Outdoor Hydroponics what You Need to Know
Starting an outdoor hydroponic garden is not always easy, but it is achievable with the right tools and knowledge. A lot goes into creating one, and while success depends on the systems and plants you choose, there are several guiding factors to success.
This article features 8 things you should know about outdoor hydroponics, all essential for success.
- There are three major outdoor hydroponics systems namely, the Kratky Method, the Wicking Method, and the Ebb and Flow Method.
- Some of the plants that do well with outdoor hydroponics include vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, and herbs such as basil.
- Like indoor hydroponics, temperature, pH, humidity, water quality, and light affect production.
Things You Should Know About Outdoor Hydroponics
1. Outdoor Hydroponic Systems
Several hydroponic systems are suitable to use outdoors, but your choice will depend on your expertise, budget, and space.
The Kratky Method
This is the best system to adopt for complete beginners in hydroponics. In this system, the water and the plants are in direct contact all through .
It requires the least amount of materials to put together and is one of the lowest maintenance options available. It is suitable for growing herbs, lettuce, and spinach.
The Wicking Method
This system is fairly suitable for beginners as far as using it and maintaining it goes. However, the setup is quite intricate and may require you to get help. In this system, wicks are used to send water to plants from a reservoir .
Some of the plants you can grow in this system are microgreens, tomatoes, and pepper. These do not require a lot of water to grow and can thrive in this model.
The Ebb and Flow Method
This outdoor hydroponic system is ideal for intermediate and experienced growers. The system consists of a reservoir, a submersible pump, and a timer. The setup is complex and can be expensive; however, it is one of the most versatile outdoor options.
It allows you to remove some plants from the garden without disrupting others. Additionally, this system works well with any type of plant, making it the best for establishing a long-term garden.
2. Plant Choice
Generally, most hydroponic systems will accommodate most plants; however, extensive root systems are not suitable. Some plants that do well hydroponically are herbs, greens such as lettuce and spinach, and vegetables such as carrots.
Some of the plants you should avoid are potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, and other root vegetables.
3. Temperature Control
Setting up an outdoor hydroponic garden means you will need to control the temperatures constantly. The weather can get unpredictable; therefore, you need to equip your plants to handle the heat.
You can do this by adding calcium and humic acid to your solution. These nutrients strengthen your plants’ cells, increasing their ability to manage heat changes. Controlling the heat can be challenging, but with strong, nourished plants, you do not have to worry about heat changes.
4. Monitoring pH
Most beginners in outdoor hydroponics often forget to consider pH, while it is an essential part of running a hydroponic system. Abrupt changes in pH will alter the alkalinity and acidity of your water, directly affecting the growth of the plants.
Ultimately, unstable pH affects nutrient viability starving your plants of essential nutrients for growth. Make sure the pH remains between 5.5 to 6.5 to ensure balanced levels for optimal growth.
5. Pest Control
Outdoor hydroponic gardens are prone to pest infestations. You can protect your plants by having supplemental ones around them. Also, you can make use of sprays that will deter pests from your plants.
The best way to control pests is to ensure your plants are strong all around. This is why it is essential to monitor nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels to ensure a healthy ratio for plant growth.
It is important to note that these levels can increase or decrease depending on the stages of the plants. For example, the vegetative stage of most plants requires more nitrogen, while the fruiting stages of some plants need higher phosphorus and potassium.
6. Electrical Conductivity
Like pH, electrical conductivity is an essential part of running a hydroponic system. Electrical conductivity is an indicator of the salts to water ratio. Most nutrients are made up of salts; therefore, the higher the electrical conductivity, the more nutrients are available for the plants .
You need to monitor electrical conductivity to ensure your plants are getting the right levels of nutrients in different seasons. For example, it would be best to lower the electrical conductivity to help meet the plants’ demand for water during the summer.
7. System Maintenance
Having a hydroponic garden outdoors means that it is prone to more wear and tear than one indoors. This is one of the downsides of having an outdoor system, as it needs regular repairs and replacements.
It can be challenging to keep up with maintenance with weather elements, but setting some parts of the system under a shade can be helpful. You can run regular system inspections, paying attention to exposed parts to ensure timely repairs or replacements.
8. Managing Time
One of the misconceptions of hydroponics is that it does not require a lot of time to manage. While the time required is not as much as a regular garden, you still need to pay attention to the plants from start to finish.
Unlike regular plants growing in soil, hydroponic plants need daily assessment and attention. You need to check the water, monitor the nutrient solutions, and keep an eye on the system’s functionality at all times.
As time-consuming as it seems, outdoor hydroponics has many benefits that beat the time you spend tending to the system. With a schedule, you can comfortably keep track of your plants’ progress and make necessary changes on time.
The Bottom Line
Generally, starting an outdoor hydroponic garden is an excellent approach to sustainable farming as the pros outweigh the cons. With the right system, regular maintenance, proper choice of plants, and favorable environmental conditions, you can reap numerous benefits.