Outdoor hydroponics is a unique way to garden. By suspending plants in water, you’re able to use 1/10th of the amount of water that you would use with traditional gardening.
Outdoor hydroponics have many advantages over indoor hydroponics. You don’t have to set up a light source, you don’t have to pollinate by hand, and the natural breeze helps strengthen your plants.
There are three main types of outdoor hydroponic systems: vertical, aquaponic, and simplified.
Let’s talk about outdoor hydroponics in more detail. By the end of this article you’ll have a great understanding of outdoor hydroponics!
What is Outdoor Hydroponics?
Outdoor hydroponics is the process of growing plants outdoors using a hydroponics system. This grows plants suspended in water rather than in soil. Outdoor hydroponics gardens utilize natural light and pollination. However, they pose unique challenges like maintaining the ideal water temperature.
Outdoor vs Indoor Hydroponics
Outdoor hydroponics utilize nature such as sunlight, pollination, and wind to help the garden thrive. Indoor hydroponics need an artificial light source and hand-pollination, however, it’s easier to control their environment.
Pros and Cons of Outdoor Hydroponics
There are lots of pros and cons of outdoor hydroponics compared to indoor systems. Let’s discuss some of the major pros and cons so you have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into when starting a hydroponic garden in an outdoor space.
The Pros of Outdoor Hydroponic Gardening
There’s a reason so many people choose an outdoor setup instead of indoor gardens.
Great light source.
Photosynthesis is how plants produce energy using carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. While you need fancy light setups for indoor hydroponics, outdoor hydroponics already have a great light source- the sun!
Easier to pollinate.
Pollination is how nature reproduces plants. Flowers produce pollen, which is then transferred to the stigma. This produces fruit and seeds.
Some female plants need pollen from a male plant. Others can self-pollinate with just a little breeze. Lastly, some plants have both female and male flowers on the same plant.
Insects and the wind will handle pollination for you when you’re growing outdoors, as opposed to having to pollinate by hand in an indoor system.
Easier water change reuse and management.
One method for water management is the water culture method. This is when the roots are held by a medium and the plants float on top of the nutrients and hydroponic water.
A wick system is the simplest hydroponic setup. Plants grow in a tray on the top of the water.
Ebb and flow systems use a pump and timer to add water and nutrients to the growing medium. Then it all drains away.
Drip systems use a hose to drip water and nutrients into the growing medium.
Lower startup cost compared to indoors.
Outdoor hydroponic systems cost less than indoor hydroponic systems because less equipment is required.
All you need is the plants, hydroponic nutrients, water, growing medium, and the setup.
Meanwhile, indoor hydroponics systems need expensive lights which can run for hundreds of dollars or more.
They also take more time (which equals money!) because you have to pollinate them by hand.
More available working space.
When you’re working with an indoor hydroponics system, you’re likely crammed in your kitchen or garage. Meanwhile, you have a whole backyard to grow edible plants when you work outdoors.
Even if you’re just setting up your outdoor hydroponic plants on a balcony, you’ll still have more room than if you have a complex garden inside.
Great for Aquaponics
Aquaponics are an incredible invention that dirt gardens can’t utilize. Aquaponics combines hydroponic plants with aquaculture. The fish provide nutrients instead of using a nutrient solution. Outdoor hydroponics are the perfect place to utilize aquaponics.
The Drawbacks of Outdoor Hydroponic Gardening
Despite all of these pro’s, there are still some drawbacks of outdoor hydroponic gardening.
There are a few seasonal limitations when you use an outdoor hydroponics system.
- Heat and Hot weather
It’s important to use cold water in your outdoor hydroponics garden. Hot weather will quickly heat up your water. In addition, some crops are cool weather crops and can’t withstand the heat.
- Cold weather (Can’t grow in winter in many areas)
Even cool weather crops can’t handle the winter in many parts of the country. Indoor hydroponics gardens don’t run into this problem because you can control your indoor temperature.
More wear and tear on the hydroponic system
Rain, heavy storms, and wind all produce more wear and tear on your outdoor system. Indoor hydroponic systems are in a safe environment.
