Whether you want to grow herbs and vegetables out of season, experiment with growing hard-to-find varieties or use fewer natural resources to grow plants, hydroponic growing offers you a productive alternative to traditional, outdoor growing methods. Growing hydroponically uses a soilless mixture to support plants that are fed with a liquid nutrient solution. Hydroponic growing systems can be simple to set up and use with small, special purpose kits, or the same process can sustain an entire greenhouse full of plants. Ebb and flow (also called flood and drain) is one of the most popular techniques for hydroponic growing.
Assemble the core components of your ebb and flow hydroponic growing system, including a stand to support a plant tray, a container for the liquid nutrient solution, pump to move the nutrient solution, a tube that runs up from the nutrient reservoir to the plant tray and a drain tube that returns excess solution back into the reservoir.
Place a grow light suspended above the plant tray at least 2 feet above the plants. The grow light must be height adjustable so it can be raised as plants grow.
Select pots for growing plants hydroponically. The pots must that have several holes through which plant roots can dangle into the nutrient solution. Net pots are designed for hydroponic growing and can be purchased from specialty stores or on-line.
Purchase a quantity of growing medium sufficient to fill your pots. There are several choices, but the most popular mediums are: rockwool, coconut fiber, gravel, perlite, and vermiculite.
Select plants and place them into pots. Choose transplants or seedlings with a well-developed root ball. Fill the pot with growing medium and set on the plant tray.
Add commercial nutrient solution to the reservoir. Set a timer on the pump to flood the plant tray at either 30 minute or one hour intervals depending on the needs of the chosen plants.
Set a timer on the grow light to ensure that the plants have a minimum of 12 hours of light each day. You can use the grow light as the exclusive light source or to supplement natural light.
Set the ambient temperature based on the needs of the plants. Cool weather plants prefer a temperature between 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and warm weather plants between 65 and 80 degrees.
Monitor nutrient solution fill levels and replace as needed. Check plants several times per week for any sign of disease or pest damage and treat as needed.