Scope of the online library

The OpenFields content has now been migrated to its successor website, Food and Farming Futures


The total value of output for the horticulture industry in the UK is estimated at £9 billion per annum and over €400 million in Ireland and it provides regular employment for over 37,000 people in the UK and 6,000 in Ireland – many of those jobs in rural areas. Horticulture sustains many additional jobs in industries such as fertiliser and compost production and in supply chain industries such as food packing and processing. Approximately 85% of the sector is managed within small and medium sized enterprises, with a high proportion of micro businesses.

  • Horticulture for gardening
    • Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation, particularly of ornamentals and edibles, and includes the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Whilst horticulture is practised on a domestic scale in many gardens, it is also practised on a commercial scale through garden centres, plant centres and nurseries, where activities range from preparing seeds and cuttings to the growing of fully mature plants. These products are often sold or transferred to ornamental gardens or market gardens.
    • Horticulture's distinction from agriculture is principally on scale of production and marketing, and each of arboriculture (trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants); floriculture (floral crops); olericulture (vegetables); pomology (fruits); viticulture (grapes) and landscape horticulture (landscape plants) can also be practised commercially on a field scale.
  • Fruit production
    • Resources on various aspects of pomology, fruit husbandry, and crop protection, and also on fruit production and marketing of quality fruit.
    • Climate is a significant factor in the distribution of commercially grown fruits, as are soils, nutrients and water. Fruit husbandry practices include propagation, pruning and training.
    • In the UK, 'top fruit' refers principally to orchard-grown apples and pears; the industry also produces a wide variety of soft fruit.
  • Field scale vegetables
    • Vegetables such as carrots, onions, peas, beans, swedes, leeks and brassicas are grown commercially on a field-scale, principally for human consumption, and with most being sold through the major multiple retailers.
    • Many vegetable crops are highly perishable, and if they are not quickly marketed when mature, then produce can go to waste.
    • Purchasers of organic vegetable produce are often keen also to support local growers, through box schemes and farmers' markets, and this consumer preference can make organic vegetable production viable on a smaller scale than is usual with conventional production.
  • Protected crops
    • Protected or greenhouse crops (i.e. those grown in glasshouses, plastic houses, and poly-tunnels) are predominantly those vegetables or ornamentals which cannot be produced economically outdoors, or which are in demand out-of-season. Typical of glasshouse vegetable crops are tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, beans and peppers. Smaller-scale businesses produce indoor and bedding plants, and are thus often linked to a nursery or garden centre.
    • Protected crops usually have high market value and are relatively expensive to produce, requiring specialist methods of cultivation, irrigation, ventilation, pest management and environmental control.
  • Landscaping & amenity horticulture
    • Landscaping covers the design, planning, creation and maintenance of designed landscapes, ranging from the management of golf courses, parks and historic gardens to the planning of domestic gardens and leisure facilities. Designed landscapes may be urban and rural, (and can include the interiors of buildings.)
    • Amenity horticulture refers to the corresponding care and planting of flower beds, trees, shrubs, lawns, public parks, sportsfields, roadside verges and green areas around public and other amenity buildings.
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About this National Initiative

The OpenFields Library is a free online library containing items of interest to practitioners and researchers in the agricultural and landbased industries. It is now a component part of Food and Farming Futures.