No environmental control
You can’t control the temperature or amount of light that your outdoor hydroponics system experiences. Light and temperature will differ from season to season. During the summer months your plants may even get excess light.
With indoor systems you can control nearly every aspect of the environment.
You’ll run into pests with any kind of outdoor gardening. You may need to put up a net or mesh fence around your system to keep pests away. Other methods include planting big plants around your garden and strengthening your crops.
Lack of discretion
If you’re looking to grow plants that require more privacy, such as cannabis, you may opt for an indoor space instead of an outdoor space.
Different Types of Outdoor Hydroponic Systems
There are three different types of outdoor hydroponic systems.
Vertical Hydroponic Systems
Vertical hydroponic systems save a lot of space because they’re set up vertically instead of horizontally. You can grow more plants vertically than you can horizontally.
Vertical hydroponic systems are popular among people who are limited in space, such as if you’re growing on a balcony.
Outdoor Aquaponics Systems
Outdoor aquaponics systems combine hydroponics and fish farming. They use the minerals excreted by the fish as plant food.
The major pro of aquaponics systems is that you’re growing both fish and edible plants, hence producing more food. You also don’t need to use fertilizer.
Simplified Outdoor Systems
Simplified outdoor systems don’t utilize any mechanical equipment. You manually circulate and aerate the garden.
Flood and drain systems and floating bed systems are a good example of simplified outdoor systems.
Outdoor Hydroponics Tips For Maximum Yields
Here are some tips for maximum yields.
Build Your Hydroponic System in the Sun
One of the best parts of growing hydroponics outdoors is the light from the sun. Sunlight will always be better than artificial light sources.
Pick a spot that has a good combination of exposure and shelter. You can tailor where you place your system based on what crops you’d like to grow.
Help Your Plants Handle the Heat
Adding humic acid and liquid kelp to your garden’s nutrient solution will help your plants tolerate excessive heat in the summer.
The extra nutrients help your plants avoid cell damage from excess heat and direct UV light.
Add these nutrients in the late spring to prepare your plants for the summer heat.
Keep Your Water Cool
Here are some ways to keep your water cool outdoors:
1. Buy a water chiller.
2. Place frozen water bottles in your system.
3. Put your reservoir in the shade.
4. Add cool water.
Lower Your EC Electrical Conductivity
Lowering your EC will allow your plants to absorb water more easily on hot days.
Look out for nutrient burn as a sign that you need to lower your EC.
Ensure Proper Air Movement
Natural air flow helps keep the stomata of your plants open (your plants’ pores). This makes sure that your plants get enough carbon dioxide and are able to release water and oxygen.
Breeze helps your plants remove excess vapor and helps them keep cool. But too much wind can be detrimental. Therefore, try to choose a spot with both good airflow and wind protection.
Keep Pests Away
One great way to keep your garden safe is to grow larger plants around your system so pests will attack those plants first.
The stronger your plants are, the more resistant they will be to pests.
Lastly, consider a fence or netting to keep pests out.
Use The Best Type of Hydroponic System
Flood and drain, aeroponic, and top feed systems are all the best kinds of hydroponic systems. Deep water culture systems won’t do well outdoors because of how much the temperature fluctuates.
Outdoor Hydroponic FAQs
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about outdoor hydroponics.
- Does Rain Affect Outdoor Hydroponics?
Rain changes the nutrient levels, EC, pH, and water of your outdoor hydroponics system.
- Which Plants Grow Best in an Outdoor Hydroponic Garden?
Herbs, peppers, strawberries, spinach, and lettuce all thrive in an outdoor hydroponic garden.
- Is rainwater good for hydroponics?
Rainwater is good for hydroponics once it’s been filtered.
- Does hydroponics need direct sunlight?
Indoor hydroponic systems can use artificial light, but outdoor hydroponic systems utilize direct and indirect sunlight.
Outdoor hydroponic systems are a unique way to grow your crops. Once you get your system set up, it’s very easy to maintain. You’ll enjoy the high yields and low maintenance of outdoor hydroponic gardening. It’s also better for the environment because it uses less water than traditional gardening.