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Getting started with Ebb and Flow Hydroponics is a lot easier than you may think.
You can either buy a pre-made system or you can build one yourself.
In this article, we discuss both options.
What is Ebb and Flow Hydroponics?
Ebb and flow hydroponics is a widely used growing method that lacks the use of soil. Also known as the flood and drain method, ebb and flow hydroponic systems work by flooding the root systems of plants with water and nutrients. After a short amount of time, the water is drained back into the reservoir/holding tank that it is pumped from. A timer is utilized for automating this process. The hydroponic ebb and flow system works both indoors and outdoors.
How to Get Started with Ebb and Flow Hydroponics
There are two ways to go about getting started with ebb and flow hydroponics; building a DIY hydroponic system or purchasing a hydroponic system that fits your needs.
If you’re on a tight budget, or you enjoy DIY projects, opting to build one is your best bet.
On the other hand, if money isn’t an issue, or your time is limited, buying one makes a lot more sense.
Considerations to Make Before Getting Started
Either way, you decide to go, there are a few crucial factors to consider:
Location and Lighting
Where will you build or otherwise set up your system? Is there enough room for it? Will the environment be hospitable to the sort of plants you want to grow?
More importantly, will you place your system indoors, or outdoors? If indoors, it needs proper lights. Outdoors, the sun will provide the light.
How many plants do you want to grow? The larger the system, the higher number of grow sites will be available.
Keep in mind also that the bigger your system is, the more of everything it requires; water, light, nutrients, growing medium, components like pumps and timers. And, of course, money to pay for all of it.
Depending on the size of the system, the more water it requires. You also need to decide what sort of water you’ll use (tap water, purified water, or distilled water?).
Further, consider where your water will come from and how you will physically get it to your system.
Upkeep and Costs
There are also physical maintenance and monetary upkeep concerns to consider. The water needs changing every two weeks, and it needs cleaning regularly as well.
Moneywise, there are several factors to consider; power bills, water, nutrients, cleaning solution, pH and EC test strips (or a pH and EC meter), and more.
Building a DIY Ebb and Flow Hydroponics System
After you’ve gone over all the considerations listed above, it’s time to get your hands dirty building your new ebb and flow system (if you decide to buy one instead, skip on down to the next section of the article instead).
Putting together a flood and drain system isn’t exactly rocket engineering. But, it isn’t quite as simple as a deep water culture or wick set up either.
At any rate, have no fear, because we’ll walk you through a surefire DIY setup that anyone can build (with or without previous DIY or hydroponics experience)
1. Tools and Supplies
Before you get started on the actual building process though, you need to gather the right tools and building supplies.
You need the following tools:
Your supply list should include:
- 4-inch wide PVC pipe including end caps or clean out caps
- 3/4-inch PVC or rubber tubing
- A large tote or food-grade bucket with lid
- Pots with slots or netted bottoms
- A growing medium such as smooth pebbles, gravel, Rockwool, or clay pellets
- A powerful enough water pump
- PVC tape (PVC cement is also useful)
2. Build the Grow Sites
The first real step is hacking your 4-inch wide PVC pipes down to the length that you want them. Although, you can save yourself time if you buy them the length you desire to begin with.
Next, use your permanent marker to mark where you want the hole for each grow site, and then use your drill or hole saw. This step is crucial. You can’t undo it, so make sure you get it right.
Use the top of one of the pots as your pattern so that each hole is uniform. This also ensures that the pots fit correctly.
For small crops, like lettuce or spinach, mark your holes 6-inches to 8-inches apart. Larger crops that grow taller need double or triple the space between each hole.
Once the holes are made, fit your pots in them, and you’re ready to move on to the next step.
3. Set Up the Pipes and Tubes
To set up the pipes and tubes for your ebb and flow system, start by drilling a single 3/4-inch hole into the end caps of each PVC pipe that has grow sites.
Alternate holes; one high, one low. This allows the outlets and intakes to flow properly once the entire system is constructed.
Attach your PVC or rubber tubing to the holes, connecting each row of PVC pipes. Once connected seal the end caps and the tubes with PVC tape and/or PVC cement or glue.
Once you’re satisfied with your work, it’s time to move on to the reservoir.
Pro tip: use a tap and die set or insert pipe plugs into the holes to make your tubing fit more snuggly before taping, cementing, or gluing.
4. Prepare the Reservoir
Take your container, remove the lid and create a 3/4-inch hole for the water pumps’ outflow to exit the reservoir. Make sure that it lines up with the rest of your system.
Create a second hole, of the same size, in the correct position for your lowest PVC pipe and tube to drain back into the reservoir.
Place the water pump inside the reservoir, and your cooling coil if you decide to include one, and move on to the final stage of the project.
5. Connect Everything and Final Touches
You’re almost finished now. All that’s left to do is connect everything and perform the final touches.
Once your pipes and tubes are in place, and the water pump is installed, simply connect the outflow to the highest/furthest way PVC pipe end cap and connect the drain to the hole in the reservoir lid that you have prepared.
Double-check everything before moving on, including each individual grow site. Make sure to add the growing medium to each pot.
6. Evaluate the Finished Product
Now, turn on the power to the pump and behold the glory of the wonderous thing you’ve created; a fully functional ebb and flow hydroponic growing system.
If it is working properly, the pump will force water up to the top PVC pipe and through the entire system.
The water runs its course past each of the grow sites for several minutes, draining back into the reservoir and recycling itself as it goes.
Check the system from top to bottom for leaks and other issues. If there are any, turn off the system, dry its surface, and apply tape, cement, or glue.
Purchasing an Ebb and Flow System
If you decide to buy a hydroponic system rather than build one from scratch, we recommend a VIVOSUN Hydroponic Grow Kit.
Whether you decide on a small, medium, or large system, VIVOSUN has one for you.
That said, by no means just take our word for it.
Do your research and remember to keep the considerations we discussed earlier in mind while shopping.
Whatever product you decide to purchase should meet or exceed all of your needs, and include some sort of guarantee or warranty.
If it doesn’t meet your needs, it clearly isn’t the right one for you (including our recommendation)!
The VIVOSUN Hydroponic Grow Kit
This VIVOSUN Hydroponic Grow Kit consists of three layers made up of four vertically-oriented PVC pipes each, for a total of 108 grow sites. It offers plenty of room for growing small crops like lettuce, celery, peppers, beets, as well as clones.
A water pump, timer, and basket-like pots are included with the purchase. Basically, it comes with the essential components needed to get started.
The unit is lightweight, weighing just over 25-pounds, is easy to install, and works both indoor and outdoor.
Installation is quick and easy, but you need to provide your own reservoir (a two-gallon to five-gallon bucket works just fine).
Why we like it: the system is perfect for beginners but also works well for intermediate and expert growers. It could be a great start, or expansion, to any hydroponic garden.
Final Thoughts on Getting Started with Ebb and Flow Hydroponics
Hydroponics is not for everyone. But, if you want to give it a try, ebb and flow is one of the best methods to get started with.
Hopefully our guide answers all of your questions about this popular hydroponic growing technique and points you in the right direction!
If you found this article useful, why not share the love and give it a share on social media? We’d sure appreciate it!
Good luck getting started with ebb and flow, and thanks for reading!
Suggested Reading: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FARMING AND GARDENING?
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Wow. I never knew that Hydroponics could rlly be so ez. Thanks for the great information, guys!
We plan to put together an Ebb and Flow hydroponics system over the winter time and create a how to guide for you guys! Very excited about it!
Hydroponics is really incredible. I always felt like it was too complicated for me, but this article really helped me grasp just how “simple” it can be. I’ll be trying this and letting you know how it goes!