Building an Outdoor Hydroponics Garden

Hydroponics is all about growing plants without soil. Very much a part of agronomical science, hydroponics is fast becoming a popular choice of cultivating crops and a home garden because it is a method that provides growers with frequent high yields and is a space saver. It is also a method that allows crops to be grown in areas that otherwise would not be able to sustain crops, such as deserts, rocky mountain and places where drought is a problem.

073009 1101 buildingano1 Building an Outdoor Hydroponics Garden

Hydroponics crops also grow faster, and are much healthier than conventional crops because they are free from soil borne diseases. Not only do growers are able to implement standard controlled conditions that give them consistent yields annually, hydroponics methods are also environmentally friendly because there is not issue with water or fertilizers leeching into the ground.

Outdoor gardening with hydroponics is by far simpler than indoor gardening. You are also provided with one important aspect in gardening, free light from the sun. You can also have a larger grow area, instead of being confined in a small basement. You don\’t really need to ventilate a small area either, so your plants (and yourself) are provided with natural fresh air.

Selecting Your Grow Area

Weather

The criteria for selecting a good area for your hydroponics garden outdoors are similar to selecting an area for a garden bed. Choose an area with lots of sun exposure through out the year.

If possible, construct a shade over your hydroponics system to protect your plants against the elements, like rain. Rain can waterlog your planters, so either cover the top of the pots to stop water flooding the plants or place a drain plug to remove excess water when it rains. The rain will also help flush any build up salts from the hydroponics system, especially top feed or flood and drain systems. Make sure that you have drain holes at the high water mark so that the garden will not be flooded. You will need to check the nutrients strength if you have your system exposed to rain, as it can be diluted after a period of rain. Replace as required.

Water Disposal and Power Supply

Another consideration for a successful outdoor hydroponics system is the location of your power supply that will provide power to pumps or lighting (if you have them). It is not advisable to run extensions from the house to the area. This is VERY dangerous as there is a risk of electrocution. The combination of power lines, electricity and water from rain or other source equals bad planning. Make sure that you have a qualified electrician install a waterproof outdoor outlet for pumps or timer. Alternatively you can opt for a passive system instead.

Why Choose Hydroponic?

As discussed above, hydroponics gardening has several advantages. This includes crops that are almost free from soil borne diseases, lower cost of labor and materials, as well as higher frequency yield of crops. The table below shows a comparison between the yield of various crops from India for crops cultivated from hydroponics systems and traditional agricultural land (per acre).

Name of crop

Hydroponic equivalent per acre (lbs)

Agricultural equivalent per acre (lbs)

Wheat

8000

5600

Oats

3000

1850

Rice

12000

750-900

Maize (corn)

8000

1500

Soya beans

1500

600

Potatoes

70 tons

8 tons

Beetroot

20000

9500

Cabbage

18000

13000

Peas

140000

25000

Tomatoes

180 tons

5-10 tons

Cauliflowers

30000

15-35000

French beans

42000 lbs of pods for eating

-

Lettuce

21000

9000

Lady\’s finger (ochra)

19000

5-10000

Cucumber

28000

7000

You can clearly see that the yield for the majority of the crops are almost twice the amount, with some varieties otherwise not native to the area, thriving well and giving yields that would otherwise be impossible in a given area. Hydroponic cultivation of potatoes in the US provided a yield of 62.5 tons per acre, compared to 6-10 tons per acre of conventional agricultural land. A combination of 5-10 tons in unstaked field plants and 50 tons of greenhouse cultured crops of tomatoes was not able to compete with the 300 tons per acre provided by means of hydroponics cultivation.

Once you\’ve relegate the area and made the necessary preparation for your hydroponics garden, you can then start procuring the materials you need to construct the system itself. Decide on the type of system you want to use (such as Wick Feed, Deep Water Culture, Drip system, Aeroponics or NFT), then start planting your garden. The amount of nutrients required for plants are different according to type. So find out how much of what nutrients your chosen crops require by referring to online resources, published journals or even joining groups of hydroponics enthusiasts to gain first hand knowledge of what makes for successful hydroponics cultivation.

As with any other type of gardening, always ensure that your plants are getting the right amount of nutrient and care. Check the quality of the nutrient solution periodically, and clean out the system every time a growth cycles ends.

More reading:

Hydroponics : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroponics

Better Grow Hydro: http://www.bghydro.com/bgh/static/articles/0806_byos.asp

Hydroponic – Techniques:

http://www.hydroponicsearch.com/Explore_the_Science_of_Hydroponics/Hydroponics_cultivation_methods/Hydroponics_-_Techniques/

Douglas, James S. Hydroponics. 5th ed. Bombay: Oxford UP, 1975. 1-3.