Introduction to Ebb and Flow hydroponics
Ebb and Flow is a hydroponics system that is known for its simplicity and low initial investment cost. Pots are filled with an inert medium which does not function like soil or contribute nutrition to the plants but which anchors the plant roots and functions as a temporary reserve of water and solvent mineral nutrients. Then, the hydroponic solution alternately floods the system and is allowed to ebb away. Ebb and Flow are also known as Flood and Drain hydroponics, which is one of the most widely recognized hydroponics systems out there. It is an intermediate level in difficulty, low-cost to set up, and extremely versatile.
A step by step guide to Ebb and Flow hydroponics system
Ebb and Flow system are two phases of the tide or any similar movement of water. The outgoing phase is Ebb when the tide drains away from the shore; and the flow is the incoming phase when the water rises again. This method allows you to easily alter your garden, adding or removing plants as you wish without affecting any of the surrounding plants. Like other methods, the basic concept is simple plants are placed in a tray, which is periodically filled with nutrient-rich water pumped out of a reservoir below. The hydroponic system uses gravity to return the water to the reservoir to be reused.
Basic components of an Ebb and Flow hydroponics system
The basic elements of a simple Ebb and Flow hydroponics system are;
- Plant Tray
- Growing container
- Overflow tube
- Growing medium
- Nutrient solution reservoir
- Submersible pump
The Plant Tray
The plant tray is also called a flood tray. It is a large, shallow container on a tall stand, in which you place your plants. Plant seedlings in half-gallon perforated pots filled with a growing medium such as Perlite. The pots that seedlings are in should be about twice as deep as the flood tray. The flood tray is pumped full of nutrient-dense water from the reservoir below, which flows up through the bottom of the pots to the plant roots. The water is then drained back out, allowing the plant roots to become completely dry and oxygenated before flooding again.
A container or plant bucket is essential in the hydroponic system as it where the plant grows. It can be one big container or tray, or several small ones in a system. For the growing container in an Ebb and Flow hydroponics system, you can either place your growing medium and plants directly into the container, or you can have your plants in separate gardening pots and allow the growing media to pick up the solution from the bottom of each pot. The downside of having plants all growing together in the container is that the roots can become entwined, making it difficult to remove the plants for transplanting or cleansing medium of pathogens that can develop.
The function of the tube is to connect the reservoir to the system to convey water in and out of the system. The main function of the overflow tube is to set the level of height that the nutrient solution in the container reaches. The channel works to ensure that the nutrient solution does not spill out of the reservoir. The water can overflow due to the pressure build-up during the pumping procedure.
Because of the way the system works, the growing media for the Ebb and Flow must be strong and heavy not to be floated. Some suggested growing materials are gravel, hydroton, perlite, and stone wool.
The reservoir is located directly below the flood tray’s stand and it is connected to the tray via a fill tube and a drain tube. Then, the fill tube attaches to a submersible pump with a timer, which controls the flow of water up into the flood tray. The drain tube allows gravity to pull the water back into the reservoir after flooding so the water can be reused. Then, you can use the same water for about a week at a time, making sure to renew the nutrients every time you change the water. The submersible pump with a timer allows for a lot of control in this type of system because you can customize the length and frequency of watering based on gardens’ needs.
Inside the reservoir, you have a submersible pump. By having it located directly underneath the growing container, you are minimizing the vertical distance that the nutrient solution should be pumped. So you can use a simple pond or fountain pump, as long as it has a strong enough flow rate to fill the container in a short period.
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Best plants to grow in an Ebb and Flow hydroponics system
While there are many things you can grow in the Ebb and Flow system, there are three types of vegetable plants that do well. These come in different varieties, so there is a little choice you can have rather than growing the same.
There are plenty of cucumber varieties that are ideal for the Ebb and Flow system:
Mini cocktail cucumbers – These are harvested when they are around 2 to 3 inches in length.
American Slicer type – These fruits are ready to harvest when they are around 7 to 8 inches in length. They are also resistant to disease and are high yielding plants in a hydroponic system.
Dutch type (seedless) – This type is very popular as they deliver the most abundant fruits of around 14 inches in length. Then, they have thin skins, and there is no bitter aftertaste. This variety of cucumber is resistant against powdery mildew that can affect other varieties.
