How To Manage Outdoor Hydroponics For Your Vegetable Garden

Hydroponics farming is an effective method for growing different plants where it is not often possible (in basements, rooftops, etc.). The question is whether indoor or outdoor hydroponics will be better?

Many people believe planting crops indoors allows you to control the garden better with an ideal environment. In comparison, others claim that the rapid growth of hydroponics plants must come from natural factors.

Outdoor Hydroponic Growing: Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

Ultimate Growing Light

Growing your hydroponics plants outside the house means enjoying the best light source, the sun, without any cost. You don’t need to worry about the light intensity or quality as the sun enables a full light spectrum.

If sunlight is available as your primary lighting fixture, it allows you to deal with not easy indoor illumination systems. Now you can build long gutters or vertical tower gardens on the sides of sheds.

Extra Working Space

Besides the advantage of quality environmental conditions from the sun, your hydroponic garden will get more outdoor space. This is due to the prominent system and longer-growing crops for an abundant harvest.

You can plant diverse kinds of crops and vegetables simultaneously with such a hydroponic system, for example, outdoor aquaponics. New growers of indoor hydroponics will miss the boat to do this.

Less System Build Expenses

Seasoned hydroponic growers understand how the initial cost for a quality hydroponic system can be extreme. To operate this system indoors, you will need to spend on fans, lighting fixtures, ventilation, etc.

In contrast, you do not have to rely on artificial lighting and barely any ventilation requirement for an outdoor system. All you need to care for is feeding plants with nutrients and let mother nature do its job.

No Manual Pollination Needed

You will need to perform manual pollination for certain crops grown indoors due to the lack of insects for this job. Thus, you have to look for some creative ways to move the pollen for this pollination.

The good news is that many bees will come to your plants and do the work when the right time comes. There is no need to disturb the pollen or brush off the dust on these outdoor hydroponic plants.

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Disadvantages

Extreme Temperature

Air temperature is one of the main downsides of this method since plants absorb more water in warm air. This will increase your system’s EC (Electrical Conductivity) and salt levels; thus, you must add fewer nutrients.

It is good to block the sun for your plants with shade cloth or other means of shading, but it does not help much with this issue. If you plant in a greenhouse, there should be electric fans and vents.

Shorter Growing Process

Planting your crops indoors lets you grow them all year round, but this benefit reduces to a shorter period if you head outside. An outdoor space is likely to limit what you want to grow with one yield.

Wear-Prone System

Many hydroponic systems are built from PVC plastic, and even your water reservoir is also made out of this material. When facing natural elements like UV rays, they tend to degrade and crack soon.

You can consider shielding the system, but it will not be an optimal solution. Later, as you clean your hydroponic system, you may find cracked hoses, leaking joints during the reassembly after cleaning it.

Less Control

An indoor garden offers a hydroponic grower full control of how the environment benefits the plants. Be ready to lose all of this when the farm goes through outdoor conditions, such as no more adequate temperatures.

In case of heavy rainfall in your area, you will need to focus more on the water reservoir. Moreover, rain can flood your hydroponic system, soaking and damaging your crops quickly.

Additionally, outdoor gardening is not the best type of environment to support larger plants. Since they are not grown in soil to have solid footings, you may find large gusts of wind blowing them over.

A Lot Of Pests

While outdoor plants can pollinate naturally, they attract many types of harmful bugs heading to them. This is highly possible as your crops will grow relatively larger than soil-grown ones.

Commercial growers taking care of hydroponics gardens should also be aware of animals, such as birds or rabbits, targeting healthy crops.

The video below shows an easy way for you to incorporate hydroponics into your own garden:

Outdoor Vs. Indoor Hydroponic Growing

Indoor hydroponic growers enjoy having complete control over their environment and avoid encountering issues like air temperatures, pests attacks, shorter growing seasons, or the system being exposed to damages.

See also  Aquaponics vs Hydroponics (The Difference, and Which is Better)

On the other hand, you can reduce a significant amount of cost with an outdoor hydroponic farm. Outdoor growing techniques are more straightforward as mother nature already has the crops covered in ideal conditions.

