Permaculture vs. Horticulture: How Is Permaculture Different From Horticulture Gardening?

With food security on our minds more than ever, many have turned to gardening to become more self-sufficient. Whether you have acres of land to work with or just a front patio, there’s a way for everyone to grow a little for themselves. And if you’ve done any research on gardening techniques, you’ve likely come across the terms horticulture and permaculture. 

Although these terms are often thought to mean the same thing, they’re two separate ideologies. 

Comparing permaculture vs. horticulture is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Permaculture is an all-encompassing lifestyle, whereas horticulture is a scientific study.

Permaculture is a method that aims to connect the garden with the surrounding landscape and home to promote a sustainable ecosystem, while Horticulture is the science of growing and improving fruits, vegetables, and plants for commercial purposes.

What Does Permaculture Mean?

Permaculture is a fairly recent ideology born in the 1970s in Australia. It takes a holistic approach to using resources from the land, which benefits humans and the environment. The idea is that a permaculture garden works hand in hand with nature rather than working against it. 

The word permaculture combines the terms ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture.’ Rather than relying on large-scale agriculture, which damages the land, permaculture focuses on fostering a regenerative ecosystem for future generations, thus creating a permanent and sustainable food source. 

What are the Basic Principles of Permaculture?

Permaculture planting
There are 12 main design principles of permaculture. They outline how a permaculture garden should be designed and operated. They are:

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy 
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Feedback
  5. Use and Value Renewables
  6. Produce No Waste
  7. Design from Patterns to Details
  8. Integrate Don’t Segregate
  9. Use Small, Slow Solutions
  10. Use and Value Diversity 
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

We’ll look at three key principles and how they may be applied in a garden. 

Produce No Waste

Permaculture values frugality and reusing wherever possible. No permaculture garden would be complete without a compost heap. This will turn food scraps into soil, which can be used to grow new food. 

But before throwing away food scraps, you can turn those vegetable peelings and meat bones into delicious stock. The idea is to minimize your consumption and use what you already have wherever possible. 

Catch and Store Energy

Catch and store energy means using natural energy to help you grow food. This can refer to using solar energy to power your equipment. It can also refer to techniques like capturing rainwater to use for irrigation

Integrate Don’t Segregate

When we think of a typical farm or garden, we might imagine a separate chicken coop and individual garden beds. Permaculture aims to harmonize all these separate areas so they can live as one.

‘Food forests’ are a common component of permaculture gardens. They involve trees, herbs, fruits, and vegetables all growing together. Animals like chickens and rabbits are also free to roam in these areas. The idea is that a food forest mimics how foods would grow in the wild. And the animals that roam through offer value by cleaning up fallen fruit and eating bugs. 

What is the Purpose of Horticulture?

Horticulture is the science (and art) of growing and improving plants such as vegetables and flowers for human consumption and sale. The name comes from the Latin words ‘garden’ and ‘culture.’ While permaculture focuses on the land and sustainable lifestyles, horticulture concentrates mainly on the grown product itself.

But that doesn’t mean that horticulture doesn’t still implement some permaculture ideas. The main goal of horticulture is to improve how we grow and use plants to benefit humans. This involves caring for the land as much as possible to protect these plants.

The science of horticulture doesn’t just apply to gardens and farms. Horticulture is also used in landscaping and arboriculture (tree care) too!

Who is the Father of Horticulture?

Horticulture is such a global science that there is no one ‘founder.’ Horticulture, as we know it today, was developed over centuries in many different countries. 

If we look at who has produced the most literature on horticulture, two names come to mind: Liberty Hyde Bailey and M. H. Marigowda.

Liberty Hyde Bailey studied at the Michigan Agricultural College. He later returned to establish the first university horticulture department in the USA. He also created one of the country’s largest preserved plant collections, the Bailey Hortorium. His hundreds of books, essays, and articles on horticulture make him one of the most prominent horticulturalists in North America.

M. H. Marigowda is widely regarded as the father of horticulture in India. Like Bailey, he created horticulture departments in facilities that didn’t exist. He also created the “4-Limbed Model of Horticulture” to guide future generations of horticulturists.

What are the 3 Branches of Horticulture?

There are almost a dozen different divisions of horticulture, but of those, there are three main branches. They are:

  • Olericulture: the production of vegetables
  • Floriculture: the production of flowers and decorative plants
  • Pomology: the production of fruit

These focus areas are heavily entrenched in our everyday lives, so they receive the most study and recognition. Other areas of study include viticulture, which focuses on grape production for wine. Turf management is another horticulture division focusing on maintaining and improving grass for parks and sports. 

How Do You Practice Permaculture?

It takes a few simple changes to turn your backyard garden into a sustainable permaculture haven. 

Instead of relying on the ground soil, you can build raised beds from recycled wood. This will help you control the moisture and the soil type and can lead to better fruit and vegetable production. With raised beds, you can use a hoop extender to keep the plants warm and extend their growing season.

You can also build a water source, like a small fountain or pond. This will attract pollinators like bees and birds. Not only will this help your plants grow, but it will also foster a mini ecosystem by bringing animals and plants together!

If you have space for chickens, you can set up your garden, so the chickens eat from the land. Chickens find nourishment in bugs, sprouts, and food scraps. This eliminates the need to buy chicken feed!

Permaculture vs. Agriculture 

Permaculture and agriculture are opposites in their approach to growing food. Agriculture is the science of growing crops and livestock for human consumption. It mainly refers to the large-scale production of staple crops such as grains. While a typical farm provided solely for the family, today’s farms have been designed to feed thousands of people. 

Of course, with such large-scale production comes issues. To control pests, large-scale farms rely on spraying their crops with chemicals. These chemicals can have adverse effects on animals and the environment. Other agriculture practices like the creation of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are thought to decrease natural biodiversity.

While agriculture shapes and works the land as needed, permaculture takes a more holistic approach by working with the land. 

Agriculture vs. Horticulture 

The main difference between agriculture and horticulture is that horticulture does not deal with animal production. While agriculture focuses solely on growing crops and livestock for human consumption, horticulture deals with edible and non-edible plants

Horticulture is technically a subset of agriculture. The science of horticulture is generally applied on a smaller scale than agriculture. This allows scientists to study cultivation and optimal growing conditions to produce the best product possible. 


The concept of sustainability is an important one. Using plants for our benefit while also taking care of the earth should be something every gardener strives for. In that sense, horticulture and permaculture have many of the same core values.

Permaculture is a method that aims to connect the garden with the surrounding landscape and home to promote a sustainable ecosystem, while Horticulture is the science of growing and improving fruits, vegetables, and plants for commercial purposes.

Horticulture refers to the science of cultivating and growing plants such as fruits, vegetables, and flowers. This science is mainly applied to commercially grown plants.

Permaculture is a methodology that focuses mainly on sustainability and self-sufficiency. The idea is to create an ecosystem where the garden interacts harmoniously with the natural environment, the animals, and the home.