Most people relate hobby hydroponic with growing indoors. Hydroponic is actually a great option for outdoor gardening as well. As with anything, in addition to the pros of outdoor hydroponic gardening, there are also some drawbacks to be aware of ahead of time.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of outdoor hydroponic gardening, starting with the pros.
The Pros of Outdoor Hydroponic Gardening
More room to spread out
Having a hydroponic garden outdoors gives you a lot more space compared to growing indoors. Systems can be larger and the plants can typically be grown larger as well, both making for a more abundant harvest.
Outdoor hydroponic gardening is great because you can have several different systems, growing all different kinds of fruits and vegetables at the same time, which often hard to do for indoor hobby hydroponic growers.
Moving a hydroponic garden outdoors may also make it possible for you to switch over to aquaponics, removing the need to feed your plants with liquid nutrients and providing your family with fresh fish.
The best light source
Outdoor hydroponics gives you the opportunity to use the best light source possible, the sun. There’s no need to worry about the quality or intensity as nature has you covered.
Being able to use the sun as your grow light is a huge money saver. It also allows you to use systems that may have been more difficult to provide light to indoors, such as vertical hydroponic systems or the gutter garden below that I built onto the side of my chicken coop.
Pollination can be a time-consuming task when growing indoors. Looking for flowers ready for pollination, then pollinating each one by hand, coming back and repeating every couple of days just to be sure it’s well pollinated.
When your hydroponic garden is outside, pollinators such as bees will do the pollination work for you.
Easier water changes/ reuse
This pro is true for me due to where I have my indoor hydroponic garden set up. Since it’s in my garage it’s a little ways away from a water source and a drain.
I find water changes with my outdoor gardens to be easier than indoor gardens. Another benefit is that you can dilute, then reuse the old nutrient solution to water your potted plants or dirt gardens.
Lower start-up cost compared to indoors
When hydroponic gardening indoors you often need to purchase ventilation, fans, and you’ll for sure need lighting.
This is not the case with outdoor hydroponics as nature provides all of the above. For many people, it makes sense to start their hydroponic gardening hobby with outdoor growing, as it provides a low-cost way to learn more about hydroponics.
The Drawbacks of Outdoor Hydroponic Gardening
While hydroponic gardening outdoors makes pollination easier, other bugs that are harmful to your garden will also have easier access. The only way to keep bugs out is a barrier, like moving your hydroponic garden into a greenhouse. When outdoor hydroponic gardening it’s important to identify the beneficial bugs to your garden and not remove them. Allowing them to live in your hydroponic garden will give you little sidekicks in pest control.
Pests are not limited to bugs when your hydroponic garden outdoors. Many time’s I have stepped onto my back porch garden area to have several bunnies scatter from nibbling on my vining vegetables.
The heat has an effect on 2 different areas of an outdoor hydroponic system, the air temperature and the temperature of the nutrient solution. In either instance, precautions should be taken to make sure neither gets too hot.
When a nutrient solution becomes too warm it holds less oxygen, which is not only bad for the plant’s oxygen needs but sets the stage for diseases like root rot. Make sure to take steps to ensure you keep the nutrient solution cool.
When the air temperature rises, plants need to take in more water. In hydroponic gardens, to make this easier on the plants, it is a good idea to lower the strength (the EC) of the nutrient solution to the lower end of the recommended amount. Another trick to protecting your plants for the sun’s heat is to provide shading with shade cloth.
More wear and tear on the hydroponic system
The outside elements are not forgiving and put more wear and tear on the hydroponic garden as opposed to indoor conditions. Sometimes this is just apart of hydroponic gardening. In some cases you can shade parts of the hydroponic system with a tarp, keeping off the rain and protecting from harmful UV rays.
No environmental control
The lack of environmental control can be frustrating when hydroponic gardening outdoors. There are many different environmental factors that will affect your hydroponic garden.
At points, you will go through cold spells and heat spells. Wind can knock over your plants. Rain can dilute and alter the pH of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
You can also take steps to cover parts of your hydroponic system that would let in rain to protect from pH alteration and dilution. Pay attention to bad weather coming into your area and provide plants support, especially for your larger plants.
Can’t grow during the winter in many areas
In many places hydroponic gardening outdoors is not an option during the winter months, unless in a heated greenhouse. Where I live in Missouri, our winters are definitely too cold to have an outdoor hydroponic garden going.
This isn’t true of everywhere though. There are many areas where the low temperatures don’t drop much below 40 degrees, so it’s still possible to grow cool weather crops there in the winter.
There are definitely trade-offs to outdoor and indoor hydroponic gardening with each providing its own sets of benefits and drawbacks. When it comes to the pros and cons of outdoor hydroponic gardening I believe the good far out ways the drawbacks. Once you’re aware of the challenges that outdoor gardening brings, you can plan solutions ahead of time to have a smooth growing season.
What are some of the pros and cons you’ve found with outdoor hydroponic gardening? Let us know in the comments below!