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Former Extension Educator, Horticulture
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Thursday, September 18, 2014
Let's continue where we left off shall we?
Another common type of hydroponics system is called an ebb and flow system. Ebb and flow systems rely on recirculating water with nutrient solution in it to deliver nutrients to the roots of plants. However, in this case, the flow of water is not constant. Ebb and flow systems are known for their simplicity.
One component of this system is a flatbed type of growing table. Plants can be grown directly in the table using a media such as clay pebbles or grown in netted pots which are then placed on the ebb and flow table. The system usually also includes an artificial light source. A reservoir filled with nutrient solution is placed under the grow table. Periodically, solution is pumped from the reservoir into the ebb and flow table, effectively flooding it. The flooding frequency should be adjusted based on the type and maturity of the crop being grown. The table is usually flooded for short periods of time to avoid suffocating the root zones of the plant. Gravity then assists in bringing the water back to the water reservoir.
This can be effectively timed by plugging the water pump into a timer with an on/off switch. The draining of the table can be done manually if the set-up is very simple. However, the system can be set up in a way so that the flow of water going into the table is greater than the flow of water going out. This will allow for the table to flood and drain on its own. Other possible components of ebb and flow system includes: filters, air pumps, light timers, temperature/PH monitors. Water should be checked frequently to determine if PH and nutrient levels are appropriate for the crop being grown.
Nutrient solution will need to be replaced periodically. I usually recommend changing it weekly. Filters can be installed to help keep the water clean. As always, sanitation is very important in any hydroponics system. Hydroponic systems allow a lot of opportunity for a pathogen to spread once it is introduced to prevention is the best practice.