( study and practice of maintaing/dealing with trees) or sports turf care( fine turf culture for accommodating sports activities).

Retail Horticulture

Plants from production horticulture feed into amenity horticulture through 1 of the 2000 retail sector garden centres and sells them direct to the public . Another very old fashioned form o retail Horticulture links very closely with production horticulture this is a market garden. Generally wholesale customers will be the only demographic that will turn up at the site to purchase items. The retail sector would be served by taking produce to a market place where the public are shopping for a range of things such as a Carbost sale are a town outdoor market Square and produce is sold through this conduit. A market garden could also have a list of customers that they produce specific crops once or twice a year for. This method of retail production negates the need to create a specialised section of the premises that caters to the exacting needs of the general public.

Landscape Gardening

Landscape gardening includes garden design, constructing gardens/green spaces using building materials and plants. Allied with this is garden maintenance including arboriculture (the maintaining of trees) in the private and public sectors it compares to the UK labour force by providing 1 out of every 62 jobs. The landscape industry has the widest share of the horticultural jobs, which includes over half of the labour force. There are different aspects of landscape gardening including both soft and hard landscaping. Hard landscaping is where the industry crosses over into construction because the skills needed to build retainer walls, path, patio and drive way surfaces are the same as builder crafts person. Soft Landscaping is more about living features in the garden and include preparing the ground ready for planting, installing turf and live plants as opposed to the abiotic bricks, concrete and stone associated with hard Landscaping. Professional services such as garden design and landscape architecture are also associated with the horticultural industry.

Horticulture in Summary

So we began at one end of the spectrum in production horticulture (allied with agriculture) and at the other end it closed with the landscape industry (allied with the construction industry). Both these areas can deviate the most into other industries, but as long as there is a strong aspect of the science and art of plants within each sectors output, then it sits well within the scope of the horticulture industry.

Please see the diagram belw that summarises the jobs and sections of the horticulture industry:

Click here to view the link and have ago at completing a multiple choice test about defining the horticulture industry