What is Horticulture?
Horticulture is science and art in perfect harmony. It’s the only “plant science” that combines the study of visual and practical uses of plants. From the simple aesthetics of basic garden landscaping, to the intricacies of greenhouses, horticulture can help sustain a community through more ways than one. It is dedicated to producing and improving the quality of the crops and plants produced, from the planting to the marketing of those products. Its main goal is to enhance lives, either through beautification of the environment or through people’s consumption of high-quality produce.
The application of horticulture in day-to-day living is now more relevant than ever. Horticulture used to be an underrated branch of science, but with the progressive movement towards sustainability and the subsequent popularity of farmers’ markets, horticulture is finally making its way to the spotlight.
All gardens can benefit with a little bit of styling and functionality. Horticultural grit can cover both aspects, they can serve the dual purpose of aerating and decorating a garden space. Grit can serve as a decorative feature to any landscape, sort of like a softer version of the rough aesthetic that gravel can provide. In fact, many horticultural grits are actually just smaller bits of gravel that have been washed and treated to be rid of unwanted elements such as lime.
Aside from its aesthetic benefits, horticultural grit is also beneficial for aeration. The typical garden soil is not the most ideal for container or potted planting as it has a tendency to become compact and solid. Continuous watering will do little to prevent this, as the water will also find it difficult to make its way out of the soil. This prevents plant roots from breathing, which means that they may suffocate. By mixing horticultural grit into the soil, it will essentially loosen it up and prevent clumping, and will therefore help in draining and aerating your contained plants.
Much like horticultural grit, horti sand helps with the soil breathing and draining. Poorly drained soil becomes oversaturated and will eventually suffocate the plant roots. Horticultural sand helps in loosening up the soil in order to prevent it from turning into brick-like clumps. This sand is significantly grittier than your run-of-the-mill sandbox sand, so swapping those two up won’t be the best move for your garden.
For container planting, horticultural sand can be used like the horti grit; you can mix it up with regular garden soil and be on your merry way. This will help loosen up heavy soil and make it more porous to allow easy passage of water. You can also get away with alternately layering it with normal soil in your pots; from a visual perspective, it might be fun to use this method when using a transparent vase or container, as it is definitely pleasing to the eye. The contrasting colour and layers almost reminds me of tiramisu, which certainly isn’t an unwelcome thought.
Horticultural sand can also help in lawn maintenance. Just stab some holes into the ground with a rake, a pitchfork or an aerator, then fill it up with some sand. This will help in managing your lawn and prevent it from hardening, especially after a bout of rain.
Horticultural Sharp Sand
For what it’s worth, horticultural sand and horticultural sharp sand are the same thing, and both are quite alike to horti grit. All three have the same purpose of draining and aerating soil. The difference lies in the small things, such as texture (sharp sand is grittier) and price; horti sand can be more expensive than horti grit or sharp sand.
Compared to horticultural sand, sharp sand gives soil more space to move about, which in turn, gives a plant more room to grow its roots. This makes horti sharp sand more ideal when dealing with seedlings. Like the finer horti sand, horticultural sharp sand cannot and must not be substituted with sandbox sand or beach sand. Swapping those out will result in basically a cement-like product, the total opposite of what you want in a gardening soil.
Horticultural fleece is like a blanket for plants. It is made of a light, unwoven polypropylene fabric, and it kind of looks like a cheese cloth from afar. This fleece comes in two weights or thickness and can vary in size; the lighter fleece is better for warm weather, while the thicker, heavier one is more effective in frostier climates. It is a thin material, so it allows light and rain to reach the plants, while simultaneously keeping out the wind chill. By covering plants with fleece, the plants are kept warm and cozy, and growth is greatly encouraged.
Using horticultural fleece is fairly uncomplicated; simply lay it over your crops and plants, and you’re good to go. As mentioned, the material is very thin, and it also serves as a filter, so you can always water your crops right through it. The fleece is very flowy though, so it does need to be held down with heavy rocks or pegged into the soil to avoid getting blown away.
Besides its usefulness against weather elements, horticultural fleece also keeps away any unwanted visitors. Covering your crops up as they grow will help prevent damages usually caused by animals like birds and bugs. Seasoned horticulturists and gardeners would recommend placing some slug pellets before setting the fleece, for that added sense of confidence.
Horticultural glass is also known by another name – Greenhouse glass. Knowing this name, it is obviously most commonly used to build greenhouses. Horti glass is the lowest grade of glass there is, and consequently the cheapest. It can sometimes have blemishes and imperfections, which is a predictable result of its low cost.
This particular glass breaks easier than normal glass and tends to break into sharp shards. Because of its breakability, horti glass is much easier to work with than toughened glass, so sizing and cutting it to suit a chosen greenhouse design is all the more convenient.
Some people opt to use polycarbonate in place of horti glass because it’s more durable, but unlike horticultural glass, polycarbonate will fog up and become more translucent over time. Having translucent panes in a greenhouse isn’t exactly recommendable, since it will significantly limit the plants’ access to sunlight. Horti glass stays crystal clear for life and can conduct heat and UV rays into the greenhouse; this will ensure that the plants live in ideally controlled conditions, which of course will improve their quality.
Pests and insects have been a long-suffering problem in horticulture and other planting professions. Simply spraying with chemical pesticide or insecticide isn’t always a viable solution, since most crops are produced for consumption, and will pose a health risk if contaminated. Horticultural oil was produced to help with this problem.
Oil-based pesticides are an ecologically friendly way to control many garden pests. These oils can come from different sources, such as vegetable oils from soybeans or cotton seeds, or from mineral oils. It’s usually mixed in with emulsifiers and water to make it sprayable, for easier usage. There have been many terms for these oils over time, the most common of which are “dormant oil” and “superior oil”, but it all boils down to being labelled as “horticultural oil”.
