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Hydroponics Supplies for the Ebb and Flow System

May 7, 2008
The ebb and flow system, also known as the flood and drain system, is one of the most popular systems beginners choose to start hydroponic growing. It requires mostly basic hydroponics supplies and very little maintenance. It works by flooding the grow tray for a period of time to soak the roots and then allowing the nutrient solution to drain back into the reservoir. This occurs several times a day. The exact number of floodings will depend upon what kind of plants you are growing.

You will need the following hydroponics supplies:

Ebb and Flow Tray - Make sure that the tray you use is made of heavy plastic and can support your plants, growing medium, and nutrient solution easily. Make certain that when your tray drains, it leaves the tray bottom virtually dry. If there are spots with "puddles", it may over water certain plants causing your roots to rot.

Buckets or Modules - Instead of a tray, you may also use several buckets or modules where you place plants individually. This has the advantage of allowing you to expand your hydroponic system more easily.

Support Structure - Since the reservoir is usually not sufficient support for your tray, you will probably need to buy a support structure separately.

Reservoir - This is where you will keep your nutrient solution. Make sure you thoroughly clean and disinfect your reservoir before filling it. Your reservoir should be black and block as much light as possible to discourage the growth of algae.

Fittings and Pipes - These hydroponics supplies will include the pipe that will pump the nutrient solution into the tray and an overflow drain. The overflow drain will be placed at the highest area where you want the water level to rise and is designed to prevent nutrient solution from flooding your grow room.

Containers - Use plastic containers to hold your plants.

Growing Medium - This is what will support your roots. Popular choices include coconut coir, rockwool and perlite.

Pump and Timer - Your pump will flood the grow tray and your timer will turn the pump on and off according to your settings.

To assemble these hydroponics supplies, first install your fill fitting and the overflow drain into your grow tray. Place the grow tray onto your support structure and place the reservoir under it. Put your submersible pump in the reservoir and connect it to the fill fitting on the grow tray. Now connect the pump to the timer. Test your system, making certain that there are not any leaks and your overflow drain works properly.

To operate the ebb and flow system, set your timer to flood the grow tray three or four times a day at regular intervals. Again, the exact number will depend upon the size of the plant and what kind of plant you are growing. Each flood cycle should pump about a 1/3 more nutrient solution than the grow tray can actually hold. How long each flood cycle will last will depend upon how powerful your pump is. Make sure to replace your nutrient solution every two weeks and monitor your solution's pH level daily. The ideal pH for both your nutrient solution and your roots is about 5.6.
About the Author
Michael Straumietis is co-founder of Advanced Nutrients, an international marketer and manufacturer of agricultural, home & garden, hydroponics and soil less fertilizers and plant nutrients. If you need more information on a hydroponic system, visit the hydroponics gardening section on their website at www.advancednutrients.com.
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