How to Build Ebb & Flow Hydroponics

Overview

Ebb and flow hydroponic systems are suitable for most plants and can be easily automated. This system uses two 4 1/2 gallon stackable totes, but the size of the totes is not important, use a size that is convenient for you. One tote serves as the growing bed and the other is the nutrient reservoir. This design uses a timer and small pump to automatically water the plants. To cut costs, the system could also be hand watered by installing a second grommet and connector in the nutrient reservoir tote, then raising and lowering the reservoir tote several times a day to water the plants.

Step 1

Drill a hole in the side of one tote, approximately 1/2 inch above the bottom. Insert a 1/2 inch grommet and put the 1/2 inch straight barbed connector through the grommet. Attach one end of the flexible tubing to the connector. This tote is the growing bed.

Step 2

Cover the bottom of the growing bed with coarse gravel, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut a piece of window screen to fit the tote and place it on top of the gravel.

Step 3

Wash and pre-soak the growing medium, according to the package directions. Fill the growing bed with growing medium.

Step 4

Place the submersible water pump in the bottom of the second tote along with the air stone. This tote is the nutrient reservoir.

Step 5

Cut a notch in the top edge of the second tote to accommodate the tubing and cords from the pump and air stone entering the nutrient reservoir.

Step 6

Connect the tubing to the pump outlet and fill the reservoir with water approximately ¾ full. Put the lid on the reservoir and stack the growing bed on top of the reservoir or place it on a table above the reservoir height. Plug in the water pump and allow it to pump the water into the growing bed.

Step 7

Connect the tubing to the pump outlet and fill the reservoir with water approximately ¾ full. Put the lid on the reservoir and stack the growing bed on top of the reservoir or place it on a table above the reservoir height. Plug in the water pump and allow it to pump the water into the growing bed.

Step 8

Check the operation of the pump and time how long it takes to fill the growing bed with water. Adjust the water level to fill the growing bed to within 1 inch of the top of the growing medium. Turn off the pump and allow the water to drain back into the reservoir.

Step 9

Measure the water and mix in the nutrients according to the package instructions. Check the pH and adjust it with pH up or pH down solution as needed. For most plants the pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5, but optimal value varies from plant to plant.

Step 10

Set the timer to come on one to four times a day depending on your plants and growing medium. Run the pump for the time you determined that it takes to fill the growing bed. Start with running the pump three times a day and adjust it so that your growing medium stays moist and the plants thrive.

Step 11

Transplant your plants into the growing bed and begin growing.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 - 4 1/2 gallon totes, 20x15x5 inch with lids
  • 1/2- inch diameter Flexible vinyl tubing, 5 feet long
  • Growing medium, perlite/vermiculite or other
  • Piece of window screening
  • Gromet, 1/2 inch
  • Straight barbed connector, 1/2 inch
  • Coarse gravel
  • Aquarium air pump and air stone
  • Timer
  • Aquarium water pump
  • Hydroponic Fertilizer

References

  • Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service: Hydroponics
  • Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Hydroponics for Home Gardeners
Keywords: ebb flow hydroponics, flood drain hydroponics, hydroponic system plan, DIY hydroponic system, build hydroponic system

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.