Gardening vs. Landscaping: 5 Fundamental Differences

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Are gardening and landscaping the same thing? I have often wondered this, but never really took the time to determine the answer. I should have, though, because I spend a lot of time in my garden and it would be nice to know if what I do is called gardening or landscaping. 

Do you know the answer to this question? Are your gardening efforts actually landscaping? I have been giving this a lot of thought lately, so I thought I would share my findings with you. 

5 Differences Between Gardening and Landscaping

1. Definition:The activity of tending and cultivating a garden …Process of making a garden or other piece of land more attractive …
2. Main Focus:Growing gardens and plants (mainly as a pastime).Design and construction of spaces (which often involve gardens).
3. Who can practice it?Gardeners, or anyone interested in plants and gardens.Landscapers, who usually are licensed professionals.
4. Purpose:For food security, to reduce carbon footprint, to pass the time, for health reasons, among others.To increase the curb appeal, aesthetics, and value of a property.
5. Skills required:Composting, sunlight tracking, seed harvesting and saving, propagation techniques, watering methods, to name a few. Ability to draw up garden plans, management and organizational skills, tool and equipment operating knowledge, business skills, among others.

Many people think (much like I did for many years) that the words “gardening” and “landscaping” are terms that are interchangeable, but after learning what I have about both practices, I am aware that they are not. In fact, they are far from being the same.

If you would like to know how gardening and landscaping differ in terms of definition, their main focus, the practice, purpose, and skills required; I encourage you to read on. Below I go into a bit more detail on each point, which may put things into a better perspective for you.

5 Differences Between Gardening and Landscaping Explained

Landscaping and gardening; what are they and how are they different? I am glad that I finally did the research! Are you ready to investigate the 5 main differences between gardening and landscaping? Great – get ready to learn everything you need to know.

1. Definition.

If you take the time to look up the official definitions of the terms “gardening” and “landscaping”, the difference might become immediately clear to you.  

What is gardening? 

Generally speaking, gardening is an activity where plants are grown and nurtured. The plants can range from just one plant to an extensive garden featuring many plants. Gardening involves planting, growing, and caring for these plants. They can be planted in the soil or in pots. You can garden in your backyard or on your balcony, making it a versatile practice. 

The Oxford English Dictionary quite aptly defines “gardening” as follows: 

“the activity of tending and cultivating a garden, especially as a pastime”. 

Gardening by Lexico – Powered by Oxford

What is landscaping? 

Landscaping is quite different in that it is more of a professional practice than gardening, and involves the designing and constructing of a garden, including various items from plants to sculptures. Landscaping is more of an art and architectural form. Landscaping is focused on aesthetics increasing property value and involves far more than gardening tasks. 

The Oxford English Dictionary also has an accurate definition for the term “landscaping” as follows: 

“the process of making a garden or other piece of land more attractive by altering the existing design, adding ornamental features, and planting trees and shrubs”.

Landscaping by Lexico – Powered by Oxford 

2. Main Focus.

This particular difference is what truly drove the message home to me. I consider myself a gardener because I only deal with plants in my garden. And that is really what gardening is all about – the plants (and of course my stress relief and happiness). 

Gardening is a practice that focuses on the plants. It can involve the use of very basic design skills so that plants are correctly placed and look good, but that is as far as it goes. My main focus is on plants, plants, and more plants. Of course, my main dedication is also doing whatever I can to keep those plants in the best possible condition. 

Landscaping is quite different as it involves the design and construction of garden spaces. It does not just focus on plants. In fact, plants are only part of the items that are included in the landscaped space. A landscaper has a variety of focuses, and the plants are not necessarily the most important. The additional items that a landscaper includes in the space are water features, sculptures, gazebos, ponds, outdoor furniture, pathways, and various other structures that might be aesthetically pleasing. 

3. Who can practice it? 

When I refer to who practices landscaping and gardening, I am referring to who practices gardening and who practices landscaping. Is there a difference? Is it just anyone that practices these two arts, or is it particular people with specific qualifications and backgrounds that get actively involved?

The good news about gardening is that anyone can do it. You can even offer it as a professional service and charge for it without needing a license. This is why I am able to tend to my garden and offer gardening advice to others unhindered. 

On the other hand, landscaping is typically not practiced by the average person. Licensed professionals provide services in many states across the USA. Some states require landscapers to have a license, and others don’t. Most people study to become a landscaper because there is a great deal of construction and architecture work involved. 

Of course, there is nothing to say that you cannot landscape your own private garden. This is just not the norm as most people who want a landscaped garden will hire a professional company or individual landscaper to carry out the tasks for them. 

4. Purpose.

When I was initially trying to figure out what the differences are between gardening and landscaping, someone mentioned to me that the purpose or intended purpose of each practice is quite different. I found this interesting and highly relevant when making a comparison between the two practices.

This got me thinking about why people garden. The answer can be different for everyone, but I found the most common reasons and purposes included the following:

  • for food security,
  • to enhance the appeal of the backyard,
  • to reduce carbon footprints,
  • to give back to nature (provide a home for bugs, insects, and birds),
  • for convenience (no need to go to the store),
  • to pass the time (as a hobby),
  • to quell a fascination with plants,
  • for health reasons (to avoid chemicals and GMO products), and
  • as a family bonding activity. 

All the above reasons are actually why I love to garden as much as I do. Nothing can quite beat the satisfaction of growing, harvesting, and finally eating the fruits and vegetables in your garden – I know this first hand.

When it comes to the reason and purpose of landscaping, things are quite different. People do landscaping in order to achieve a specific end result. When it comes to the practice of landscaping, the garden space is purpose-built, and it does not include most of the reasons why people garden. People landscape:

  • to increase the curb appeal and value of their property,
  • to create a functional and appealing space to socialize and relax in, and
  • for image or prestige reasons. 

5. Skills required. 

As a gardener myself, I cannot say that there are no skills required in gardening. I started out with minimal skills in the art, and I have developed many along the way. The fact of the matter is, however, that I did not need to study a course. I found most of my inspiration and information online, and a lot of what I learned was through hands-on experience and, of course, trial and error. 

To garden, you need to have the following skills, which are easy to master with time:

  • understanding analysis results,
  • composting,
  • sunlight tracking,
  • seed harvesting and saving,
  • propagation techniques,
  • watering methods,
  • transplanting techniques,
  • mulching,
  • time management,
  • problem-solving, and so on. 

When it comes to landscaping, the skills required are more precise than with gardening. As most landscapers have studied a course and have hands-on experience in the professional world, their skills will be more fine-tuned than the average home gardener

It is safe to say that the skills required for landscaping are extensive; these include: 

  • creativity,
  • ability to draw up garden plans,
  • management and organizational skills,
  • tool and equipment operating knowledge,
  • business skills,
  • equipment maintenance and troubleshooting,
  • lawn maintenance,
  • pest management, and
  • precise attention to detail, to name a few. 

Last Word

To me, it is quite obvious that the differences between gardening and landscaping come down to the actual purpose of the practice in the first place. While I would love a beautifully landscaped garden, I have no desire to create one myself. I would rather spend my time collecting seeds, growing plants, and nurturing them. That places me firmly into the category of a gardener and not a landscaper. 

Now that you know the differences between gardening and landscaping, which one do you think is for you? 

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.