Ebb and flow hydroponics systems use a simple method of ensuring that the growing medium of the plants is always moist. The medium is inundated several times a day with the nutrient solution.
What is an Ebb and Flow System?
Put simply, an ebb and flow system is designed to flood a tray containing growing plants to ensure that they stay moist. This flooding can take place several times a day.
Mixing the Feed Solution
The hydroponic solution is contained in a reservoir at the bottom of the ebb and flow system. You should mix the ideal solution for the plants you intend to grow and pour it into the reservoir. The reservoir contains a submersible pump that will drive the solution up a pipe into the top tray. To prevent the tray over flowing it is fitted with an overflow pipe that goes back into the reservoir.
The plants you want to put in the ebb and flow unit need to be in individual containers. Each container should contain a sterile grow medium for the plants to anchor themselves to. Place the containers into the top tray of the ebb and flow system being careful not to block or misplace any pipes or drain holes.
Set the Timer
The flooding of the top tray will be controlled by a timer. You should set the timer for the frequency that the flooding should occur. Probably it will be best to flood more often in the daylight hours than at night. Try to set the timer so the pump does not run for too long because you will simply waste electricity.
Flood for the First Time
Switch the pump on for the first flooding of the top tray. You need to check that the pump runs for long enough to fill the tray to the overflow pipe and not much longer. Also make sure that all the plants are actually receiving the feeding solution. A plant in a water proof container will not benefit.
The top tray will slowly drain into the reservoir so the solution can be used again. This draining action should be fairly slow to allow the pots to soak up the solution. Once they are moist the pots will absorb the liquid more readily.
Maintenance of the System
An ebb and flow system will take care of itself to a great extent. You have to keep an eye on the level of the nutrient solution in the reservoir and top it up as required. The top up solution should be slightly less concentrated than the original solution. Make sure that the overflow pipe does not get blocked and be alert for algal growth.
Ebb and flow systems are very reliable and easy to operate. Because of the number of plants in the top tray it is likely that a small system would be able to handle plants up to two feet tall. A small system is probably best suited to give plants plenty of help in the early growing stages but you can build them as big as you like.