Unleashing Ebb and Flow Hydroponics
What keeps me so interested in hydroponics is the vast amount of different methods for growing. With just a little imagination, you can design systems for just about any application, whether that be a small hobbyist setup for growing hydroponic lettuce, or a large commercial system. In this series, I’m going to highlight one of the most popular hydroponic growing methods: the ebb and flow system. You’ll learn about the advantages to ebb and flow systems, as well as their downsides, and I’ll even show you how to build one on a budget. Let’s get started!
What Makes the Ebb and Flow Method So Awesome?
These systems are designed to be easy to build and use. To understand why it’s such a popular growing method, let’s take a look at exactly how they work.
Unlike deep water culture, ebb and flow systems do not keep a plant’s roots permanently suspended in the nutrient solution. Instead, they fill a table with the nutrient solution a set number of times per day, delivering the food and moisture to the root systems in specific doses. When the table is dry, the roots have a chance to absorb oxygen, ensuring that they don’t drown.
Ebb and Flow Benefits
I would consider deep water culture to be an even lower maintenance system than ebb and flow setups – but ebb and flow has some specific advantages. First, you can have a greater surface area to grow your plants by going the ebb and flow route. Because your reservoir is not directly connected to your plants, you can expand the size of your flood table. In DWC, your reservoir is also the container you grow your plants in. So, if you want a larger growing area, you have to enlarge your reservoir. Pretty soon you end up with an extremely heavy setup, which can be a real hassle.
It’s also easier to control the temperature of your nutrient solution when it doesn’t have to be in the same container as your plants. I’ve noticed that I have some trouble with DWC systems if I use them outdoors, because the reservoir simply draws in too much heat from the sun. Pretty soon I’ve created an ideal growing environment for a lot of different pathogens and my plants’ roots are absolutely hating me. Not a recipe for growing success.
The Basic Setup
Here’s a quick breakdown of what my ebb and flow table looks like. Like any other hydroponic method, there are many ways you can build one. I decided to purchase a 2′x2′ ebb and flow table from HydroFarm. The rest was built out of materials I bought at Home Depot and Petco.
How It Works – In Detail
You have a reservoir that is filled with your nutrient solution and is oxygenated with airstones. At the base of the reservoir, a water pump is installed.
Above the reservoir you have your flood table. This is where your plants will be growing. You need to fill this up with a growing medium so the roots of your plants have something to grab onto.
The only tricky part of the setup is the mechanism for flooding and draining your table. All you need for that is some tubing running from your water pump up to your table, and an overflow valve to ensure that the table doesn’t spill water all over the place. The last part of the equation is a pump timer to turn your water pump on and off at set times throughout the day.
Tutorial Coming Soon
I’m going to put together a cheap, DIY tutorial video and post for ebb and flow pretty soon. Stay tuned!