Gardening is the craft of growing plants for food and beauty, in and about one's household or domicile. It is distinguished from farming chiefly by scale and intent. Farming occurs on a larger scale, and with the production of saleable goods as a major motivation. Gardening is done on a smaller scale, primarily for pleasure and to produce goods for the gardener's own family or community. There is some overlap between the terms, particularly in that some moderate sized vegetable growing concerns can fit in either category.
Vegetables, fruits, herbs, shrubs, grasses, and flowers are all grown in gardens—sometimes in the same gardens, but often separately. Fruit and nut trees are more commonly considered to form an orchard, though they are somtimes an adjunct to a garden.
When all are grown together with native species, the combination is sometimes called a wild garden. These are embedded in some pre-existing natural ecology that is not damaged but rather enhanced by the process of cultivation[?]. As in other forms of gardening, aesthetics plays a central role in deciding what is 'right', but constraints apply. Wild gardens are by definition examples of water-wise gardening, as the natural species of any ecoregion or micro-climate[?] are those optimal for local water supplies.
The key distinction between fruit and vegetable gardening and farming is essentially one of scale: gardening can be a hobby or an income supplement, but farming is generally understood as a full-time or commercial activity, usually involving more land and quite different practices. The key distinction is that gardening is labor-intensive[?] and employs very little infrastructural capital, typically no more than a few tools, e.g. a spade[?], hoe[?], basket[?] and watering can[?]. By contrast, larger-scale farming often involves irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers and harvesters[?] or at least ladders, e.g. to reach up into fruit trees.
In part because of labor intensivity and aesthetic motivations, gardening is very often much more productive per unit of land than farming. In the Soviet Union, half the food supply[?] came from small peasants' garden plots on the huge government-run collective farms[?], although they were tiny patches of land. Some argue this as evidence of superiority of capitalism, since the peasants were generally able to sell their produce. Others consider it to be evidence of a tragedy of the commons, since the large collective plots were often neglected, or fertilizers or water redirected to the private gardens.
The term precision agriculture is sometimes used to describe such economically viable forms of gardening using intermediate technology (more than tools, less than harvesters), especially of organic varieties. Gardening is effectively scaled up to feed entire villages of over 100 people from specialized plots. A variant is the community garden[?] which offers plots to urban dwellers. See also allotment (gardening).
A roof garden[?] is any garden on the roof of a building, often an autonomous building that takes care of its own water and waste. The related idea of a living machine[?] is based on the most basic mode of gardening: dumping wastes (compost and sewage, appropriately broken down, usually in some specialized ditch or container) on the soil, and harvesting food which, when processed, generates compost, and when eaten, generates sewage. In most of the world, this kind of very tight closed loop gardening is employed, despite certain health risks if modern technologies and methods are not employed.
In China, for instance, farmers regularly set up outhouses[?] on the roads to attract tourists to use them, furnishing the farmers with "night soil" (biosolids[?]) and food for pigs, who are fed primarily on human sewage. These methods make excellent use of calories and minerals and water, but of course violate the aesthetics of most Westerners, who would balk at using stranger's human wastes on their own gardens or feeding them to domestic animals. There is thus some conflict between gardening for personal or aesthetic reasons, and for practical food-raising, even for one household.
The living wall[?] is an unusual variant of a living machine[?] and is effectively a vertical garden: water dripping down feeds a surface growing with moss and vines, other plants, some insects and bacteria, and captured at the bottom in a pool or pond to be recirculated to the top. One is sometimes built indoors to help cure sick building syndrome[?] or otherwise increase the oxygen levels in recirculated air[?]. Other indoor gardens[?] are incorporated as part of air conditioning or heating[?] systems.
Gardening is considered to be an absolutely essential art in most cultures. In Japan, for instance, Samurai and Zen monks[?] were often required to build decorative gardens or practice related skills like flower arrangement[?].
In modern Europe and North America, people often express their political or social views in gardens, intentionally or not. The Green parties and Greenpeace often advise their campaigners to call first on homeowners who have lush chaotic wild gardens, as these are deemed to be more likely than those with Astro-turf[?] or bluegrass lawns to respond to the Greens' political message. No reliable statistics support such claims, but for many years, in the United States, there was a widespread belief that there was such a thing as a Republican lawn[?] and Democratic lawn[?].
The lawn[?] vs. garden issue is played out in urban planning as the debate over the "land ethic" that is to determine urban land use[?] and whether hyperhygienist, e.g. weed control, bylaws[?] should apply, or whether land should generally be allowed to exist in its natural wild state. In a famous Canadian Charter of Rights case, "Sandra Bell vs. City of Toronto[?]", 1997, the right to cultivate all native species, even most varieties deemed noxious or allergenic, was upheld as part of the right of free expression[?], at least in Canada.
Gardening is thus not only an essential food source and art, but also - a right. The Slow Food movement has sought in some countries to add an edible schoolyard[?] and garden classrooms[?] to schools, e.g. in Fergus, Ontario[?], where these were added to a public school to augment the kitchen classroom[?].
In U.S. usage the care, installation, and maintenance of ornamental plantings in and around commercial and institutional buildings is called landscape maintenance or groundskeeping, while international usage uses the term gardening for these same activities.