Ebb and flow hydroponic setups or flood, and drain systems can be used with aquaponics, as the growing medium can act as a bio-filter for nitrates from fish waste. This hydroponic system is excellent for gardeners who are not ready to incorporate live fish into their routines because it can support more plants than other hydroponic systems.
Ebb And Flow Hydroponics: What is it?
The ebb and flow method involves: flooding the growing medium with nutrient-rich water, draining the liquid, and letting the growing medium air dry out.
Hydroponics work using ebb and flow techniques based on the growing medium dries between each flooding phase. In short, these short periods of dry weather enable strong plants to grow roots in search of moisture; as the plant roots grow, the greater its ability to absorb hydroponic nutrients, the more quickly the plant grows.
Ebb And Flow Hydroponics: How Does It Work?
Hydroponics uses two basic components: a growing container containing the plants and growing medium, a reservoir containing the nutrient solution, and a timer to pump the solution.
By setting the timer, nutrient solution will be sent up from the bottom of the growing container to the growing container. Overflow tubes empty into a nutrient reservoir below, which controls the level of the solution.
In other words, as long as the water pump operates for nutrient flow into the growing container. At the same time, the overflow regulator returns the solution to the water reservoir in equal measure. The water in the growing container will rise to the level of the overflow tube and remain there. Then, when the timer turns off the pump, the liquid in the growing container can drain slowly back into the reservoir via the original tubing that brought it up.
It is possible to create several variations on this simple theme, including requiring a second pump as a component.
Why Choose Ebb And Flow Hydroponics?
There are several reasons why flood and drain hydroponic systems are popular, not because they are quite easy to construct. Because ebb and flow hydroponic systems do not require expensive components, they can be built using inexpensive materials.
The reservoir can be located below the shallow container with a simple ebb and flow system without much space. This hydroponic garden setup can be adapted to suit plant growth but is not scalable.
As well as being resource-efficient, you are recycling the nutrient solution through the system rather than just running it through once and then discarding it. In other words, the automated system can run automatically for several days or weeks if it is set appropriately to meet the needs of your plants at the time.
Ebb and flow hydroponic systems are best for growing plants like cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, and others – to larger plants that do not do so well in other hydroponic systems. Performing root drying between each irrigation cycle is particularly beneficial to plants at the flowering and fruit-bearing stages.
Not everyone is suited to ebb and flow hydroponics. The downsides are as follows:
- Requires electricity and a pump
- Difficult to construct an expanded system
- Inconsistent pH and excess nutrients in the recycled solution
- Algae and pathogens in open containers
- Getting the cycle timing right can be challenging
Ebb And Flow Hydroponics For Beginners
Ebb and flow hydroponics is considered an intermediate system. Floating, draining, and letting the medium dry between cycles sounds easy, but in practice, timing can be tricky, as it will depend on the moisture capacity of the growing medium, as well as your plants’ needs.
To reduce the risk of overwatering, you should allow the plants to dry each flooding cycle. Various factors determine the perfect time for your flood and drain cycles, including the growing medium, the plant’s stage of development, the rate at which it grows, and the conditions in which it grows. To get a good handle on when to start the cycles, you will have to experiment a bit, considering that plants consume more water and nutrients as they grow larger.
In general, you’ll need to keep an eye on pH levels and nutrient levels, top up the reservoir as needed, and change out the solution on a weekly or biweekly basis. It is also good to flush out the medium periodically with plain water in any recirculating system.
Ebb & Flow Hydroponics Components
A basic ebb and flow hydroponics system includes these basic tools:
In basic ebb-and-flow hydroponics, you can either place the growing medium and plants directly in the growing container or place them in separate plant pots and allow the growing media to soak up the solution from the bottom pot. The downside to having your plants grow in the same container is that the roots can become entangled, making it difficult to remove the plants for transplanting or cleaning your medium of pathogens.
It doesn’t matter which option you choose; your growing container will need two holes in the bottom: one for the inlet and outlet tubes and another for the overflow tubes. As far as possible, the holes should be located at opposite ends of the container to ensure circulation of the balanced nutrient solution when the pump is running after the system is fully flooded. It is also important to ensure that the water inlet tube can serve as a drain, which may mean tilting your growing container to ensure the lowest point.
Hydroponics systems that run on the ebb and flow irrigation require growing media that drains well can support your plants and doesn’t hold too much moisture. Watering cycles should be separated by a period of root drying out.
Using clay pebbles or clay balls is a popular solution, although Rockwool, lava rock, gravel and sand can also be used. Alternatively, coco coir chips can be used as a nutrient delivery system during the drying part of the cycle, combined with a layer of river rocks at the bottom for drainage.
You can also use a perlite mixture for individual containers. Still, it is less suited to larger containers due to its buoyancy, which is incompatible with the ebb-and-flow action of the liquid.
Nutrient Solution Reservoir
To prevent bacteria and algae growth, your reservoir should be made of an opaque material. A basic ebb and flow system places the reservoir directly beneath the growing container so that a shallower container will be most effective. Based on your growing operation and the types of plants you plan to grow, you will need a reservoir of a certain size.
If your reservoir is not directly under the growing container, you can use an air pump and an air stone to provide adequate oxygen levels for the roots of plants.
A submersible pump is located inside the reservoir. Having it located directly underneath the growing container minimizes the vertical distance that the hydroponic solution must be pumped. So you can use a simple pond or fountain pump, as long as it has a strong enough flow of water to fill a separate container in a short period.
Timer For The Pump
You don’t need a high-accuracy timer for this hydroponics setup. A regular irrigation timer will do fine since the drain and flood cycles don’t need to be timed to the second.
A nutrient solution in the growing container cannot exceed its maximum water level through the overflow tube. In the standard ebb and flow setup, the ebb and flow tube could be a single straight pipe set up where the solution rises above the bottom of the container, allowing the liquid to flow back to the reservoir below. To avoid poor drainage and root rot, you might want to consider placing a T connector at the top to allow liquid to drain from the side and air to flow from the top.
Solution Outlet Tubing
Pumping nutrient-dense water into the growing container is accomplished through this black tubing, which drains the container after turning off the pump. It is important to ensure that the tube diameter is smaller than the overflow pipe diameter to prevent pumping excess water into the system. Once the liquid has reached the maximum level, you should circulate it for a short time.