This is one of the popular vegetables to grow in any hydroponic system. Though, several varieties excel in these conditions.
Salanova – This variety is one of the new trendy lettuces and is a good way of impressing family. The unique thing with this lettuce plant is that it grows compact heads which are all uniform in their shape and sizes. You can purchase seeds that offer different colored lettuce, although this variety is a little expensive.
Green Butter –This is strong enough to fend off downy mildew, and it is slow to bolt. This is a highly-reliable grower and delivers consistent yields.
Green Frilled – This type of lettuce can be ideal for warmer environments as it is quite heat-tolerant. It delivers plenty of flavors from its medium-sized heads and this variety does grow a little slower than others.
These may need support as they grow, but the Ebb and Flow systems are ideal for this as everything will be stationary. The best two types of tomatoes to produce are;
Cherry Tomatoes – Flavorita F1 or Sakura F1. Both varieties are red cherry tomatoes with a good, sweet flavor and multiple disease-resistant properties. They are less prone to splitting or cracking than cherry types.
Beefsteak Tomatoes – Two of the more popular plant varieties grown in commercial ventures are Geronimo and Trust. These are perfect for growing in the Ebb and Flow hydroponic system as they deliver huge fruits, and are disease resistant. These hybrid varieties will need lots of potassium as they begin showing their fruits. These will need support.
How Does Ebb and Flow hydroponics work
To increase a plants growth rate with the Ebb and Flow hydroponics system is useful. Ebb and Flow hydroponics is a method of growing plants hydroponically that is known for its reliability and simplicity of system operation. Pots or a flood tray are filled with a growing media such as gravel, clay pellets, and lava rock, etc. These do not function like soil and add nutrition to the plants but will anchor the roots and will function as a temporary reserve of water and nutrients. The hydroponic solution floods the system 4 to 6 times a day and is allowed to drain away in between flood cycles.
With this system, a watertight flood tray or pot, containing clean gravel, clay pellets, or lava rock is used as the rooting medium. The hydroponic system is then periodically flooded for short periods (5 to 15 minutes) with a nutrient solution pumped from a reservoir. By placing the reservoir below the flood tray, with an overflow drain, the nutrient solution can drain back by gravity through the pump with the same line that supplied the water and nutrients. Lava rock contains slight trace minerals that are beneficial to the plants.
Advantages of Ebb and Flow hydroponics system
Low cost – The cost of setting up the Ebb and Flow hydroponic structure, buying materials, and maintaining the fabric is very affordable for everyone. Especially if you decide to improvise the parts, you can end up saving a lot of money.
Nutrient abundance for plants is present -The system ensures that plants obtain just enough nutrients. Then, the overflow tube ensures that flooding in the containers is not possible. So, your plants get to grow into maturity and are healthy and nutritious.
Easy to build up the structure – Unlike other expensive and complicated types of hydroponics systems, flood and drain do not require expert knowledge.
Easy to Use – An Ebb and Flow system are quite easy to use and manage, as it doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge to keep it running. Even better, if you’re not building a system yourself, it’s almost plug-and-grow easy.
Low Cost – This hydroponics system costs are usually very low in comparison to many other systems because they don’t need any high tech, expensive components that could make their prices skyrocket. Even better, if you’re going to try and build the system on your own, you will get off cheaply.
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The cost to start an Ebb and Flow hydroponics system
For a 48×24 inch Ebb and Flow (flood and drain) system, your total cost will be around $650.
Different Types of Ebb and Flow Hydroponics
There are varieties of Ebb and Flow structures that use the same principle of using water pumps to provide plant nutrients, including.
Flooding Tray Design
Flooding train design changes from the other models significantly. The system contains one container for growing plants. The design structure has a shallow rectangular or a squared tray on top of a raised surface. Then, the location of the water reservoir is beneath the container. In the procedure of flooding nutrients to the plants, one side of the tank lets water in from the pool.
Containers in Series Design
There are no creative limits to set up an Ebb and Flow system with several buckets or containers for growing plants. Usually, there are several containers or buckets connected in one tube. The job is to get the nutrient flows go through all containers or buckets evenly at set water level, before draining back to the reservoir via the tube.
The Overflow Tube Height System
The overflow tube plays an important in controlling the height of the nutrient solutions that pass through every container. It is adjustable so that you can fix the water as quickly as you can.
