The Ebb and Flow method feeds plants by flooding the plant site(s) with a nutrient rich solution and then allowing that solution to drain back into the reservoir. The Ebb and Flow garden, also known as a flood and drain system, is a favorite among hydroponic growers due to its inexpensive cost, dependability, and simplicity.
These systems use pots which are filled with inert media and are placed inside a tray or container. Many substrates are suitable for this method including Coco Coir, Rockwool, and Hydroton.
Several times a day during the growing cycle the tray or container is filled automatically by a pump that has been placed on a timer. When the pump is activated by the timer the tray is filled with an aerated fertilizer solution, stored in the reservoir, which provides the plants with the water and nutrient they require for optimal growth.
When the feed (flood) cycle is complete (usually 15 minutes), the pump shuts off and gravity allows the water to flow back into the reservoir.
The most common ebb and flow system utilizes propagation tables or trays placed on benches with a reservoir directly under the tray. A submersible pump is placed in the reservoir and plumbed to the tray connecting to the short bulkhead tray fitting. Nutrients and water are mixed in the reservoir and pumped into the upper tray until the solution reaches the top of the taller bulkhead tray fitting where it drains back into the reservoir. The short bulkhead fitting also acts as a drain when the timer and pump turn off.
Ebb and flow systems are the single most popular style of hydroponics because ebb and flow systems can be easily customized to suit the user’s needs and budgets. Ebb and flow systems can be built out of a variety of containers and materials. These systems will accept synthetic and organic nutrients as well as soil and soilless medias. Ebb and flow hydroponics provides more nutrients and oxygen to the plant than traditional outdoor soil gardens. When used in conjunction with HID lighting and the proper environmental controls, plants grow faster, get bigger, and finish more rapidly.