Neither of these hydroponic systems is the ultimate choice since it also depends on your personal needs and conditions in the area.

But we suggest you go for a hydroponic system outdoors for DIY gardening for easy care and cost-efficiency. Meanwhile, commercial gardeners can’t go wrong with the indoor version for the best outcomes.

Outdoor Growing Tips For Hydroponics Plants

pH Level

In general, the optimal pH level for hydroponic growing ranges from 5.5 to 6. This range creates adequate conditions for many vegetables and fruits to grow well, including apples, squash, beans, melons, etc.

Keep in mind that growing your crops hydroponically will require a lower pH level compared to soil gardening. Regular tomatoes need a 7.0 pH rate, while hydroponic ones grow with more acid at 6.0 to 6.5.

Light

Outdoor grow lights for free are one of the most noticeable benefits you can get in this growing system. Instead of investing in artificial lights or grow lamps, your crops will absorb the best from sunlight.

We advise positioning the hydroponic system in a southern direction that includes a proper shelter. Eventually, you will find your hydroponics vegetable garden thriving at a much faster speed when you received a good amount of sun.

Nutrients

Because your outdoor hydroponic plants require more water during summertime, it is ideal for lowering the EC level in the outdoor growing nutrients to ensure easier water absorption.

The nutrient solution’s EC should be low to medium once your plants grow in a vegetative phase. Ensure the hydroponic nutrient level is lower for a balance of nutrients when plants are flowering or fruiting.

Water

Since water evaporates quicker when growing your crops outdoors, the hydroponic vegetables use up a more significant water amount. That is why your water reservoir for hydroponics has to stay cool in the summer.

Here are some practical methods for you to cool down this reservoir:

  • Fill the tank with cold water (This will alter the overall EC and pH level).
  • Leave the reservoir under a shade, away from intense sunlight.
  • Bury a part of your reservoir for insulation.
  • During high-heat summer days, add some frozen water bottles to help cool it.
  • Purchase a hydroponic water chiller – most optimal but costly.
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Your plant roots might be in danger if you ever leave the reservoir empty. You can set up a float valve to trigger when it detects a low water level, then add fresh nutrient solutions directly to avoid the issue.

Temperature

From early in the summer, your hydroponic plants will certainly need some extra humic acid and liquid kelp in the nutrient solution. They help the plants be more heat-tolerant and well-prepared for hot days ahead.

The best ratio to kelp humic acid is 5:2, enabling root and root mass growth for better water absorption. Extra nutrients boost your plants to protect themselves from damages caused by heat and light stress.

These steps should best be taken preventatively late in the spring before your plants start to encounter actual stress. This is how you ensure the planting process is successful and safe during summer.

Pests

If you choose to do outdoor backyard hydroponics, there is a high chance you need to handle many pests. You can consider growing other plants around your crops and hope pests attack them instead.

Specialized detergents are available to treat animals and critters that munch on your plants. We recommend using insecticidal soaps and natural pest sprays to eliminate insects for safe outdoor gardening.

Make sure your hydroponic plants are strong and healthy to be safe from such pests. All-purpose fertilizers that are all-around with a higher potassium ratio compared to nitrogen are ideal for fighting fungi.

Also, you should increase their calcium intake to stimulate plant cells to get stronger, resisting undesired temperatures. The healthier the plants get, the more nutrients they provide through fantastic tastes.

Conclusion

The shortcomings of allowing your hydroponic farm to thrive in an artificial environment are what you can take advantage of if growing plants outdoors and vice versa. It is up to you to opt for which one.

We hope this article can provide helpful information about outdoor hydroponics for your next planting decision. There are obvious risks, but the price of outdoor gardening will amaze you with its potential.

Thank you for reading.

How To Manage Outdoor Hydroponics For Your Vegetable Garden
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Jill Sandy

I am a sustainable focus gardener. I love decorating my home backyard with beautiful landscape design and creative garden care techniques I develop myself.