How To Transplant Hydroponic Plants Into Your Summer Garden

Growing plants in water, known as hydroponics, has been a useful tool for gardeners around the world to start seeds and propagate their favorite herbs, flowers, veggies, and even houseplants. Yet, when your plants start to outgrow your hydroponic system, you'll need to decide to either cut them back with some pruning, or transplant them into a larger space.

For most, the next step is taking their hydroponically grown plants to their outdoor garden. However, this can come with many of its own problems. Hydroponic plants are used to growing in their tank with liquid plant food. As a result, their roots are much finer, and they aren't suited to finding water in the soil themselves. This, and a number of other challenges, make it scary for new and seasoned gardeners to take their new starts outdoors. After all the time you spent raising your hydroponic garden, the last thing you want to do is accidentally kill your plant babies.

The trouble with growing hydroponic plants in soil

Hydroponic plants can grow very successfully after being transplanted into a garden bed. However, they must first be properly prepared. In addition to having thin and fragile roots from solely growing in water, they also have little tolerance for outdoor conditions. Direct sunlight, cool winds, air pollution, and changing weather all threaten your plants' survival. However, all of these can be soothed by learning more about each transplant's needs and hardening them off before putting them into the soil.

One of the best ways to tell if your plant is ready to be moved outdoors is to first look at its root system. More established plants have a better chance of survival in the garden. Look for true sets of leaves and a long mess of roots. Plants like this are less likely to go through transplant shock during the move, which is known to quickly kill young or ill-prepared transplants. Once you've identified the plants that are strong enough to be relocated, you can begin the process of hardening them off to the conditions outside.

Planting hydroponically grown plants in the garden

Depending on the type of hydroponic system you're using, the first steps to hardening off your plants may be a little different. For example, some hydroponic gardens, like the ones from Gardyn, make it easy to take the transplants outside using sleeves put over the pod after they're taken out of their tower. Others have no protection and will have to be moved another way. Start by suspending them over a container of water with their roots partially submerged — this reduces the amount of water they're receiving while also giving the weak roots a chance to acclimate to new surroundings.

Now you can bring your protected pod or container-bound plant outdoors for a few hours each day to get used to their new environment. After about a week, they'll be ready to be transplanted into the soil. Make sure the spot you pick for relocation receives exactly what your plant will need. Most herbs require full sun, well-draining soil, and sometimes a bit of organic matter to thrive. Then, remove the lowest leaves and stems, dig your hole, and place the hydroponic plant inside. Cover the roots fully with soil and give the plant some water before you're done. For the next few weeks, monitor your transplants carefully and make sure that the soil stays moist, so its roots are encouraged to grow and spread out.