Horti oil kills pests in many ways, depending on the type of oil or insect. Some ways include suffocation, starvation, or disruption of the insect eggs’ metabolism. All in all, not the prettiest picture to imagine, but sometimes it’s a “them or your plants” situation. However, horti oil affects all types of bugs, both good and bad, so it should only be used when absolutely necessary. The oil needs to come into direct contact with the bugs in order to be effective; excess oils dissipate eventually, so it’s still perfectly safe to use around humans and animals.
Usage of horti oil depends a lot on “when”; variables to be considered include the weather, climate, recent usage, plant maturity, as well as the maturity of the pests themselves.
Horticultural Oil in the UK
Horticultural oil is usually made of either plant-based or mineral-based oils. Ready-to-use horti oil can be easily bought online or in gardening shops. It is important to note that the Royal Horticultural Society may sometimes withdraw certain products from circulation. It is best to always know what products you have on-hand, and which products have been taken off the market, to ensure your personal safety, as well as the safety of your consumers.
Contrary to its name, horticultural soap is not used for cleaning or hygiene. It is much like pesticides. It’s used to exterminate pests, but this usually only works for removing small insects like aphids and spider mites. It’s advantage over typical pesticides is that horti soap doesn’t leave residues and doesn’t kill the good bugs, and they’re also less expensive.
Horticultural soap sprays can be easily made at home using typical household ingredients, but commercial horti soaps are more recommended for a guaranteed outcome. A simple two-step way of making a homemade horti soap is as follows:
1) Combine one cup of any oil with a tablespoon of non-bleach dishwashing liquid. Soybean, cottonseed, vegetable, neem, and safflower oil can be used.
2) Mix two teaspoons of your blend per one cup of water in a spray bottle.
It’s literally that easy! Of course, there are other ways to make a DIY horti soap, but this is the easiest method. Note that it’s best to do a “test” on your plant, before being liberal with your DIY use. Better safe than sorry, right? Also, never use a DIY mix on a hot day, as it may lead to plant burning.
Horticultural vinegar is typically an ingredient used for weed-control. It is a 15-20 percent diluted form of acetic acid, and can be further diluted to 6-10 percent for cleaning. Acetic acid is completely biodegradable, so using this for controlling weeds is ideal as it doesn’t cause any damaging build ups. It’s essentially produced through bacterial fermentation of ethanol and sugar, therefore it’s a natural alternative to potentially harmful and possibly carcinogenic chemical weedicide.
However, some experts warn against liberally using horticultural vinegar when gardening, especially the higher-percentage ones. Sure, it may be biodegradable, but the vinegar usually only affects the surface weeds, as in the leafy part of the weed. It can quickly kill the weeds in sight, but the hidden roots are still there, just waiting to grow and resurface again. This can sometimes lead to frustrated gardeners, who will want to amp up the vinegar usage, which will eventually reach a point of doing more harm than good.
Organic gardening author Jeff Gillman is concerned of the potential damage that extensive vinegar-use can do to the environment. He says that using horticultural vinegar is fine with recently sprouted weeds, but if it’s a weed that has been a constant, ongoing problem, then it’s better to swap the spray bottle for a hand cultivator.
Horticultural Vinegar in the UK
As previously mentioned, horticultural vinegar is not recommended for extensive use, but it can still be a quick-fix to weed problems, and can be bought in gallons online or in gardening shops.
Horticultural vinegar once became the centre of a weed issue in Bristol. Some residents complained of the odour of the vinegar that the council used to eradicate the weeds in the community. Others were more supportive, citing that a few days of smelling vinegar was much better than using potentially cancerous alternatives.
Horticultural Courses in the UK
Studying horticulture is becoming more relevant as the movement for sustainability grows. Horticulture as a field used to be more obscure and underrated, and therefore the need for new horticulturists is more urgent than ever. Careers in horticulture can range from basic gardening to wide scale food production, so the opportunities are virtually endless.
Every nation has a desire to be self-sustaining and this usually involves producing and maintaining their own food source. Especially in countries where the weather can reach extremes, it is vital to have facilities that can research, cultivate, and enhance the production line. Vital facilities include institutes and universities that can help pass on and develop the current knowledge of experts. In the United Kingdom alone, there are 32 institutions that offer a course in horticulture; more universities might even begin offering horticulture courses in the future. So far, the 32 establishments that do are the following:
1) Birmingham City University
2) Chichester College Group
3) College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise
4) Cornwall College
5) Craven College
6) Derby College
7) Inchbald School of Design
8) INTO Newcastle University
9) Kingston University
10) Kirklees College
11) Leeds Beckett University
12) Manchester Metropolitan University
13) Manchester School of Architecture
14) Moulton College
15) Newcastle University
16) Nottingham Trent University
17) Ravensbourne University London
18) Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh
19) Scotland’s Rural College
20) Solihull College & University Centre
21) University Centre Askham Bryan
22) University Centre Bishop Burton
23) University Centre Myerscough
24) University Centre Reaseheath
25) University College London
26) University of East London
27) University of Edinburgh
28) University of Gloucestershire
29) University of Greenwich
30) University of Sheffield
31) University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI
32) Writtle University College
With the internet, staying up-to-date with the latest horticulture trends and research has been easier than ever. A quick internet search can yield a lot of data. Even with the ease of access, sometimes having a handy hardcopy of nifty knowledge is still fun. More traditional outlets, such as magazine subscriptions, are still available. Some horticulture-specific magazines for subscription are Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Week. More general gardening magazines are also available, such as BBC Gardeners World, Garden Answers, and Grow Your Own.