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Outdoor Hydroponics: Tips, Pros and Cons and the Best Set-Up and Plants
Over the last few years, most people have developed an interest in growing their food. Most people now want ‘healthy’ food grown with mindful, sustainable farming practices. They also want food that’s free from pesticide deposits. As a result, most people opt to produce their food, and many prefer hydroponics to achieve the objective.
If you want to venture into hydroponics, it would be sensible first to understand the crucial concepts of producing plants hydroponically. In today’s post, you will get all the information you need regarding hydroponics. So, read on and learn more about outdoor hydroponics in this article.
Table of Contents
What Is Outdoor Hydroponics?
Before you begin investing your money into this project, it is wise to figure out precisely what outdoor hydroponics are so you know what you are investing in. Merely put, hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. It entails using a mineral-based nutrient solution that gives plants everything they require to grow. Instead of using soil, hydroponics may use one of the following hydroponics mediums:
- Peat moss
- Clay pellets
The concept of this process is that because the plant’s roots will directly come into contact with the required nutrients for growth, the plant will concentrate more on growth and producing fruits instead of expanding its roots in search of necessary nutrients.
Most plants grow perfectly hydroponically. Some plants that do well under a hydroponic system include lettuce, greens, herbs, strawberries, and peppers. The general rule of thumb is to evade plants that grow tall, such as corn. Also, stay away from plants with deep taproots like potatoes and plants that grow in a vining environment.
What’s The Difference between Normal Hydroponics?
The outdoor versus normal hydroponics debate seems intense as most growers are undecided about the best one. But what differences do the two have? Let’s figure out below:
Installing, operating, and cleaning it is seamless
It gives you more control over the growing cycles and the whole system
It is easy to monitor nutrient levels and balance pH and EC
It functions well with most types of hydroponic growing mechanisms
It needs little adjusting and monitoring
It leads to little evaporation
It does not require costly fans and lights
It uses nature and gives plants a valuable semi-organic environment
Most crops don’t need manual pollination
It is not suitable for all types of hydroponic growing mechanisms
It functions with little timers
It demands close adjusting and monitoring during hot temperatures
It results in high evaporation levels
Pros of Outdoor Hydroponics
Some benefits that you will enjoy from outdoor hydroponics include:
The main advantage of outdoor hydroponics is that it exposes plants to the natural environment. Remember, plants do well naturally, even if you don’t plant them in soil.
The lighting outside is free and completely organic. This light is healthier than the artificial lights you find in typical hydroponic systems.
Less Power Consumption
The outdoor hydroponic system is capable of functioning without expensive lights and fans. With this, you will use little electricity and lessen power bills in the process.
Unlike indoor hydroponic systems that occasionally need manual pollination, natural elements, such as wind, birds, bees, and other plants, will help pollinate plants growing outdoors.
Outdoor offers plenty of space, while light ballasts and ceilings in indoor hydroponics limit the space needed for plant growth.
Cons of Outdoor Hydroponics
Despite the benefits mentioned above, outdoor hydroponics has some cons. They include:
Less Control of the Environment
Controlling some factors, such as heat, rain, and wind is pretty hard outdoors compared to indoor setups.
Wear and Tear
Continuous exposure to excess rain, heat, and wind makes the system wear and tear. Sooner or later, it breaks down faster than indoor hydroponics.
Based on the type of system, including size, an outdoor hydroponic may need more tools than indoor setups, which translates to additional expenses.
Plenty of Pests to Control
Outdoor hydroponics are susceptible to pests, and the damage affects the plants.
Tips for The Best Yield with Outdoor Hydroponics
Outdoor hydroponics offers you the ideal balance of water and nutrients. Also, the plants will grow much quicker and better than in soil gardens in the summer because there is adequate sunlight. Here are the tips you can incorporate to make your plants offer optimal yields and perform exceedingly.
It’s hard to find lighting that’s as beneficial as natural lighting. You will get massive plant yields if your outdoor hydroponics setup is in direct sunlight. Utilizing sunlight for your system instead of outdoor grow lights lets you save a few dollars that would otherwise go into maintaining the system.
