An Introduction to Flood and Drain Hydroponics

An Introduction to Flood and Drain Hydroponics

In hydroponics, there are a number of systems that have become well known. One of these hydroponics systems is the Flood and Drain system, or otherwise known as the Ebb and Flow hydroponic system. This article is an introduction to flood and drain hydroponics which should be of interest to anyone contemplating starting hydroponic growing.

The Flood and Drain system is probably one of the easiest hydroponics systems to manage, and recommended for beginners and DIY home growers. The basis of this Flood and Drain system is to periodically soak the roots of the plant in a nutrient solution, and then, using an automated system (or manual method if you’re actually that industrious), drain the solution away from the roots. Using this method, the roots of the plant will be in a constantly moist state.

hydroponic vegetable

Alternating between airing and soaking, will give the plant a good balance of oxygen, and nutrients + moisture. These conditions are actually conducive to plant growth, so you’d probably notice that plants grown with a Flood and Drain hydroponics system tend to exhibit rapid growth. Actually in general, all the hydroponics systems do create faster growing plants, because hydroponics trims away the soil aspect which actually hinders nutrient absorption and oxygen uptake by the roots. So the plant breaths and feeds better overall.

What are the main guidelines to remember in the Flood and Drain Hydroponic System?

hydroponic seedling with clay pebble growth media
Hydroponic seedling with clay pebble growth media
  • A usual water/fluid amount is about 20-30 gallons, mixed in with nutrient solution at around 600-800 ppm and slightly acidic (pH 6-7).
  • Make sure the growth media is the right one, with low to medium water holding capacity, and are porous. Porous media will be better than absorbing water and then releasing it. Small round clay pebbles are normally chosen for these qualities.
  • The maximum height of flooding should not exceed that of the growing media, while plants should not be planted too deeply in the media. A rule of thumb is about an inch deep.
  • The frequency of flooding is often determined by the capacity of the media to retain water. Flooding should be done more frequently if the media does not retain much water, and vice versa.
  • Flooding should not be longer than 10 minutes at a time.
  • If your current climate is hot, plants will use up more water and moisture will also be lost through evaporation. Therefore, lower the strength of the nutrient mixture in the water so as not to waste them.
  • Use the right pots to grow your plants, and regularly rotate the pots around every few days to avoid the roots from growing around and obstructing any outlets or piping. You could also do some self tests using a colored nutrient solution to determine if the water flow is smooth or not.

Here’s a short video that gives a pretty nice introduction to the Flood and Drain hydroponics system.

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