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Horticulture is the branch of agriculture concerned with the art, science, and business of plant cultivation.

Gardening would be a reasonable synonym for horticulture, although gardening suggests growing a few vegetables in the backyard, while horticulture can be applied to larger-scale operations. For the most part, however, the cultivation of plants on a large scale is known as farming or agronomy, while horticulture is generally applied to smaller operations, and advances learned through horticulture may be applied to farming. Horticulture is derived from the Greek words for "garden" and "cultivation."

Horticulture is a branch of agriculture, but it is not the same thing as agriculture, since agriculture deals with the cultivation of crops and animals, while horticulture is associated only with plant cultivation.

Horticulture involves both the science and the aesthetics of plants, and encompasses the production, improvement, and commercialization of edible fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and ornamental plants.

Botany is a similar science, although it refers to the academic study of plants, and does not incorporate applications, improvement, or marketing.

Horticultural plants may include annual and perennial species, fruits and vegetables, decorative indoor plants, and plants used for outdoor landscaping. Practitioners include a diverse array of people and groups who garden, farm, landscape, research, and advise about horticultural plants as food, for health benefits, or for aesthetics.

Horticultural regions can be divided into hardiness zones, which are geographic areas selected for average annual minimum temperatures, a factor relevant to the viability of plants.

Although other parts of the world have similar, but differing systems, the original. the hardiness zone system was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a rough guide for gardening and landscaping. The USDA scale defines thirteen zones according to their long-term average annual extreme temperatures. In large part, the scale is based on the minimum temperatures to which a plant can survive. It is a way in which a buyer of seeds or plants can determine the likelihood of a specific plant variety being able to survive in a particular geographic area. The USDA system was developed to aid gardeners and landscapers in the United States.

Other hardiness ratings have also been developed, including the UK Royal Hardiness Society and US Sunset Western Garden Book systems.

Plant propagation is the process by which new plants grow from a variety of sources and may include seeds, spores, bulbs, tubers, cuttings, or other plant parts. Typically, propagation transpires as a step in the cycle of plant growth. With seeds, this occurs after ripening and dispersal. With vegetative parts, it comes about after detachment or pruning. Some plants, such as strawberries, propagate new plants from existing parts, known as runners.

Horticulture began during the period in which humans transitioned from a nomadic lifestyle, as hunter-gatherers, to more sedentary, horticultural communities. Over time, people learned to cultivate and improve wild plants to develop characteristics that encouraged better crops.

In horticulture, vegetables, and other crops are cultivated through the use of hand tools, and without permanently cultivated fields. Many horticultural societies use little more than sticks and hoes. However, horticulture is also applied to the practice of cultivating tree crops.

Some horticultural societies practice what is known as shifting cultivation, in which crops are planted on a piece of land for a short time after which the land is allowed to remain idle for years. In some cases, after harvesting a crop, the remaining vegetation is cut down and burned, allowing the nutrients of the charred plants to nourish the soil.

Various organizations have been formed worldwide to promote and encourage research into all branches of horticultural science. These include the Ancient Society of York Florists, the International Society for Horticultural Science, the American Society of Horticultural Science, the Royal Horticultural Society, the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, the National Junior Horticultural Association, and the Global Horticultural Initiative.

Businesses and industries associated with horticulture are the focus of topics in this portion of our guide.



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