The Surge Tank Ebb and Flow
Rather than relying on the overflow tube for getting the water evenly in all containers, this system uses a primary tank (so-called the surge tank) for distributing water equally in all containers. This is a dual pump Ebb and Flow system. This means there is one pump in the reservoir for moving the solution into the surge tank and all containers. Another one in the surge tank to push the solution back to the reservoir. Then, there is a submersible pump inside the surge tank that helps force the nutrient solution back to the reservoir.
Factors affecting Flood and Drain Times
Size of the Plants – The first thing that comes up is the size of plants. Plants use the tiny holes to evaporate water in the atmosphere and this process is running, the roots collect more water from the ground. Then, this is the whole feeding system of the plants. Therefore, larger plants have more water to evaporate and their roots also collect more from the ground. If plant size is large then it requires more flood and drains.
Light – The strength of the light, as well as its duration, is important for the Ebb and Flow watering schedule. Then, light stimulates stomata and speeds up the evaporation of water. It affects the transpiration rate. Depending on the light, then you have to calculate the flood and drain timing.
Temperature – The evaporation speed mainly depends on the warmth of the light. Besides, there are minor factors like the climate and internal heat. And all these can accelerate water loss continuously. So, while calculating flood and drain timing you must consider temperature also.
Humidity – The humid atmosphere is a vital associate for drying up the hydroponic system. If the humidity level is on the upper scale, it will cause a drier atmosphere and it hampers transpiration and so, you have to flood and drain more often.
Size of Your hydroponics System: If you have a large and deep system then the watering schedule will be minimal. Most hydroponics systems are homemade and in a shorter space. If the system is large, then it will take more time to flood in the whole area and likely the draining will take time. Most homemade flood and drain hydroponic systems are quite shallow. However, new-style, deeper systems are obtainable which take longer to flood but considerably more time to dry out. In other words, deeper systems need less frequent but longer flood and drain cycles than conventional flood and drain hydroponic systems.
Type of Plants – If you have a variety of plants in the garden then it will take some time for you to know the watering schedule.
Grow Media – You can go for any of the three mediums for the hydroponics system. Depending on the growing medium, the watering schedule will vary.
Best Ebb and Flow hydroponics systems
The Ebb and Flow hydroponic technique uses a loose growing medium, which can easily get stuck in the pump, causing power outages.
ECO Farm Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System
The hydroponic system works by pumping nutrient solutions from the reservoir into the water tray which allows a uniform distribution to all the crops. It is very easy to use even for first-time growers.
Oxygen Pot Systems 6 Site XL Super-Flow
It is by far one of the most encompassing hydroponics. Also, this system is probably the best hydroponic system out there. The pots have tiny holes in them that encourage the oxygen to reach the roots and also help in the draining procedure. It comes with a timer for easy regulation of the flow and filling of the system. This helps in avoiding any fungal growth and increases hydroponic system yield.
Active Aqua Grow Flow 5 gal System
The key feature of the system is that you can grow up to 40-80 plants at the same time in the same system. Nothing to worry about the different systems for the different plants as the all-in-one system is here. This system comes with an external reservoir for all the different units and the ongoing flood and drain cycle increases the plant’s oxygen level.
Drawbacks of Ebb and Flow hydroponics system
- Ebb and Flow hydroponic systems are flexible, with few practical drawbacks. There are facets to systems that present some labor investment in large-scale applications. Then, these are primarily the management of media between uses, such as washing and sterilization. This can be done by dumping into the tray and filling with a sterilizing solution such as hydrogen peroxide, temporarily plugging the drain, with hand removal of root fragments. Larger containers need transferring the media to a suitable surface after sterilization to permit removal of leftover plant material.
- Another drawback is that the plant roots tend to grow together, removal of harvested plants and damaged plants can be somewhat problematic in plants having well-developed root systems. Commercial plants harvested at one time are somewhat immune to concerns related to that aspect of the system, but in the event of pathogenic invasion, the problem can quickly spread, as all the plant roots share the same flood source.
- Pathogens in the reservoir, flood tray, and pot due to stagnated water during drain time which can contaminate the entire hydroponic due to the shared water source.
- Limited amount of oxygen obtainable while in the ebb or drain stage.
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