Keep the Water Cool
Due to the high evaporation rate, plants growing outdoors will use more water than those grown indoors. For this reason, it’s sensible to keep the hydroponic water reservoir cool during the summer. You can keep the reservoir cool by following these tips:
- Position the tank in a shady area that’s away from direct sunlight
- Add some cold water to the tank, but remember this changes EC and pH
- Include frozen bottles of water during the scorchy days to keep the tank cool
- Insulate the reservoir by burying it partially
- Buy water chillers for hydroponics (It’s costly but effective)
Remember, always ensure the reservoir has water to keep the plants alive. You can install a float valve that triggers water flow when it’s low to prevent water from running out abruptly.
Decrease EC (Electrical Conductivity)
It would help to lower EC for the nutrient solution during hot summer periods because plants will require a lot of water. Decreasing the amount of nutrients makes the plants absorb water quickly. Also, if the plants are in the vegetative growth phase, consider setting the EC to low-to-medium to boost growth. What’s more, if the plants are in the flowering and fruiting stage and have some browning, you should lower EC to prevent nutrient burn.
Ensure Perfect Air Flow
The natural breeze found outdoors ensures that the leaves’ pores open quickly. With this, there will be adequate amounts of carbon dioxide being absorbed. Also, plants will release the evaporating oxygen and water correctly and promptly. The perfect breeze will also eliminate any vapor from the plants’ leaves, which assists in keeping the plants cool on hot days.
Assist the Plants Endure the Heat
During the initial summer days, it’s wise to add some humic acid or liquid kelp to the nutrient solution. This boosts the plants’ endurance to extreme heat, preparing them for looming hot summer days.
Keep the Pests Away
If you opt for outdoor hydroponics, you will undoubtedly have to deal with some pests. The best practice to control them is to grow some plants around the system, hoping that pests will prefer these plants over hydroponic ones. Still, you can use insecticidal soaps and natural pest sprays to fight these pests. To guarantee high yields, you need to ensure the plants are as strong and healthy as possible. Natural pest control mechanisms you can utilize to keep your plants as organic as possible include spraying them with lemon juice and white vinegar. You can also sprinkle some cinnamon on leaves.
Outdoor Hydroponics Vs Planting in Soil Outside
Outdoor hydroponics has not been around for centuries, unlike soil farming. But is outdoor hydroponic the best option for food security and sustainable agriculture? Debating outdoor hydroponics versus traditional farming can be an antagonistic question. Like any good question, it has a divided opinion, with enthusiasts on the two sides of the fence.
Well, there’s no correct or wrong answer, and eventually, whether hydroponic or soil farming is perfect for you comes down to your preference, budget, location, objectives, and much more. This section will assess the two and see how they compare across several aspects like yields, the investment required, inputs, and a lot more.
Why Pick Hydroponics Over Soil?
- Saves time
- Saves Space
- Saves money
- less disease, weeds, and pests
- Quick growing plants
- Builds hyper-local food systems
- High yields
Hydroponics vs Soil: Picking the Best Option
While there are plenty of benefits related to hydroponics, it might not be the ideal solution for all farmers. In some situations, soil farming might be the route to go. Soil farming suits you if:
- You are a beginner gardener
- You are a hobbyist
- You need to be 100% organic
- Which Outdoor Hydroponics Are the Most Successful Outdoors?
Although you can use all types of hydroponic systems outdoors, choosing top feed, aeroponic systems, and ebb and flow systems is advisable. Keep off a deep-water culture system due to the outdoor temperature fluctuations that you cannot regulate and may damage plants.
It is recommended to line your hydroponic system and water reservoir with a reflective, insulating material to secure the water, plant roots, and other components against extreme exposure to direct sunlight. It also protects them against sudden temperature changes.
Additionally, remember your plants will grow bigger and quicker outdoors. Thus, you should provide water and some nutrients promptly.
Top Feed System
This system is ideal for a large commercial or small home-based hydroponic setup. The method lets you control the entire system via a top drip system. The good thing about this system is that it’s a wonderful option for many herbs and plants.
In this hydroponic gardening method, the plants’ roots are misted with a nutrient solution and suspended in the air. Misting is done with either a pond fogger or fine spray nozzle. This system suits individuals who are new to this type of farming as it comprises all the things you need.
Ebb & Flow System
Also regarded as the flood and drain system, this method involves flooding the area you wish to grow the plants with some nutrient solution at specific intervals. Gradually, the nutrient solution will drain back into the reservoir.
Want to know more about hydroponic systems?
How to Deal with Outdoor Pests
First, you need to examine the plants daily and eliminate all pests you come across. If you realize some damages to the plants but you cannot find the source, there are a couple of natural pesticides you can utilize to guarantee the plant’s safety. For instance, you can use the following ingredients to make a home-based pest spray:
- Tomato leaves
Keep in mind that, like any pesticide you may buy in the market, you should monitor your DIY pesticide effects on your plants and its capability to secure your plants.
Best Plants for Outdoor Hydroponics
All plants that grow on soil can be produced hydroponically. For novices, it’s recommended to begin with the plants that don’t necessitate a lot of maintenance and grow fast. At first, you should keep off plants that demand a long list of nutrients if it’s your first time.
Fast-growing plants helps you identify whether your outdoor hydroponic system is functioning correctly. Therefore, consider planting easily maintained plants as it assists you put more efforts on learning how outdoor hydroponics work. Some of the plants you may consider growing include:
- Herbs (mint, parsley, and basil)
- Greens (spinach, kale, and lettuce)
Related: best plants for hydroponics
Ensure you are growing plants that suit your area’s climate and season as you utilize the outdoor hydroponic setup. After understanding the basics, you can transition to a more extensive outdoor setup, several different plants, and complicated plants. If you use a single reservoir, consider growing plants that need similar nutrients.
Best Set-Ups for Outdoor Hydroponics
Although there is no a single method for setting up outdoor hydroponics, there are some useful tips to consider when planning for one. Here are the factors to consider when setting up an outdoor hydroponic:
- Location: Does it have sufficient shade, sun, or air?
- Water source: How far will you need to pump or carry water?
- System’s size: How many plants do you wish to plant?
- The process of cleaning the system
- The cost of running the system
Is Rain Bad for Your Hydroponic Garden?
The straightforward answer is yes. Rain alters water nutrient levels, EC, and pH. It also adjusts the temperature of water in the reservoir and the crucial temperatures of the plants and their root systems. In the worst-case scenario, the plants may break or blend based on the rainfall’s intensity. The plants’ fruits and buds may be killed or damaged. Therefore, if you have an outdoor hydroponic system, remember to closely check weather updates and take immediate actions to protect your plants.
Your Hydroponic Garden in Hot Weather
Hot weather impacts two sections of the hydroponic system; it affects the nutrient solution and air temperature. In the two scenarios, you should maintain the recommended temperatures. An exceedingly warm nutrient solution holds little oxygen, and it may cause the roots to rot or spread diseases.
So, during hot weather, plants should absorb plenty of water, and it’s recommended to lower the EC strength of the nutrient solution to make this happen. Also, you can shade the plants with a piece of cloth to secure them against high temperatures.
Your Hydroponic Garden in Cool Weather
In most places, outdoor hydroponic systems cannot work during the cold-weather season unless you provide a heated greenhouse. However, you can still go ahead with your project in areas that don’t freeze a lot.
Summary: Why Opt for An Outside Hydroponics Garden?
Outdoor hydroponic is a distinctive hobby that lets you grow healthy fruits and veggies. It’s also ideal for poverty-stricken regions where individuals are starving due to scarce agricultural lands and water. Although outdoor hydroponics looks counterintuitive, the plants you grow on this system will have high yields and enjoy plenty of benefits. You only need to examine the cons you may encounter along the way. Being aware of the hurdles lets you stay ahead of time and witness a smooth season.